While social media has been a great platform that allowed people to start their businesses for very little using one or many platforms to connect with their clients it has always come at a cost. The main issue with running your business this way is that your clients also need to be connected to the social media platforms that you use. I wrote this post as I feel that businesses don't appreciate the risks inherent in doing business on a platform they do not own. With facebook earlier this year changing their feed algorithms and growing rumours that someday soon, users may be charged to connect, the risk of losing your customer base is real. Essentially, a business of any size should really opt to have their own website as social media limits their potential customer base, exposes them to risk and imposes other limits on a business that perhaps have not been considered by business owners once the idea of "FREE" sets in. The plain and simple truth of social media based businesses is this, without a website you are actually losing business whether you know it or not.
One concept that is very important for business owners to understand is that technology businesses who provide services or goods for free do not make money directly and often the money they do make is at your expense in some way. It is also important to identify what restrictions that free services such as social media platforms impose on your business and whether these restrictions are acceptable for the amount you actually save. With facebook, unless people follow your business, then you really need to get out your wallet to pay for your content to be seen because business traffic is now less organic. Searching for businesses on facebook is not easy to do unless you know the business you are looking for and a search on google is only effective if the person can login to their account (not going to happen on some business networks) to access your business page in its entirety. Maybe you have your products for sale on eBay or Etsy? Is a customer going to take the time to search for you on those platforms, create an account if they don't have one...I'm already exhausted thinking about all the typing and mouse clicks only to do business with you.
A website doesn't have to be excessively expensive, it doesn't have to be your shopping cart but if you haven't got one then most likely you are losing more business than you would spend to get it going. I've heard it before, "I'll see how I go with facebook first", "social media is a blog isn't it?", "why would I spend money when I can get something for free?"...my response is simple, websites allow you to standout, they grow businesses, it creates trust with clients and it gives businesses the freedom to interact with customers in a manner they choose where social media doesn't offer these things. Don't get me wrong, businesses should have social media accounts to interact with customers and help spread their news, promotions etc but they are, or should be sacrificial if they don't work for you. A business should be able to choose what content they can share, how they share it and all clients should be able to do business with you. I do not begrudge those who choose the free option if their client base is already there but remember that clients come and clients go, so how are you connecting with new clients and how do they find you?
Some key restrictions that social media imposes are:
You don't have full control over the platform or your content
The social media platform is your website, you must adhere to their terms and conditions, you only have the settings they provide and often your content, information and analytics are on-sold to advertisers and other third parties for whatever reason. This centralisation of data on platforms like these is why data trawling can and does occur such as with the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Selling is tricky and you often need third party sites complicating access
Often you have to use third party websites to sell such as paying for a shopping cart website or using Etsy or Ebay. This creates other issues including access, ease of locating products, inflexible payment methods and often pushes you onto another generic platform.
Searching is difficult
Finding a business on social media is often difficult, not intuitive and unhelpful. These platforms are geared towards people, not companies / businesses and as such searching is optimised for this purpose which makes finding a business you don't know frustrating and often leaves a search unfulfilled.
You're at the mercy of another company's policies and operating decisions
Social media platforms are businesses, their focus is to make money...are you really surprised that they put businesses and users second to profit? Think of all the stories you have heard about accounts being shutdown, fake accounts being opened, algorithms changing, rumours of charging, information on-selling...these businesses do what is best for them and their bottom line, you should be positioned to close your account if you do not agree with how these businesses operate.
You're just another profile
You are a name and a picture...everything else is pretty much the same which makes it hard to be original, spectacular, ground breaking and innovative. You don't look much different to your mate showing off his latest holiday...just saying.
Social proof and reviews can be challenging to obtain
Want people to create reviews to promote your business on other platforms? This isn't an option with yelp, amazon, google and other platforms requiring you to register a website domain.
Analytics are restrictive and insufficient
You only get to measure visits, likes, follows and shares but don't get to measure conversion rates (visitor to customer) or other metrics you might feel are valuable. This can severely limit your marketing capabilities and reduce the available information available to make decisions from.
People may not take your business seriously
A customer's perception of your business is important and if they don't take you seriously or trust your business then you may be losing business from this without you ever knowing about it.
A website allows you to do one other thing that is very important for businesses and that is to choose who you want to do business with. Such a simple statement but it means you choose who creates your platform, who hosts your content, what content you need, how your content is handled and what vendors you use for services such as processing payments (i.e. eCommerce, PayPal, Afterpay etc.). While it might not be free, it often pays for itself in the long run and an unrestricted customer base without the risk of having this adjusted or taken away without notice is never a bad thing. If you are interested in finding out more about what we can do for you then please feel free to visit our main website or contact us. Thank you for your time, for reading our blog post and it would be great if you feel the need to share or like our articles via one of our social media platforms with the @ActsIntuitively tag as applies.
Technical Services Manager
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