Has Facebook made websites redundant?

Currently Facebook seems like an unstoppable juggernaut. There is no doubt this highly successful social media service is here to stay as more and more people are registering and more businesses are setting up a Facebook presence every day.

Last year, statistics came out showing that more people were visiting Facebook than Google on a daily basis and since then many businesses have (rightly so) started realising the benefits of setting up a Facebook page and engaging their customers within Facebook. This has raised the question in the business community of "has Facebook made websites redundant?".

It is indeed tempting for small businesses to decide not to have a website or take their focus away from their website and instead invest all their time and effort into their Facebook presence. Businesses should remember however that they should diversify their marketing efforts rather than putting all their eggs in one basket.

We have done some extensive research and testing across a variety of industries over the past year and have discovered some things that many business owners may not be aware of but should be if they are investing time and money into Facebook:

You do not own your content and 'likers' or 'fans'
We have seen many businesses spending a small fortune and/or hours of time each day on building up their likers for their Facebook page. There are obvious benefits with this and we have seen that once you reach a 'critical mass' point with your likers, you start experiencing growth at a viral level as your audience starts engaging with you and spreading the word of your business.

You should however be aware that you do not 'own' this database of contacts. It is against Facebook's terms and conditions to extract these contacts to use in any third party software (such as email marketing).. you are only allowed to contact these people via Facebook. Facebook still owns your list of likers so if you are paying Facebook for ads to build up your likers list, be aware you are paying Facebook to build a list that Facebook ultimately owns.

Engagement is extremely low compared to other forms of online marketing
Just because you have a large number of likers in your Facebook database, it does not necessarily mean you are going to get a high engagement of likers buying your products and services. Many independent statistics show that the majority of people that 'like' a business page never return back to the page and only a small percentage of the likers actually interact with your status updates and posts through 'likes' and comments.

For example, we recently saw a business with around 8000 likers that posted an announcement about a new product they had. They had around 20 people like or comment on the post and out of that they made 2 sales of the product. Obviously these numbers would vary depending on the time of day of the post and what the product actually was but this is an average result. This means that Facebook is producing a conversion rate of around 0.00025 % - not very high at all! However the same website enjoys a conversion rate of around 5% for people visiting their website (this means that for each visitor that looks at their website each day, 5% of visits result in a sale). This is a significantly higher result!

The main reason a website will result in higher conversion rates than Facebook is because when someone searches on Google for products or services, they are ready to buy. When they visit your site, all you need to do is provide the information they are looking for to match their needs and expectations to convert into a sale. However when someone is on Facebook, they are usually just 'socializing' (after all, it is social media) and may not be looking for the product or service you are posting about so they will just skip over it.

This is why many businesses that focus solely on Facebook pages are now noticing a low return on investment for building up their 'likers' compared to older and more established online marketing forms such as search engine marketing and email marketing (by the way, email marketing still holds the title as the most successful form of online marketing due to the extremely high return on investment)

Facebook can cancel your page or change the rules at any time
When you are in the domain of Facebook, you need to remember that Facebook owns and controls the entire system. Any photos, articles, comments, etc. you post up become the property of Facebook (that's right, if they wanted to, you are giving them the right to take your personal photos from Facebook and use them in their own promotional material).

As we have seen recently, Facebook can change the layout and functionality of the platform at any time (which can result in a drop in engagement as users get used to the new layout or features).

Facebook also have the right to cancel/remove your business page at any time if a complaint is made or they feel you are doing something that they don't like. Many business pages have been cancelled (and all their likers 'lost') over things such as running competitions that violate Facebook’s lengthy terms and conditions.

At the end of the day, the main online presence for your business should always be your own custom built website. Facebook should be seen as a complementary marketing activity just like any other marketing or promotion activity (such as search engine optimisation, blogging, email marketing and print media / tv / radio advertising).

Facebook is a fantastic marketing tool (and at the moment one of the most powerful around) but it is definitely not a replacement for a traditional website and search engine optimisation to attract traffic from Google and Bing.