When it comes to a website, there’s no one size fits all. In my area of expertise, I focus on businesses that have a significant part of their business happening online. Sometimes that’s the attracting, funneling and nurturing of traffic into sales leads (that’s common to almost every business); sometimes that’s eCommerce; sometimes it’s online course building and sales, or online booking and sales for real-life, in-person services.

But occasionally, I get inquiries from business owners who aren’t sure if they really need a full-blown website for their business. For example, if you have a small business that mostly serves those local to you, pick your favorite search engine and search “[your trade here] near me”. The results you see might be mostly Google My Business, Yelp, Angie’s List, Facebook, or other big-name directories or social media platforms. This might make you wonder, if this is what customers are using to compare and shop, why not just make sure your business is on all those platforms and call it good?

It’s important to have a high quality listing on any platform that is popular with your target audience, like Facebook. But consider carefully and think long-term before deciding that’s all you need.

Here’s some food for thought.

When you make a business page on Facebook, you don’t really own it. Facebook does. So they control who sees it, and how it appears.

Some business owners, especially ones just starting out, may find a measure of success with only a free page for their business on Facebook. After all, it seems to cover all the bases. When a potential customer googles your business name, the first result may be that page, and it’s got your number, your location, all the services or products you offer– who could ask for more?

What if you pay Facebook for advertising? You might have some success in this. Paid advertising through Facebook can be a valuable part of a healthy online strategy. But if it’s your only source of leads, you might be building your business on a shaky foundation.

After all, Facebook takes money from all comers, including your competition. In fact, they’re advertising your competitors to your customers right on your own page– just take a look at the “related pages” section of your own business page. To see your related pages, log out of Facebook and then visit your business’s official Facebook page.

If your business relies on paid advertising through Facebook, at any point, your source of leads could dry up, or your strategy could require a complete change, or advertising could become too expensive to be worth the quality of leads it produces.

And that leads to another potential concern.

Do you really want the business you’re getting from Facebook?

Is it possible for leads to harm rather than help your business? If they are low-quality leads, not your ideal customer, and they can’t afford what you’re offering– yes, they can do more harm than good.

If you are in an extremely niche, less competitive market, or if you are already at the top of your market, you may want all the traffic that Facebook can send your way. For those in that position, Facebook is a goldmine of word-of-mouth advertising. Without spending a dime, they get priceless advertising as customers tell their friends and leave five-star reviews.

However, if you are in a competitive market or if you are just starting out or ramping up your marketing, the leads you get from Facebook may be a little different. If you don’t have your ideal customer targeted, chasing those leads can mean running a race to the bottom.

All things being equal, a smart consumer will pick the cheaper option.

Of course, all things are not equal. Your business has unique selling points that put you head and shoulders above your competition. But having a page that looks exactly like the other guy’s does tend to level the playing field…

Essentially, advertising on Facebook in a crowded field leads to low-quality leads who aren’t willing to spend. Those customers are always the hardest to please, and when it’s all over they rarely leave nice reviews. And if they do tell friends, you might find that those friends are just like them.

On the other hand, with a decent website, you could be getting qualified leads for free by capturing the audience that is actively searching for you.

Bottom line

  • Even if you have a measure of success, you don’t own your facebook page– so if it’s your sole source of leads, your business could dry up at any moment.
  • Your Facebook page looks exactly like everyone else’s, so it’s hard to stand out from the competition.
  • It’s better to have your own platform if you plan on long term success.

Recently, I was asked by a client if they should be connecting their social media accounts to their website. In other words, adding links in the form of icons, buttons, badges, or a “social media sharing bar”– whatever you want to call it. The answer to this is, as with many matters in life, it depends.

I’ll lay out all the info so that you, as an informed and empowered website owner, can make the best choice for your business.

Social media is great for giving what marketers call social proof.

Social proof is outside evidence that others– especially your customers’ friends– already trust you and your brand. Social media gives your customers an opportunity to see real people interacting positively with your brand.

So many business owners, with the goal of improving their presence online, will want to connect their website with their social media pages, like their instagram feed or their facebook business page. And the idea is that it’s some kind of two-way street– that somehow, having that social media link will result in more traffic, more leads.

But it’s not an easy thing to get business that way, because it’s not a nice flat two way street; it’s a slippery, downhill slope to get someone to on social media, but it’s a rough uphill climb to get traffic from social media to your website.

So even though I believe in the wisdom of crowds for many things, this isn’t one of them. Many websites slap social media sharing buttons everywhere they can… but that doesn’t make it a good idea.

There are real drawbacks to having shiny, neon “Exit Here!” signs all over your website.

It’s great to have real people talking up your business on social media– that’s like money in the bank.

But once you’ve got someone on your website, there are more profitable goals than enticing them to leave your site.

“But I want them to share my content with their friends, too,” you may say. I mean, yes– that’s an ideal scenario! But realistically, the best shot you have is with the customer that’s already on your website. You wouldn’t interrupt an in-person sales conversation to ask the potential customer to tell their friends and family about your business. You’d stay on track until you made the sale. Then, once you’ve served them, they’ll be delighted to talk you up!

Here are three goals that will absolutely profit your business way more than a “like” on your facebook page:

  1. Get them to sign up for your mailing list. Many customers may find your page at a time when, for whatever reason, they are not quite ready to make a buying decision. They don’t have to be lost forever!
  2. Answer the #1 top-searched question related to your business. For many businesses, that question is “how much will it cost?” That’s why so many websites have “pricing” pages prominently linked in their primary navigation menus.
  3. Educate your customer on the number one drawback to your service or product. No, I’m not crazy! Your customers are already comparing the pros and cons, so lean into it and tell them why you’re the right choice after all.

If you’re convinced, stop reading now and think about how you can do 1-3 above!

But if you’re still thinking of prominently displaying links to social media on your website… let’s put ourselves in the shoes of your potential customer.

While visiting your site, they saw a link to their favorite social media platform. They clicked on that little social media badge to check out your activity there.

Your potential customer navigated away from your site and is being bombarded with their friends’ latest posts, news items, and advertisements for anything and everything. It’s now very likely that they get sucked in and forget why they visited your site in the first place.

We’ve probably all experienced it– that’s how those platforms are designed to work. If they’re on a mobile device, the distraction is even more complete, since they’re probably taken to an entirely different app and it’s not as easy as clicking back to the tab with your website in it. Their purchasing decision process is now on indefinite hold. Out of sight, out of mind.

If you have a lead who is far along in the buying process, it’s also very possible that they will be targeted by your competitors with ads while they are on social media.

In fact, even if your competitors aren’t running an active ad campaign, competing businesses may be advertised right on your very own page... yes, the page to which you just linked your potential customer. To see how this happens, open a private browsing window and go your own facebook page, and scroll down to related pages. You may see your direct competitors’ pages being advertised right on your very own page, as in the image below:

This facebook page was chosen at random– I’m not associated with the business.

Note: If you don’t see the “related pages” heading, log out of facebook and check again. If you’re logged in and you have access to your Facebook page as an editor or admin, you won’t see this particular section when you view your own page… I wonder why? Just kidding. It’s pretty obvious why.

Bottom line: Thoughtfully consider whether you are benefiting from your links to social media, and consider placing them in the footer area of your site rather than competing with your main calls-to-action. If you need a distraction-free user experience, like a landing page, consider leaving them out.