A common question for new businesses is whether or not it’s worth setting up a website or, whether instead, it’s enough to create a Facebook page for your business. As with many of the decisions you’ll need to make when setting up your own business, it’s not always easy getting the facts you need to make an informed decision. So, in this article we’re going to look at the pros and cons of creating a Facebook page for your business vs. creating a website to help you decide.
Let’s get started!
Facebook – The Stats
So, the first thing you need to ask yourself is why are you considering setting up a Facebook page for your business at all? Odds are fairly high that the rationale for diving in and doing this is quite simply ‘because everyone else is doing this’. And you’d be right. According to Facebook themselves, more than 200 million businesses (mostly small) use Facebook to reach a truly eye watering 2.6 billion potential customers.
So, relax. Your instinct to setup a Facebook page is perfectly reasonable! In reality, as long as we continue to see numbers like these from Facebook, odds are it makes sense to position yourself on the platform in one way or another.
What is a Facebook Business Page?
Before we run into why create one, let’s take a look at what exactly a Facebook Business page is.
Unlike personal pages (odds are you have one, and if you don’t you’ll need one… more on that shortly), Facebook Business pages focus exclusively on providing Facebook users with access to information on a business. It’s not locked down and private (unlike most personal pages) so anyone can view it. Facebook provide a raft of tools to help you provide information that your customers might find useful such as opening hours, contact details, special offers and so on. This is in addition to the ability for you, as the business, to post regular updates that appear in your page feed. Your customers can follow you and these posts may well then make their way directly onto their personal feed giving you a free way to reach your customers. You can even communicate directly with them thanks to a tight knit integration with Messenger, Facebook’s integrated chat app.
Setting up a page is completely free. So, why do Facebook offer this service at all? The reason above all others is to enable businesses to pay for advertising on Facebook. We mentioned earlier that if you post on your Facebook Business page feed, those who follow you may see this post in their personal feed. This is called Organic Reach. Clearly, being able to post on your business page and then have this post appear in your followers’ feeds is pretty epic, especially as it’s free. The bad news is organic reach levels have been falling for years. The average reach is now just 5.2% meaning relatively few people will see your posts ‘organically’. Whilst there are things you can do to improve this, in reality to really reach a sizeable portion of people you’re going to need to splash some cash on Facebook Ads.
Facebook Business pages are to the most part, entirely geared around allowing businesses to successfully (and easily) pay to ‘boost’ their posts and create dedicated Ads that can be targeted at their audience. Thanks to the sheer number of people using Facebook, Facebook has amassed an unreal amount of data about their users. This data is used to help advertisers (like you) reach sections of the population that would most likely be receptive to their adverts. At a basic level this means you can target people based on their gender, age and location.
Why setup a Facebook Business Page?
When it comes to setting up a Facebook page for your business you need to be clear from the outset what your main goals are with the page.
This can broadly be defined as one or a selection of the following:
- To act as a central point of information about my business for customers
- To generate sales by reaching new customers
- To keep existing customers engaged with my business
For many people, the primary attraction of setting up a Facebook Business page is that it’s perceived as a ‘free’ way to create a web presence for their business and to reach new customers. Many new business owners will (not unreasonably) think that by having a page on Facebook and posting regularly about their business’s products and services that they will drum up sales by reaching new customers.
The reality is very, very different. As highlighted above, organic reach (where your posts appear in the feeds of people who follow our page) has declined to an average low of 5.2%. So, if you have 100 followers then only 5 (roughly!) would see your post in their feed. That means if you want people to see your posts you’re going to need to pay Facebook for the privilege.
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This article isn’t long enough to dive into the costs of doing this. It varies massively depending on the products your promoting, the demographic you want to promote them to and the size of the area you want to cover. Bottom line is however it will cost you a few $$’s on an ongoing basis to reach both new and existing customers. So, if free is the overriding reason why you’re heading down the Facebook Business page route then you might want to think again. As with any marketing endeavor you’re going to have to spend some money.
If you’re comfortable with the idea of spending some cash on boosting posts on your Facebook page then there is no doubt it is possible to see some great results. Don’t forget, Facebook has access to 2.6 billion users around the world. Odds are, there are some users who fit the profile of the ideal customer for you!
So, with this in mind, do you just need a Facebook page or does it make sense to have your own website as well?
When a Facebook Page on its own is good enough
There are (in our opinion) very few times when it makes sense to JUST have a Facebook page. None-the-less, let’s look at when this might be appropriate.
If you know that the majority of your potential customers spend their lives on Facebook (for example, it’s reported that users aged 25-34 are the largest demographic on Facebook) and your business is one where you don’t need to provide a large amount of information about your products and services (beyond your location, opening hours and so on) then you might manage with just a Facebook page. One example might be a Café where it makes sense for you to promote special offers, perhaps music nights and so on directly to your audience via Facebook. A website might not add much extra value here.
You could choose to actively direct people to follow your page by printing cards out that include your Facebook url (e.g. www.facebook.com/yourcafename) and asking your customers to follow you. In this instance, due to the nature of the business you could find a Facebook page that is actively managed and engages regularly with its followers could be hugely successful for your business.
So, what are you losing out on by NOT having a website. Let’s take a look.
Adding Value to Your Business with a Website
Probably one of the top things to bear in mind when deciding between a Facebook page or a website is the matter of ownership. You might be under the impression that, if you setup a Facebook page, you ‘own’ it. And to a limited degree this is correct. No one else will be able to control this page, leaving you free to update it as you see fit.
Unfortunately this impression hides the uncomfortable truth… your Facebook page is entirely at the whims and mercy of Facebook itself. Facebook is first and foremost a business and a hugely profitable one at that. Whilst Facebook can give, Facebook can also take away! Although unlikely, you need to consider the fact that Facebook may choose to close down your page at any point and without warning. It frequently changes the features available to users on a page as well. This means you might suddenly find certain functions you relied on stop working. Further, you may also end up being priced out of the platform. Remember, in most cases, in order to attract new customers, you will have to pay to boost your posts. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that this costs you just a couple of dollars a day at the moment. That doesn’t mean that cost will remain fixed in perpetuity. What do you do if that cost doubles, or triples overnight?
The important takeaway from this is that you are truly at the mercy of a giant corporation who, in reality, doesn’t particularly care about you! By all means make the most of the platform but don’t fall into the trap of being reliant on it.
This brings us back neatly to the benefits of running your own website. If you have purchased your own domain name and are using an open source system like WordPress which is hosted on a third party host then you can be pretty confident that you truly own your website and, no matter what changes, you will remain in control of that particular slice of the internet. So, a key thing you achieve with your own website is just that. Control. And with this control there are many, many things you can benefit from with your own website such as:
- The ability to design your page layout.
- The ability to promote your products and services however you wish (on one page or one hundred).
- The ability to capture email addresses and market directly to your own audience.
- The ability to reach customers who don’t use Facebook.
There are countless more reasons why your own website can truly benefit your business but hopefully you get the idea. Bottom line, your own website is a bit like your own real estate. You can do with it what you wish without suffering when a third party changes the goal posts.
The benefits of a website AND a Facebook page
Understandably most of us tend to seek simplicity in our lives! The temptation when running a business is to avoid unnecessary cost and complexity. And this is normally a good thing. The reality though is that things in life are often not as black and white as you might want and this is definitely the case when it comes to establishing an online presence for your business.
It would be nice to be able to say, well, I’ll just focus on my website and won’t bother with Facebook. Hopefully you’ll succeed if you go down this route but… are you missing out on a potentially sizeable customer base who spend their online lives pretty much solely on Facebook? The reverse can also be said if you chose to just focus on building a great Facebook Business page with an active audience.
The reality is, it’s likely you are going to want to do both. Fortunately there tend to be some significant synergies between a website and Facebook. For example you might write a great blog post for your website. This will potentially boost your SEO rankings but also makes for great content to post on Facebook. This post might get shared and in turn drive traffic to your website. A win win.
In conclusion, the best thing you can do, no matter what route you choose to go down, is to make sure you do it well. There is little point setting up a Facebook page and then only posting once a month. Equally, a neglected website that is out-of-date is probably worse than no website! Fortunately it’s possible now to create a great website and also maintain a good presence on Facebook without spending too many hours each month. Good luck!