There are a lot of free tools that allow you to build an online presence for your business.
Facebook, Yelp, and Google Pages are all examples of these micro-pseudo-sites. While these are great enhancers for customers to discover you, they fall woefully short when used as your main online business hub.
These free platforms make you conform to their rules about what type of content you can publish, how they use your content, or how visible you are to potential customers. These platforms are not meant to be replacements for a central website, but are meant to enhance and point people towards your website. The only way to maintain control over the material you publish is to own your content platform.
Yes, a Facebook Page is better than nothing at all. But unless someone is searching for your business by name, it’s going largely unseen. As of March 2014, the organic reach of Facebook Pages is dropping like a stone in the sea each month, and the top 200 brands on Facebook report a measly 0.45% fan engaement.
Every social media platform needs to make money eventually, and the easiest way to do this is through advertising. Their trick is to grow huge, become ubiquitous, and then use that large user base in whatever manner they see fit. Many social media platforms state in their Terms of Service that anything you post is their content, not yours. This is also true for other publishing platforms like Medium and Quora. If a social network owns all the content published there, it means they can do whatever they want with that material, including showing ads with your face in them or using your photos in ads.
These platforms all serve a purpose, and can help your business gain additional exposure, but it is not optimal to make them the main platform for dispensing your posts, photos, and business information. You cannot control the customer experience or how your material will be used, so these are better utilized as secondary outposts for your brand. These entities can be effective satellites that point traffic back to your website, the hub of your online presence.
Your website is the one platform that you own free and clear, where anything you publish is your copyrighted property. While it is unlikely that Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram will fold anytime soon, they still own whatever you publish there.
What happens if they decide one day to hide your posts from your followers? (Oh yeah, Facebook already did that.)Not much you can do about it; it’s their platform.
Owning your content and publishing on your own website means your business becomes more visible. Google is more likely to surface something from your site than from your Facebook or Twitter feeds. I’m not advocating that you abandon social media, but realize what it is and what it is not.
Social media is great for building community and adding layers of definition to your brand. Social media is not is a reliable, unchanging place to point people to when they need important information about your business. That’s what your website is for.
What platforms are you using to build your brand? Is your website the mothership for your business or is it roughly the same level as your Facebook Page? Let me know how you are using different platforms to build your brand.