Your Business Needs an Actual Website Before You Even Think About Facebook

I stumbled across something very disturbing on Facebook today that I just had to share. A fairly well known woman’s boutique in Toledo (which shall remain nameless until they get it together) has a Facebook company page. This fact is not disturbing in the least. However, this boutique that shall not be named also has a Facebook personal profile and a Myspace profile. And to top it off, it does not have an actual company website. Never mind the fact that this boutique is on Myspace (may she rest in peace) and it is maintaining a personal profile page on Facebook (I have to be your friend before I can even see the business address for goodness sake!) – why would a small business dive into social media before it even has a company website? More and more small business owners are using their Facebook page as the only face for the company online and failing to maintain an actual company website. While every business should have both, the two are not one in the same.

Every business should have a website. A company website is the virtual storefront for your company—if you don’t have one, how will people find you? Consumers are growing more sophisticated and they crave information. A simple Google listing with your phone number and address is not good enough. Consumers want product and service descriptions, photos, testimonials, prices, customer service, etc. You’ve got to have this readily available online because if you don’t, your customers can easily find your competitors that do.

Facebook does not exist so that you can push your products to anyone that will listen. Facebook, and social media in general, is meant to build an online community. Facebook should not be used as the main/only means of finding your business on the web. Facebook should however be used to connect with your customers and build a strong community revolving around your products or services. But on Facebook, it’s not your product that’s important. It’s the people! What do the people think about your product? What do they like? What don’t they like? How could your product be better? You sell your company on your website. You connect with your audience on a personal level using social media. You must do both.

I need to point out something that is so obvious, I feel like it’s too easily overlooked. Facebook does not belong to you. You don’t own your Facebook profile/page and you have no control over its future. This should be reason number one why all businesses should have an actual company website before they dive into social media. What would happen if Facebook were bought out and dismantled into dozens of smaller niche social networking sites? What would you do? You’ve put all this time, energy and money into this page that you do not physically publish yourself. You have no way of getting all of that hard work back if your page were to disappear for some reason. More realistically and in the case of our unnamed boutique, if Facebook were to ever catch wind of your company operating a personal profile, they could delete it entirely without notice as a violation of the terms of use. Then what?

While getting involved in social media is always a good idea for business, the basic principles and business practices have to come first. Social media is not meant to be your company website. It is meant to be the community around/involved with your company. The goal of social media should always be to drive traffic back to your main site and get people to convert. How can you do that when your only online presence is a Facebook (or God forbid) a Myspace page?

Here are a few local businesses that have got the right idea:

Cake in a Cup — official website and Facebook page
The Toledo Museum of Art — official website and Facebook page
Downtown Latte — official website and Facebook page
Are there any small businesses you know of that are doing a great job with their online presence? Any horror stories you’ve come across because the company wasn’t managing their online presence properly?

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