Websites vs. Social Media: Do You Really Need Both?

Has social media become so pervasive that companies could skip setting up a website?  Simply create a Facebook page, establish a Twitter account and voila, you’re in business!

Yes, I have seen the articles declaring websites “dead” and I would agree that social media has come a long way.  Social channels are a quick and low-cost way of creating a digital presence and they become more sophisticated every day.  A website, on the other hand, requires significant resources to build and maintain so I can see why the notion of avoiding it altogether could be compelling.

What if we isolate the concept to specific business types?  Would that make it easier to imagine?  For instance, could a non-profit get away with this?  Facebook is making it possible for users to accept payments from each other.  Apps can extend the capabilities of your page so you can tailor the user experience.  Could that be enough for an organization that is online primarily to raise money so they can focus on their real work?

What about a small local business, like a family restaurant?  On the surface it seems doable – fill out your profile, load up a menu and start engaging.  How about large companies?  Some of them have been incredibly successful on social media.  Could they drop their corporate websites altogether and have the same impact?

I can certainly imagine a future where this might become reality.  In this future, social media organizations would be so powerful and stable that companies could negotiate permanent residence within their walls.  But, I don’t think we’re there quite yet.  Why?

Ownership and Control
Your presence on social media is subject to the terms and conditions of the channel you choose and social media players are notorious for changing the rules – sometimes daily.  This means they can add and remove features, sever or create relationships, adjust algorithms and change their advertising offerings whenever they choose and without consulting users.  At this point in time, the only way you have complete control of the customer experience is by creating your own website.

Smart Investors Diversify
Investors know that you must keep a core part of your portfolio in funds that are less about performance and more about stability.  A strong foundation means you can take risks elsewhere.  View your website in this same light.  Social media players come, go and change.  Your website is the core of your investment strategy.  You can diversify from there – taking risks and investing in various social media platforms without concern that their demise could destroy you.

Demographics are Fickle
Social channels are primarily a mechanism for connecting with your customers and building relationships in your industry.  What if you set up shop at Facebook only to have your target demographic grow weary of the platform and abandon it for another?  Suddenly, you’re a dinosaur. With social media we must stay agile.  A website that is the anchor of our marketing efforts provides us the flexibility to make quick adjustments and follow our connections to other channels.

Social Media is Distracting
Have you ever logged into Facebook to see a specific post only to get distracted by a flashy headline that compels you to share, which means you need to craft a witty comment, which results in you forgetting what you were doing there in the first place?  Social media websites are noisy and distracting.  Your organization is constantly competing for user attention.  A well crafted post will include a call to action that will entice readers to your nice, quiet website where you can deliver your message in peace.

Websites Provide Autonomy
If you build your digital presence on a social media channel, you not only leave yourself vulnerable to their whims but you are also exposed to any sort of controversies they might become entangled in.  Having some physical and legal separation between your brand and whatever social media channels you choose to participate in will allow you to disengage quickly if needed.

In the end, I think websites and social media serve some of the same purposes but there is a tremendous difference when it comes to control.  Certain initiatives could take place solely in social media, but to anchor your organization’s entire digital existence to a social media platform does not seem prudent at this time. Technology changes so rapidly that I cannot say with any sort of certainty what the websites of tomorrow will look like.  For now, however, I think most companies would be best served by using social media to complement their websites not replace them.

What do you think?

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