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The Importance of Websites in the Social Media Age for SMEs

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Which would you prefer if you were given the choice of renting a room against owning your own home? That is the significant difference which we will be discussing today between using social media for business vs owning your own business or corporate website. Today we will be looking at the importance of websites for businesses.

It is undeniable that having a web presence is paramount to the competitive edge and success of your business today. However, in this age of social media, often times business owners are finding themselves neglecting the need of maintaining or even having a corporate website for their company. Instead they focus fully on their social media channels such as Facebook pages, Linkedin pages or Twitter and Instagram accounts. Who could blame them really? It is way easier to get started on social media, and the upfront cost and resource requirement is significantly lower.
Seraph Studios - The Importance of Websites in the Social Media Age for SMEs

Understanding the mediums

Before delving into the pros and cons, let us understand the mediums first. What are websites and what is social media? Aren’t they both online? Isn’t Facebook a website as well? People can still find me on Facebook and that’s where I get my business from.

What is Social Media?

Social media are undoubtedly websites in their own right, however it is a public platform website, where everyone can sign-up as a member and interact with members of the community. Popular social media platforms today are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Snapchat. These are but the tip of the iceberg as there are many more smaller platforms which may serve a smaller more targeted niche. Let’s not forget the social media of China such as Weibo, which could rival Facebook if Mandarin was an international language.

What is a Website?

Everyone knows what a website is right? Yes and no, any site you view in a web browser is in essence a website, but there are different types of websites for different purposes. There are search engine sites like Google, portal sites like Yahoo, MSN, and who can forget the ever popular social media sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest. Some websites provide SAAS (Software as a Service) where you pay a subscription fee to access it’s functions, examples are Mail Chimp, SiteGiant, SeRanking to name a few.

Businesses would usually utilize either a brochure website or an eCommerce website, depending on the nature of the business. Photographers would do well to have their own portfolio site to showcase their masterpieces, corporate businesses utilize websites as their online business profile to disseminate information about the organization and the products or services they offer.

Now that we have a clear understanding of the difference between social media and websites, let us dive into the pros and cons and why SMEs should have a proper website for their web presence instead of fully relying on social media platforms as their primary online presence.

Pros of Social Media as the Primary Online Presence for SMEs

Many business owners are relying solely on social media as their primary online presence, why is that so? What are the reasons that drive SME owners to believe that using social media is sufficient to sustain their business in the long run? Let us find out below.

Maintenance Free

There’s no worry about maintaining your web server, updating software, plugins etc. as the social media companies will put in their best effort to keep all the technical aspects running in tip top condition. This includes updating security protocols to avoid the site and server from being hacked!

Ready Audience

Social media platforms have a ready audience for you to blast your messages out to. It will be much easier to get your message across to thousands if not tens of thousands of people through your social media page compared to driving traffic to a website.

Easy to Setup

Most social media channels offer simple to use interfaces which are straightforward with lots of hand-holding even a baby can do it. All you need to do is fill up a registration form with the relevant information, upload a header and profile image and you’re set with social media page for your business.

Social Engagement

Social media platforms make it easy for you to engage with your audience, hence it’s called so. People can like, share and comment on your content, posts, photos, videos, promotions etc. in real time and you too can respond to them in real time (assuming you have a dedicated person or loads of time to do so).

Now with so many pros of using social media as your company’s web presence, why would I even consider having a website? Next we look at the cons of social media for your business.

Cons of Social Media as the primary web presence for SMEs

We have understood from above why business owners utilize social media as their primary online presence and the pros that come with it. Next let’s understand why social media is in fact not the right platform to be used as the primary online presence of any serious business owner.

Statistics are Public and Lacking

Everyone can see how many followers, likes or fans which you have as it’s all laid bare to see. There’s also not much statistics you can gather from the tools provide by social media sites in terms of analytics.

Zero Monetization

You can’t sell ad space on your social media page, those spaces are reserved by the third-party site for their own ad spaces which they are hoping to sell to you! As such, you can’t monetize your social media page even if you have millions of visitors each day.

Information Lacks Structure and Difficult to Navigate

Posts on social media sites are timeline based, which means older content will keep getting pushed further down the page. This not only makes it difficult for your target audience to find relevant information on certain products or services, they may never find it as let’s face it, who would scroll all the way down to your very first post just to find that piece of information?

Lack of Design and Identity

You can’t control how your page looks like besides changing your header and profile image. When people visit your company’s social media page, the overall branding of the social media site will drown out whatever brand identity you have. Also when changes are made to the layout, you only find out after the new design has been implemented and you wake up to a totally different looking page from before.

Lack of Ownership and Control

Given a choice of renting a room vs owning your own home, which would you rather have? I bet most would answer the latter, as is naturally so. Your social media page is akin to renting a room, you are at the mercy of the third-party site and bound by their terms of service. If the third-party site should choose to start charging for their services or worse shutdown then all your hard work in building up the page would have gone to waste overnight. Or a more common issue is for social media sites to change their policies such as Facebook changing the rate of your posts appearing in fans news-feeds in order to encourage business owners to advertise more on their platform.

Unable to Leverage Digital Intelligence

Intelligence is an important factor and determines the victory or loss of a battle. Just as generals in a war rely on intel to decide their next move, placement of units and distribution of resources so do businesses. In a globalized and connected world like today, competition is high and information is abundantly available at the finger-tips of every consumer and competitor. As you can imagine, whoever controls digital intelligence would dominate the market.

This is not possible if a business solely relies on social media as their main online presence as the amount of analytics gathered on social media platforms are rather basic, usually overview data which doesn’t allow business owners to drill down to the most popular product or service offerings. Social media is good, it just doesn’t give one enough Digital Intelligence for strategic business decisions.
Now that we have laid out the pros and cons for using social media as your business’ primary online presence let’s talk about the importance of websites for your business.

Let’s go through the cons first

Cons of having a website as the Primary Web Presence for SMEs

Now that we have gone through the pros and cons of using social media as the primary online presence for a business, let’s understand why business owners are not setting up proper websites for their businesses.

Can be Costly to Setup

Most business owners are probably not skilled in the art of web design, even if you are savvy enough to do it yourself you will still need to find the time to do it. As such the only viable option would be to engage a professional web designer to do the work for you which will incur certain costs. There are many solutions out there ranging from freelancers to agencies who can do the work for you, some may cost as little as a few hundred up to thousands or even tens of thousands. It all depends on your requirements as well but be warned that you will probably get what you pay for, so don’t skimp too much on it.

Requires Technical Expertise to Setup

Having the website built is probably the easy part, updating and maintaining the site on the long term will usually require certain level of technical expertise even if the site is running on a CMS (Content management system)
Honestly, these are probably the only two main cons you would face as a business owner to have a website setup as your primary online presence. If you can get past these two hurdles, then you will reap the following benefits of having your own website.

Pros of having a website as the Primary Web Presence for SMEs

We have looked at the cons of having a website as the primary web presence for SMEs, but what about the pros? Why does everyone preach of having a website for your business? Let us go through the various reasons why you should have a proper website for your business.

Have Full Control and Ownership

Having your own business website is like having your own home, office, property. You have full control and ownership of it and are free to do whatever you want with it. This may include adding e-commerce functionality, collecting mailing lists etc. Also you won’t be worried when certain major social media sites shutdown as it won’t affect your website and traffic that you have built up over the years.

Having a Dedicated Business Website Instills Confidence

Let’s face it, people expect any self-respecting business these days to have at least a decent website representing them online. When was the last time you tried to Google for a new brand you just heard about to check out how cool their website looked like and research about the company? I know I do it every time, and I lose confidence in said brand or company when all I can find are some directory listings or social media page. If you’re serious about your business, then show the world that through a well-designed website, it’s why retail stores renovate and decorate their brick and mortar stores, in the end first impressions count!

Better Brand Representation

Design your website to fit your branding 100% the way you want it to. This not only increases your brand awareness online through accurate representation it also gives you the freedom to be creative with your layout and design!

Additional Revenue

You may set up ad space on your website to rake in some additional revenue. Many giant sites do it as well, look at popular news sites, job sites etc. and you can find advertising banners littered all over their site. This may contribute back to the cost of setting up and maintaining your website too.

Keep your Statistics Private

Having better tracking tools and the ability to keep your analytics data private can prove to be useful as competitors will not have direct access to such private corporate data. You can also gain better insights into your visitors via well implemented analytics, I recommend using Google Analytics, it’s free and provides a ton of insights into your site visitors.

More Structured Way of Delivering Information

As mentioned above about content getting buried in social media feeds, the same will not happen on your business website. You can structure your content neatly into categories and pages which are easily searched and accessed by your audience. This makes it easy for potential customers to research and come to a decision rather than having to keep scrolling down a social media feed to see what they find.

Leverage on Digital Intelligence for Strategic Business Decisions

Websites are the best avenue to collect digital intelligence. There’s a wealth of data to be mined from a properly set up website, from basic demographic information to more specific visitor behavior. Using digital intelligence, business owners can find out which products or services are more popular, how long did visitors spend on a specific page and at which point did they drop off. Unprocessed, the raw data may seem trivial and unimportant, however with proper processing and analyzing, business owners can derive a great wealth of psychological information about the visitors.

Important business decisions can then be derived based on the collected data and processed information, giving businesses who make use of digital intelligence have that edge over the competition. This is something that can only be achieved using a proper business website.

Not Convinced?

Still not convinced on the importance of websites for your business? The truth of the matter is that Social Media complements your company website. Headquarters should always be your website, while you make use of the various social media channels as vehicles to reach out to a wider audience and lead them back to HQ. If anything, social media has made it a lot easier to drive traffic to websites, compared to the non social media years of yonder, we have it easy these days with the many tools and platforms available that can help us drive traffic to our website.

As discussed above, social media pages are not actual websites, they’re not even owned by you or your business, think of it as an extension of your website. Instead of solely relying on your HQ, you now have numerous branches reaching out to a global audience, all with one goal, and that’s to drive traffic back to your website. In today’s globalized and competitive landscape, you can’t afford to ignore either web presence, and those who are able to embrace both social media and websites in a coordinated effort will only reap more benefits.

If after reading all of this and you are feeling even more confused, don’t hesitate to contact us at /contact-us/ for FREE consultation whereby we can discuss further your business needs and help to clarify your doubts. However, if after understanding the importance of still having a website in today’s social media age and you’ve decided to finally set up a website for your business, look no further, we will be happy to help set up your online HQ.

Alternately contact us  to instantly schedule a FREE consultation with us!

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