In the US alone, 81% of people have at least one social media account. If you narrow it down to age demographics, 90% of Americans aged 18 to 29 have social media. When you’re considering putting your business online, social media seems like a great option for reaching a lot of people at once. But, can you actually replace a traditional business website with one or more social media accounts?
If it’s possible, should you do it? There are a few arguments for and against this possibility.
Not all businesses have the same needs in the online space. Self-employed individuals or those selling mostly locally may not have an urgent need for a great online presence. But, medium to large businesses, online businesses, and businesses that offer shipping will most likely need a stronger online presence.
The size and type of business must be considered when you’re thinking about putting a business online. Social media accounts may be a practical option for some businesses because of the nature of their products or services, while they may be a completely impractical option for other businesses. That being said, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to consider for both online options.
Reaching Your Audience
The main purpose of your presence online is reaching as many relevant people as possible. Your platform of choice might change depending on who you want to reach. Websites usually don’t have enough reach by themselves, and it can be difficult to get a website in front of people or to create repeat visitors.
Social media is a part of everyday life for people in almost all countries worldwide. Having a strong presence on the right social media networks can help you reach your audience directly without having to find a way to send them to your website. Using a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account instead of a website could help you place a heavier focus on reaching people through those more direct platforms.
Websites do have one distinct advantage when it comes to audience reach. A well-organized website that incorporates SEO practices and good online marketing strategies can have a higher organic reach through search engines than social media accounts alone. You can also use your social media accounts to direct people to your website without from multiple platforms. This actually gives you more freedom to adapt to your audience instead of being locked into using one or a few specific social media accounts.
Monetization Strategies and Costs
Creating and maintaining a professional website can be costly. Although there are affordable options for designing and simple development, bespoke websites continue to be expensive for businesses. Maintaining a website involves renting hosting space online, the domain name, and potentially paying for plug-ins or other professional software used to run or monitor certain parts of the site.
However, websites can more easily be monetized. You can create sponsorship deals, place ad space on the site, host an online store, etc. Most social media platforms do not allow monetization of accounts except through their official channels. Where purchases are allowed directly from the platform, a fee will likely be charged to the business for that option or for each sale.
Social media networks do not charge users to be on the site, but they do charge businesses to get some advantages. The best example of this is on Facebook, where it can be difficult to reach new people without paying to boost some of your posts or creating ads on the platform. While it may be free to keep your account, you will still have operating costs to reach your audience.
Arguably the most important consideration in this debate is that of ownership and agency. When you own your website, you are the one responsible for what happens to it, the message that’s put out, any changes that should be made, and all other decisions regarding how your business is presented and what it looks like. You are also in full control over your website and what you want to do with it.
Social media removes all ownership and agency control from you. You must act in accordance with the platform’s terms and conditions, which are subject to change at any time. This is not good for businesses, as it puts uncertainty into the mix and may not guarantee the longevity of your account.
For a real-life example, you can see the chaos going on in 2017 with Facebook in Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Slovakia, Serbia, and Cambodia. In these six countries, all unpaid posts from brands appear on a separate feed from the main news feed. This change has had a heavy impact on organic reach for all types of companies, reducing their organic traffic by up to 75%.
If you use social media to replace a business website, you are signing up for the risk of sudden and drastic platform changes. Remember that social media networks are primarily designed for the individual users, not brands. They are not focused on making things easier for you, but on making things better for the bulk of their users.
Branding and Name Recognition
You can create a fantastic brand personality on social media. It is often easier to use social media for this purpose because you can keep your posts in view of your audience on a regular basis without them having to change their behaviour in any way. There is also a high level of interactivity and engagement possible on social media that is unlikely to occur on a traditional website. All of this can help to give you stronger name recognition and simplify your branding efforts.
On the other hand, it is much more difficult to create your brand personality with a website alone. Unless you use some type of social media platform to become more approachable and interactive with your customer base, you may struggle to get the same kind of brand recognition.
Should You Use a Socials Media Account Instead of a Website?
Although it’s possible to stick to social media instead of having your own website, it’s not recommended for most businesses. The ones that can manage to do so are usually those that don’t have anything to gain by having a website, such as self-employed individuals who market and sell products to people in their local areas. For this type of business, a website isn’t necessary. But, for most businesses, the ownership issue can create enough of a problem to make a website a necessity.
You should never take on unnecessary risks for your business. Relying on social media platforms alone to be the best way to reach your customers is both risky and short-sighted because of the rapid changes that can take place in the digital world. Within the last decade, the main social media platforms have evolved dramatically, including some of the first sites dying off completely (remember Myspace?).
If you decide to skip a website and exclusively use social media accounts to create an online presence for your business, you are taking on a huge risk that can have dramatic negative consequences on your business. It may be better to have even a simple website and promote it through social media than to use social media as a replacement for your website.