This is a pretty difficult question for a web designer because it cuts to the very heart of what we do, but it’s a valid one because Facebook, Twitter and other largely self-managed content platforms often do a great job as promotional engines for businesses. The information goes where the users are. Things may changes this year, of course, with Mark Zuckerberg’s stated ambition to return Facebook to its social roots (see below).
To placate my own sense of existential dread, here’s a few reasons why you should not just rely on social media stuff to reach your audience.
Everything you put onto someone else’s platform is subject to their rules and regulation. This means they could switch you off with no notice, remove your content for some unknowable infraction or simply delete all your data at the request of a competitor.
It’s more likely, however, that they’ll offer you a restricted audience until you start coughing up. £25 here or there to ‘boost’ a post on Facebook may not be a budget-killer, but when you have to boost everything you write in order to reach more than 2% of *your* audience, it’s going to start adding up.
Facebook, Twitter et al are great places to promote your story, but without a destination, do you have everything you need to convert a casual viewer into a supporter, buyer or advocate? Do you have the tools to engage beyond the like and the comment?
Moreover, do the tools you’re given provide enough information to judge how effective your campaigns are?
The content you put onto your own space remains in your control, which means you can tweak or delete as you wish. A good analytics system will give you real-time data on visitors, as well as options to see where people are coming from, how they find you and how long they stay on your site. Creating sharable content (and encouraging others to share) gives you more chances of hitting a larger social audience than posting directly to Facebook, as content is amplified through multiple personal accounts.
Facebook, Twitter and others are masters of brand marketing. You have to compete not just with those who might pay to promote themselves next to your content, but also the overwhelming behemoth that is the platform’s owner.
How does your content stack up? Is it visible enough?
A self-contained website gives you the space to stamp your own brand identity onto the internet. You control the colours, the images, the navigation and the words. A website puts you in charge, and a decent CMS – with good training – empowers you to take your message to the audience. It gives you the start you need to begin promoting content on other social platforms.
It’s a simple truth that the people on Facebook are Facebook customers (or more correctly, the people buying ads are Facebook customers, everyone else is product). Your own site gives you more opportunities to talk directly with your customers or supporters. You define the nature of the engagement as well as the voice.
Facebook’s new approach
Facebook appears to have acknowledged that it’s current approach to the news feed, which – in my recent experience – has given more space to commercial or cause-based content and far less to the social connections that made the site useful, is not working. It has committed to ‘fix’ the issue and take the site back to its social roots. For you, that means the chances of reaching an audience on Facebook is diminished as the platform reintroduces the concept of scarcity. Of course in a world of scarcity, space is at a premium, so if you want to be there, you’re going to have to pay.
From our perspective, this could lead to a resurgence in website design. Well, that’s what we’re hoping anyway.