Social Media is Not Enough: 3 Reasons Why Websites are a Must for Businesses
Instagram turns 20 this month; the image-first social platform that has changed how we communicate and share content. With the omnipresence of social media, it can seem like a website is unnecessary when building a brand online. However, relying entirely on social media is like couch-surfing: No matter how welcome you are, you’re a guest in someone else’s home. With a website, you can leverage social media and enjoy the perks of having a place of your own.
During the Covid era, the value of a website has increased exponentially. According to a recent survey, 82% of US small business owners find their website to be an essential part of their businesses’ success, and 54% reported a boost in website traffic since the beginning of quarantines.
Whether you’re a small business owner or someone with an idea, developing a website as your home base is beneficial to growing your customer base and online brand. Here’s why.
Control over your online content
A website provides complete control over all content: blog posts, photos, media, and contact information. Website owners can choose how information is communicated and presented to visitors.
When your content is only on social media, all of your information is available at the discretion of the social network. If the social network goes down or experiences bugs, your information disappears from public view until resolved. Over the last year, Facebook and Instagram have experienced several significant incidents, leaving users without access for hours and sometimes days.
On top of temporarily losing access, a platform declining in popularity or being shuttered altogether is a real concern for those leveraging the platforms for income. This concern is further heightened by the threat to ban TikTok in the US. In the last decade, we saw the shutdown of a major social platform—remember Vine? The social network where users could share 6-second video clips was popular for about four years, until its parent company, Twitter, shut it down. Unfortunately, Viners who had built their income streams on the platform were out of luck, and even worse, many were out of a job.
Even social networks that are not in danger of disappearing can change their policies and algorithms at any time. Facebook did just this in early 2018 when it changed the algorithm so that users would see more content from their personal connections in their newsfeeds and less from news outlets and content creators. As a result, many publishers—especially small businesses that are only available on social media—saw a drastic, sustained drop in Facebook traffic.
Websites Inspire More Trust
Unsurprisingly, 80% of the population relies on search engines to find what they’re looking for. Therefore, businesses without a website are far less visible to new buyers outside their social networks.
A website gives businesses the freedom to influence how they appear in the search results. Business owners and marketers should use SEO tactics to boost the site’s ranking for the keywords their audience uses. Businesses can claim their Google My Business listing to increase visibility among local customers and use schema markup on the site to display rich results like summaries, reviews, recipes, or other relevant content to their niche and audience.
Put simply, a web presence and credibility go hand-in-hand, and search engines have a high level of trust with consumers. In fact, search engines are the most-trusted source to which consumers turn when making a purchase. Meanwhile, the public’s trust in social media has declined—only 30% of Americans trust social media as a result of several data breaches, foreign influence campaigns, privacy concerns, and fake news scandals.
Fewer Limitations on Creativity
Websites are like a clean canvas for businesses with significantly more creative freedom than social networks—Twitter has a 280 character limit and Instagram Stories videos max out at 15 seconds, limiting customizability across platforms. While social media is snackable, it’s a simple snapshot, and users often keep scrolling before they get the main point. Conversely, a website can provide the means to publish longer forms of content, while social can leverage sound bites to drive traffic to the site.
The aesthetic and theme of a website are also more customizable than social media filters. The number of website themes is growing astronomically year over year, empowering businesses to create the website of their dreams, rather than being stuck with the format and color scheme determined by social networks.
Social media cannot replace a website as your brand’s home base. Social media keeps your online presence confined to a small (and sometimes uncomfortable) space on the internet. Social media policies and algorithms can change at a moment’s notice, and that could have a major impact on your business if you aren’t in control. To reach new audiences and grow business, it is wiser to invest in something you own than to only build on land that does not belong to you.
Suhaib Zaheer is SVP and General Manager of Bluehost.