Which is Better: A Website or a Facebook Page?

[This article was written for iedr.ie, the registry responsible for managing Ireland’s .ie domains]

Let’s try to end an old debate. Which is more important for a business: having a website or a Facebook page?

Many small business owners are perplexed by this choice. Some complain about low visitor numbers to their website and a confusing array of site maintenance tasks. Meanwhile, those building their reputation through social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter seem to enjoy simple and free access to an ever-growing audience of followers.

According to a recent study by IEDR, 62% of Irish SMEs now have a social media presence. The dot ie Digital Health Index also shows that 93% of Irish SMEs using social media have benefitted from the increased business awareness it generates.

Perhaps it’s finally time to abandon websites and focus instead on building an audience on social networks?

But there are some wider issues we need to consider. Social networks exist in a perpetual state of reinvention. If you’ve ever returned from a break from using one, you may have been confused by the disappearance of a well-loved feature or the new raft of privacy choices you were asked to accept. Facebook, now the world’s largest social network with 1.8 billion monthly users, started out by ensuring that everything a business posted to the network would be seen by 100% of their connections. Yet today business posts rarely reach 10% of connections, and your reach may be even lower. Have you been posting updates and not receiving much engagement? This could be down to the simple fact that people are just not seeing your updates in their feed.

Renting versus buying

This dramatic dilution of free, organic reach is just one of the ways that social networks alter their terms of use over time. Put simply, when a business builds a presence on a third-party network it becomes a tenant living free of charge in someone else’s online home. Your business is immediately subject to the decisions of another company, without any of the guarantees or protection that you might expect from a bricks-and-mortar business property investment or long-term rental agreement. On the internet, if the landlord wants to change the rules, they can, immediately and often without warning.

In contrast, a business website is exclusively controlled by you and your company. Nothing can happen to that website without your permission, and you decide how information should be presented and updated. Having your own website is the equivalent of buying a property—in effect, being the landlord—affording you far more protection in the long term than renting.

How to do it

Fionagh Ryan of Ryans Jewellers in Limerick has built a solid website presence for her company at www.ryansjewellers.ie and sees great value in promoting it.

Ryan also leverages the reach of social media to draw traffic into the store and to her website. She says customers often ask about jewellery pieces they’ve seen on Facebook and online. “In this digital age,” she says, “it is vital for small businesses to be online at all stages and available whenever the customer happens to be looking for you.”

The good news is that creating and maintaining a website is far easier today than ever before. Many hosting platforms are self-updating, ensuring your site is always protected from the latest security threats and giving you early access to powerful features to wow your site visitors. Website-building platforms such as Squarespace, Weebly or Wix and web marketplaces like www.samm.ie put simple web design tools within reach of even the most cautious of computer users.

The verdict

So, with all things considered, which is more important: a website or a Facebook page?

My answer is ‘neither’: they’re both important for modern SMEs. Every business owner should begin by creating a website to serve as their permanent home on the internet, under their control forever. And once that is established, many may also benefit from developing an active presence on relevant social networks like Facebook to reach a wider audience and ultimately convert them into happy, paying customers.

This post first appeared on the the “Identifiably Irish” blog. You can also watch Allister speaking at Ireland’s Internet Day.


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