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Tips on Selling

There’s no substitute for a website

Social media plays an important role in an online marketing strategy but it’s a mistake for retailers to think it could replace a website. SUE COCKBURN discusses the reasons why websites are key.

With so much talk about social media, it can be easy to question whether or not a website should be the hub of a business’ online presence. After all, with Facebook fast approaching two billion users, won’t a business Facebook page work just as well?

The short answer is no. Having a strong business presence on a social media network such as Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram cannot and should not replace a business website.

Building a business presence on one or more social media platforms is great; however, don’t assume that the presence developed there will remain the same for as long as a business exists. The features offered by social media platforms can change in the blink of an eye, and as networks expand and evolve so too do the rules of the game – especially for businesses.

In fact, it’s quite possible that the social media site a retailer is using today may not even exist five to 10 years from now.

Rules are evolving

The reality is that businesses have no control over what the rules will be for using social media tomorrow, let alone a year from now.

Small business owners who were early adopters of Facebook were initially delighted at being able to reach people in their news feed for free. These businesses worked hard to build a fan base for their pages, sometimes paying to increase the number of ‘likes’, but they had no idea that Facebook would begin to limit how much of their shared content would actually make it into their fans’ news feed in 2012.

Today, it’s unlikely content will be seen in a news feed unless Facebook page owners pay for the privilege.

That said, Facebook and other social media networks can be very worthwhile investments of time and money; however, they shouldn’t be the hub a small business’ online presence. Businesses don’t own these platforms and as such are at the mercy of the owner of that platform.

One spoke in the wheel

Social media done well can help strengthen a business’ online ‘brand’ and promote traffic to the business website. It should be treated as one spoke in the wheel of the overall online marketing strategy, with the website as the hub. Social media should never be viewed as an isolated activity from everything else conducted to promote the business – it’s a spoke in the wheel.

Consider this: if the business looks great on social networking sites such as Facebook but the business website ‘sucks’ then that business and the first impression people have of it will suffer. To reiterate, it’s the website, not a social media site, that should be the hub of a business’ online presence.

It’s the only platform business owners have any real control over.

A website is the online hub

Most people who want to find out about a business or to learn about its products and services look to a website first.

This could be for a number of reasons: they may have seen the business somewhere; a friend or family member might have mentioned the business name; the business could have appeared in a search result.

However, it’s what they do when they arrive on the website that determines whether or not they stay and dig deeper or whether they leave immediately.

If potential customers discover the business on a social media network then the next logical step for them will be to visit the website to learn more.

Either way, it’s clear that people will search a website in addition to its social media platforms. It’s also important to note that, according to Google, most people will visit websites while on their mobile phone device so make sure the business website is mobile-friendly.

No need to spend a fortune

Whether retailers are looking to build their first website or make improvements to an existing one, it needn’t cost a small fortune.

It’s not about having all the bells and whistles, and in fact, sometimes these can actually harm the experience online visitors have rather than help it, especially now that most people use smartphones to visit websites.

The crucial considerations are the quality of the images and content used along with the layout, design and functionality. Having a website is not enough; it must accurately represent the business.

The cost involved in having a great branded business website is small compared to the advantages it will offer. Remember, a presence on social media can’t replace having a solid business website.

Sue Cockburn

Contributor • Growing Social Biz

Sue Cockburn is founder of Growing Social Biz, a website and social media services provider for micro and small businesses. Visit:

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