We all know how popular Facebook is both for private users and with businesses. Facebook is something of a phenomenon and a multi-billion-dollar income generating machine.
Many of us use enormous amounts of our free time checking, posting, reacting and sharing at Facebook. Millions of us consult our phones in the morning immediately upon waking up with the Facebook app being one of the first things we check. In fact, Facebook has revolutionised our use of mobile phones altogether. In 2016 a Dscout survey revealed that typical mobile phone users spent 145 minutes on their phones and engaged in 76 phone sessions per day. At around the same time Apple confirmed that iPhone users unlock their phones 80 times every day – equivalent to six or seven times every hour. As for what is viewed during the multiple sessions, Facebook is often top of the list.
When we consider what Facebook has done for businesses and business owners it is clear Facebook has become increasingly important - for small businesses and particularly those that operate locally Facebook has become vital.
Facebook has made it virtually effortless to get your business on to the Internet by means of a dedicated business Facebook page. And, what’s more it’s free! Because Facebook displays well across different devices users can engage with businesses on Facebook as they wish.
Businesses can explain what they do, share information, make offers, show opening times, publish documents, take customer bookings, gather reviews and much more.
Gateway to a huge audience
Facebook is essentially a gateway that enables businesses to connect and engage with their target audience in a space online where potential customers are found.
Suddenly businesses that had previously been reliant upon more conventional marketing methods are able to reach and connect like never before. There are more than one billion global Facebook users, with around 33 million of these in the UK.
Facebook advertising potential
Advertising on Facebook is easy and can often be very effective. That effectiveness works both ways. While businesses can have their audiences see what’s offered, audiences return invaluable feedback and insights too. The sharing of data by users enables Facebook to know a lot about their users, their preferences, interests and desires.
Facebook’s data gathering is a real boon for businesses. It means that businesses can share content and offers that will reach their market based on relevance. In short, businesses can build an affinity with people who are likely to buy from them. Charities can build similar affinities with people who are best disposed to give and to support their cause.
However, while having a Facebook page is free, advertising comes at a cost. That said, as things stand advertising with Facebook is significantly less expensive as compared with other online advertising platforms or methods.
Facebook page better than a Company Website?
The question this article is really trying to answer, however, is this: Is having a Facebook page better than a business having its own website? Is having a Facebook page instead of a website enough?
Having pointed out several of the key benefits of having a Facebook page let’s look at what the benefits are of having a well constructed company website of contemporary design with clear brand messaging that resonates with the audience your business is targeting.
One key consideration about a business having a Facebook page is that the business does not have ownership of the page. Facebook does. All the images and content once posted to Facebook comes under the control of Facebook. Their rules apply. For example, if it is decided that Facebook won’t approve a post you wish to ‘boost’ (as they call it – paid-for advertising) to a wider audience, and although it is your business that is the paying customer then the post won’t be approved and consequently won’t be boosted. The only way to have the post approved is to do as Facebook asks, namely to make the post conform to the whims of Facebook – whims that may change at any time.
Were you to have your own website, however, the post to Facebook itself isn’t really the crucial issue. What’s more important is that you can make the post conform to the whims of Facebook but with the ambition of directing Facebook users who have seen your post over to your own website where you can display information exactly as you wish. At your website it won’t be Facebook branding at the forefront it will be your business branding. With your own business website, you are in control, not Facebook. And, having your own website means you can use Facebook to your own advantage by bringing people to your shop window instead of having them remain at Facebook’s shop window, where, incidentally, there are many other distractions.
Only people who are signed up to Facebook can see your Facebook posts. People who aren’t signed up won’t see your posts. Facebook users who visit their account infrequently are likely to miss your posts too. Yes, as previously said, users of Facebook are in the tens of millions in the UK, but Facebook doesn’t have all the UK market. Facebook also has less control over the millions of users who use their account sporadically. And there really are millions. This is easily proven by looking at the many accounts that lie dormant for prolonged periods. For some its only special occasions or holidays that suddenly bring their accounts to life.
The point here is that the Facebook bubble has its limitations. There’s an entire world out there that isn’t under the control of Facebook. On the other hand, however, the entire world can be reached by your own company website without rules and without constraint. With your own website you can say what you want, how you want to say it, and have it exposed to the whole world. including the world of Facebook, if you wish. That’s right, having the wider benefits of your own business website does not exclude you and your business from having the benefits of your Facebook page too.
But let’s dig deeper into the limitations of having a Facebook page alone. Are you aware, for example, of how many Facebook users see the posts you put up on your Facebook page – i.e. by those who have liked your page? It is quite shocking. Less than 2% of the people that have ‘liked’ your Facebook page will see the posts you put up.
So, let’s be clear. On average a local business will have something in the region of 500 likes. This means that each post is seen on average by 10 people.
To improve the reach of your posts your business will have to pay to have your post marketed (boosted) to people who haven’t yet expressed an interest in your page or what your business does. Whereas, of the 500 or so users who have indicated their interest by liking your page (those whom you should be able to reach for free!) only 10 will see your post. Why wouldn’t you and your business want to increase levels of exposure to a broader audience using your own business brand with your own website?
3. Your place or mine?
You may of have noticed that when something you and your business does well using Facebook a significant part of the benefit goes to Facebook. What’s more, from a user memory perspective it will be Facebook that is remembered first, not your business and not your post. Users will likely say something like: ‘I saw this amazing product or service on Facebook’. They are less likely say something first about your brand.
Consequently, the return on your investment of money, time and effort is split. Your business will see a return while the rest will go to Facebook not least the user traffic to your Facebook page, which you have helped to generate and the money you have spent on advertising. Ultimately, you have contributed to making Facebook a more interesting place to be, not your business and certainly not your website, if you don’t have one. If we think offline (in the physical world), this is rather like having a stand in the corner of someone else’s shop. Visitors may come to your stand and they may buy from you. But, it is the shop that will have the footfall and it is the shop that will have many more products on display for sale. In fact, it is the shop that will profit from having your stand on site as a draw to customers. This is acceptable when attending a trade show, but you wouldn’t do it every day!
So, why not turn this around? Why not have your own business website and use Facebook to bring people to you and your business. It really is a choice between ‘your place or mine?’ Your own website or Facebook’s?
Facebook is every bit the phenomenon described earlier. It is a gateway to more than a billion users across the globe with 33 million of these in the UK. But should your business rely on Facebook alone rather than having your own website? We say no! Though, it shouldn’t be an either-or scenario.
Instead, we suggest your business should use Facebook as a tool to bring users back to your own website where your business products and services can be displayed and explained freely without rules and constraints, with your own company brand and brand values and where you can begin to develop lasting relationships with your customers at your place, not Facebook's.
In closing it is accepted there is always an exception to the rule. There are businesses thriving with just a Facebook page. But, keep in mind, Facebook may change its rules and operations over which these thriving businesses have no control. This is certainly a threat to mark down in the company SWOT analysis! Furthermore, why should a thriving business not thrive more!
Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure statistical information in this article is accurate. Future Point 4 Business Limited does not accept or assume responsibility for information relied upon from external websites. Information has been used carefully and in good faith.
Author: Phillipe Avery
Founder Director, Future Point 4 Business