The fact that Elon Musk recently fired the entire board of Twitter to make himself its sole director makes it clear that he sees the potential power of social media. Nowadays, when going online to check out a brand’s merchandise or to conduct market research, many people do it using social media, not search engines, and this trend is gaining momentum. Does this mean, then, that at some point, businesses won’t need websites anymore, but should rely only on social media profiles?
According to Ofir Bar, a veteran investor with a particular interest in entrepreneurship, it’s not a question of either this or that. “A business’ website and social media accounts serve different purposes. Therefore, social accounts aren’t set to replace websites,” he said. ”Each of these has its own distinct benefits. However, while an Instagram account is a major plus, a website is essential for a business – and that’s not going to change anytime soon.”
Designing a website (Source: Shutterstock)
A free hand
It’s true that a business can choose which photos it wants to upload to its social media page, and what shall be written in the posts. Nevertheless, businesses still have limited control over how their brand appears on it, unless they are willing to pay top dollar. Take, for example, user comments and reviews. That’s something that the business has no influence over.
Many businesses decide to pay for social media campaigns. This is how they gain access to all sorts of traffic and analysis tools, to help them monitor and maximize the flow of potential consumers to their page. Nevertheless, you can’t tell exactly how, when and where these social media platforms will present your content as a business page and what prominence it will get. This is their game, so businesses that play it have to do it by their rules.
Social media platforms also limit businesses to strict appearance rules that can suppress freedom of expression: One has to comply with the photo formats the platform enables, for example. Embedding links is not easy, since social media platforms ultimately want their users to keep scrolling rather than to click a website link and leave. Texts have to be short because otherwise, they’ll just become obsolete in the endless flow of content. Furthermore, social media platforms also execute unannounced updates every once in a while, that can completely change the rules. This may sabotage the effectiveness of the work done by the business on its page or profile so far.
An independent website, on the other hand, allows a company to (almost) fully tailor its content to its wil. It enables a business to control the order of material on its domain, the flow, the layout and the rest. These are factors that just cannot be replaced by a page on Facebook or TikTok.
The marketing funnel (Source: Shutterstock)
It takes two to funnel
The marketing funnel is one of the most basic sales principles: In order to convert an unaware potential customer to money in your account, some “directing” is needed. Nowadays, this is, in many cases, done online. This eventually leads the potential client to the business’ site – the place where they actually make a purchase.
Social media accounts can greatly boost the funneling process, serving as a catalyst for channeling potential customers to the website. That is, social media is merely the connector. That’s because only on your website, people can fully understand what your brand has to offer them – and either make a purchase or not.
“The fact that social media platforms have an interest in keeping their users scrolling on the platform rather than clicking on links is also one of the reasons why ‘social’ and ‘sales’ need a bridge to connect between them,” added Bar. “Unless you are paying Instagram and its friends to promote your brand, hence they get paid for every time someone clicks on the link you posted, these social media giants make any effort to keep the reader scrolling on the platform – which means they are less likely to click that link and view your actual site. Therefore, social media platforms are in no way a replacement to an actual website, because your sales are not their top priority.”
A search engine (Source: Shutterstock)
The dress code
Search engines (Google in particular), as opposed to social media networks, allow businesses much more control over their online visibility, using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC): These are methods for a business to make sure its website appears as high as possible on the search results page when consumers type specific keywords in the search box.
“There’s no escaping it – a business needs a website. If you are just in the initial stages of building your online reputation, social accounts may be enough. However, as a business grows, it just has to have a site,” Bar concluded. “As no one would dare go to a fancy ball in their pajamas and flip flops, a business that wants to be taken seriously, and to convert potential clients to actual clients, has to ‘dress accordingly’.”