These days, you can get an online presence with a few clicks on any social media platform. In minutes, you could set up a Facebook business page, a YouTube channel, or a free blog!
If you can bring your business online so fast and easy — and for free — do you really need to bother with a website too?
Ownership and Control of Your Online Presence
A while back, I read about an author who had created a Facebook page and spent months promoting her forthcoming books and collecting data about her prospective readers. She built her business on that page, and then Facebook took it all away. The page was gone, data gone, and her account was banned from advertising. The automated notifications she received blamed low-quality or disruptive content. The author can contest this decision, and maybe she’ll get it all back, but there’s no guarantee.
That’s because she has no control over Facebook’s policies or its platform. Her presence on Facebook was never under her ownership or control. And that’s a big problem. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, these are privately owned enterprises. They can remove your content for failing to follow their terms of service or for any other reason. Because it’s their property and their rules.
Let’s be clear about something: you don’t have a right to be on someone else’s website. On your website, you make the rules. You control the content. You have access to the data.
That’s why every business needs its own website. But it’s not the only reason.
When your only presence is on someone else’s platform, you are limited by the features and functionality they offer. A social media profile usually has a very specific layout. In many cases, it’s not particularly aesthetic or user-friendly. They limit how much information you can publish and where it’s placed on your page. To make matters worse, some of these providers are constantly changing their dashboard, so you routinely have to learn how to use their ever-changing systems. Even the color scheme you’re forced to use might be based on their branding, not yours.
These platforms decide where to put your logo and how big (or small) it will be displayed. They might enforce a huge header image across the top. Images in particular must follow specific criteria in terms of size, dimensions, and image quality. Many businesses find themselves cropping and squeezing their images into these layouts only to find that they look terrible.
The limitations don’t stop there. From implementing SEO to optimizing your advertising with landing pages and conversion tracking, your business will be tightly constrained by what it can and can’t do if you aren’t operating on your own platform.
Headquarters and Discoverability
The internet is vast, and there are lots places where you can set up an outpost for your business, from online marketplaces to social media. You should make it as easy as possible for clients, customers, and other prospects to find you, which means it’s a good idea to establish a presence on various platforms.
But it’s also important to have a base of operations. Your website functions as your business’s online headquarters, a central location where you can publish links to all your other outposts. Instead of flooding other businesses (and platforms) with your customers, focus instead on driving your customers to your headquarters, where you can present your business your way.
Let’s face it, if your only business presence is on other people’s platforms, you are totally dependent on them.
Now, the truth is that we are all dependent on other providers for goods and services. If you have a website, you depend on your domain registrar, hosting provider, and website designer or administrator. These providers are essential to your website and your business. But you are not dependent on any one of them as you would be on a particular platform like Facebook or YouTube.
If you’re unhappy with your hosting provider, you can move to a different one. If you’re unhappy with your website, you can build a new one.
I’ve heard horror stories about businesses that were built on other platforms, and when those platforms changed their rules or went out of business, everything came crashing down. Having your own website means operating independently and with greater freedom.
Social media comes and goes. We’ve gone from AOL to MySpace to Twitter to Facebook to Instagram to Tik Tok. Who knows what will be next? Through all the ups and downs and trends, your business website can establish itself with permanence that these other platforms may never achieve. Instead of always keeping up with the latest hot spot on the web, make your website a lasting presence that your customers can count on, a place where they can learn about you, what you offer, and become loyal patrons.
Professionalism and Credibility
We are well past the point where any credible business has a website. That’s the just default. These days, when consumers search for goods or services and encounter listings that don’t include links to any website, they are likely to assume that this business doesn’t take itself seriously. Having a website is a simple matter of presenting your business in a professional light.
It might seem fast and easy to create your online presence by harnessing the many free, do-it-yourself platforms that offer space where you can feature your business, but if you’re serious about your enterprise, it’s important to present it as a serious endeavor, and that means getting a professional standalone website, one that you own and control.
Buzz Pro Studio provides website services to small businesses and independent professionals, specializing in website design and maintenance. For more information or to get a no-obligation quote, contact me.
Melissa Donovan is the founder of Buzz Pro Studio, providing website services to small businesses and independent professionals.