10 Sep 2012
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
With social media being all the rage nowadays, many small business owners may be tempted to set up free profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other popular social networks instead of establishing the customary company website.
While social media has become an essential tool for marketing a business and reaching a broader audience, experts warn that it’s a mistake for entrepreneurs to think they can rely solely on a social media presence as a complete marketing strategy.
Research shows that when it comes to influencing consumer buying behavior, a company’s website still matters more than its presence on social media.
Get Satisfaction, a customer engagement platform, recently released the findings of a comprehensive study on consumer online buying behavior that found for nearly 90 percent of some 2,000 consumer respondents, a company’s website – not a social network – is the preferred place to research products and find information that leads to purchasing decisions.
A website essentially is the online manifestation of your business, while social media is a method of marketing and most small businesses need both, says Rieva Lesonsky, founder and CEO of GrowBiz Media and a widely recognized small-business expert.
Patrick Bieser, president and CEO of Northwoods Software Development Inc. in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, agrees.
“A website is the hub of your efforts,” said Bieser. “Social media is meant to build interest about your company and to create a buzz, but ultimately, what you want is to direct people to your website,”
Jay Matthes, a musician and entrepreneur from Milwaukee, believes every small business owner should have a company website, but for Matthes, having an Internet business domain has become more of a formality.
Matthes, 28, who launched two websites for his solo career and rock band in 2011, says Facebook and Twitter have been the easiest and fastest ways to make connections and market his music and business endeavors.
“Everybody should have a website. In my case, it’s fading into the background,” he said. “For me, social media is a huge measure of growth. You can say I got 10 new followers this week, or I got more likes. People like to support things they see growing and developing.”
Where experts believe the real value comes in for entrepreneurs like Matthes is through creating lasting relationships with customers, which can best be accomplished via a company website.
If you’re an entrepreneur interested in creating a website or redesigning one you already have, Bieser of Northwoods Software, offered the following tips:
It’s more about the content than the graphical look and feel of a website. “So many people put the emphasis on the design of the website,” Bieser said. “The other design strategy is having good content. That’s what people miss.”
Next, go into depth about your products and services and offer comparisons, “As a small business owner, ask yourself what are the questions you get asked all the time about your products,” Bieser said. “That should be the heart of the content you want to put on your website.”
Finally, as you gain new knowledge about your business and its products and services, then you can employ social media.
“Social media by itself isn’t going to sell anything,” Bieser said. “Social media provides another outlet to share your expertise. Once you post something on social media, it needs to go on your website.”
What do you think? Can a business be successful on the web today with just a social media presence and without an actual company website?