I’ve been asked by a few Geraldton business owners lately “Do I need a website if I have a Facebook page?”
The answer depends on a number of variables including:
- your target market and how they seek and use your services,
- how competitive your market is,
- the type of business you are in
- your business plan and goals for growth.
In the majority of cases, I recommend having both as they complement each other in the overall marketing mix.
Why just having a Facebook Page is not ideal
1. Not everyone in Geraldton is on Facebook
I did some crunching of Geraldton Facebook usage statistics and found nearly half of all adults in Geraldton don’t have a Facebook account. A proportion of these adults may be elderly or the ‘other half’ of avid Facebook users, but I personally know dozens of people in my own circles who don’t because it’s not their thing.
Having a website can help you reach those non-Facebook users who will seek out your service in other channels (eg. Google, in the paper, in print directory or old fashion word of mouth referral) and want to look at your web page before contacting you. A website gives you more scope than a Facebook page to create a strong brand impression and clear service offering – particularly to those who are not used to (or averse) to Facebook.
Sources: Facebook (people living within 50km radius of Geradton aged 15+); ABS: National Regional Profile: Geraldton-Greenough (% population aged 15+); Wikipedia: City of Greater Geraldton (estimated Geraldton population 2011)
2. Websites are better for search engine listings
Facebook pages don’t come up as high as web pages or directory listings for searches on your products or services. A website gives you much more scope to optimise for high search engine ranking.
You can get by with just a free online directory listing, but websites are generally clicked on before directory listings in search results so having a website that comes up high in the results will put you ahead of your competitors. And having a website that is optimised for sales conversion will put you in front again.
3. Not everyone that uses Facebook uses it for interacting and transacting with brands
Of those 53% of Geraldton adults using Facebook, a great deal of them will be ‘light’ users – logging in irregularly and not necessarily interacting or following brands – preferring traditional methods to do this.
4. Only a small percentage of your Facebook followers actually see your posts
In late 2012, Facebook changed their EdgeRank algorithm to reduce the amount of brands’ Facebook page posts are seen in fans’ news feeds. This may have been a deliberate move by Facebook to force page owners to pay for reach using promoted posts. Whatever the reason, less people are seeing your updates now.
5. People new to town don’t have local connections for referrals
Are you missing out on these people? Two years ago, I was one of them. Nearly all my current personal and professional service providers in Geraldton were found from Google. Most new residents will use Google to find new services. And chances are your Facebook page won’t come up in the results unless you have optimised it for keyword related to your products and services. Your Facebook page might come up high for searches on your brand name, but most new residents won’t be familar with it and won’t search for that.
6. Facebook search is not good for local business
Does anyone actually try to look for local services using Facebook search? If they created an advanced search that allowed you to target locations and categories, then it would be a different story.
When having just a Facebook Page is ok
Geraldton retailers with physical stores in town are prime examples of businesses that can use Facebook instead of a website.
Most NEW customers will find your store by going past it in the shopping centre or in town. Or they will find out about the store from friends on Facebook. Very few, if any, will find your store by doing a google search for “shoes” or “fashion” or “gifts” first. So it’s not so important for you to have a website that comes up in Google. Unless of course you want sell your products online and drive sales from markets outside Geraldton (refer to the case study below).
Facebook makes it easy for shop owners to promote new stock and sales promotions to drive repeat business to their store.
So what’s right for you?
Consider the purpose not the channel
My answer to whether you need a Facebook Page or a website is to take a holistic view of your marketing and start by considering your target market and how they use media and don’t start with the channel or medium and how to use it. Facebook may be the best customer retention or customer service tool, but a website may be better for branding and new customer acquisition.
When developing your marketing plan and deciding which channels to pursue always start with who is your target market and consider the following framework:
- Acquisition Strategy – how will you acquire NEW customers (eg. Google, Direct Mail, Advertising, Referrals)
- Retention Strategy – how you will keep existing customers loyal and generate repeat business (eg. Facebook, email, SMS)
- Growth Strategy – how will you get more value out of existing customers through upsells and cross sells
- Customer Service Strategy – how will you make yourself available to customers (service hours, service channels, response times)
- Brand Strategy – how will you create a distinct brand personality in the market (eg. PR, sponsorships, events, Facebook content marketing)
Consider your return on investment
When deciding whether to invest in a website, consider how many new customers/sales your website needs to generate to get a return on your investment – assuming you will have that same website for 2 to 5 years. Websites don’t have to cost much money . Their are dozens of low cost online website builders for small business which are ideal if you have the time and skills. Hiring a professional web designer is best if you operate in a competitive market and need SEO (search engine optimisation) expertise or if rely on your website to drive sales, quotes or provide a service. With a growing number of web designers in Geraldton, the cost is coming down.
Similarly, when investing in Facebook promotions or campaigns (taking into account the costs of giveaways, advertising and Facebook application fees), consider and set sales targets for the channel and not just how many new fans you will get.
Geraldton lingerie retailer, Pink Petticoat recently invested in setting up an e-commerce website (online shop) to complement their physical store. They also have a Facebook page.
The online shop sells only basics and popular styles – things that existing customers will re-order without needing to try on or come into the store. We ensured the website was optimised for Google searches (SEO) when we built it and now it’s attracting online sales from all over Australia – specifically women in regional Australia – women who wouldn’t have found the business if it only had a Facebook page/shop. They’ve opened themselves up to a new market for growth just by having a search optimised website.
They currently use their Facebook page to primarily drive local in-store sales. They haven’t conducted any online campaigns to drive website sales, but plan to in future and should generate a positive return on their website investment in the first year.