January 30, 2012

Facebook Page vs. Company Website – Go!

ideaworks facebook page

See all the clutter off to the right of my content? Sure we've all learned to "tune it out", but its distracting nevertheless!

A friend and occasional collaborator at a local architecture practice recently solicited proposals for redesigning the firm’s website and got an unexpected response from one of the potential design teams: Forget the website; develop a custom Facebook fan page instead.

Let’s assume for a moment that I’m a supporter of this strategy.  Here are some compelling reasons to consider making Facebook your exclusive online presence:

1) It has more than 800 million active users. The sheer magnitude of that level of enrollment boggles the mind. That’s a lot of prospects. I’ve watched small businesses flourish as a result of the highly personal relationships they’ve nurtured through old-fashioned word of mouth marketing gone digital, which would’ve been near impossible with a traditional website because finding a website through organic search is like finding a needle in a haystack.

2) It’s fast, cheap, and easy. While not appealing in individuals, these qualities make Facebook especially attractive! You can get a Facebook fan page up and running in an afternoon if you use the basic layout, or in a week or two if you work with a designer to create a custom page. And while the design of a custom Facebook page will cost you some coin, it won’t approach the expense of graphic design, copywriting, and development services for a new website. Moreover, there are no hosting or server costs associated with maintaining your Facebook presence.

3) It’s designed specifically for sharing and engagement. Facebook makes it easy for you to upload new content and interact with fans online because social functionality is built in. This helps you engage more often, and it enables fans to spread the word about you because it’s effortless.  Every time they interact with your fan page, a note about it appears in their feed. They endorse your business just by engaging with your business.

4) It optimizes your marketing funnel. Facebook facilitates the process of converting new customers simply by identifying your prospects—your fans and their friends. Facebook allows you to capture additional information about your fans that can support your sales strategy. Capturing the same data through your website requires a sophisticated strategy of advertising, landing pages and calls to action.


TRO | Jung Brannen Facebook Page

My friends at TRO | Jung Brannen created a vertical banner to maximize the real estate Facebook offers for the profile picture. This detail draws the eye away from the tangle of advertising while customizing Facebook's otherwise generic experience.

Lest you think I’ve convinced myself of the Facebook-only approach, let’s review the downsides:

1) It’s generic. You may produce a custom page, but it is still constrained by Facebook’s graphic standards and site architecture. In an industry based on creativity and driven by innovation, what will differentiate you from your competitors if your page is virtually identical to theirs? How will you illustrate your aesthetic and define your process within this context?

2) It’s not a branded environment. Well, at least not for your brand.  Facebook’s snappy blue and white logo will always lurk above your content.  If you don’t have an autonomous online presence, your brand is inexorably tied to Facebook and its ups and downs in the court of public opinion.

3) Its interests don’t always align with yours. For example, advertising will always appear on your page.  At best, it’s clutter distracting from your content.  At worst, it’s a competitor’s ad next to your content. Although they can’t use your logo or trademark, they can use language that is evocative of your brand to attract visitors to click away to their fan pages or websites. And there’s really nothing you can do about it.

4) It’s not really your page. It’s Facebook’s. You are subject to its terms of service. It can disable pages at will, since it’s their platform. Your content belongs to them once it’s posted. You cannot easily export the content from Facebook into blog software, for example, in the event that you decide to leave Facebook.  And if Facebook ever goes the way of Friendster, which I freely admit is highly unlikely, then you’ve got no web presence.

Accepting these facts, Facebook is nevertheless a powerful force for marketing your business. In my opinion it’s an adjunct to, not a replacement for a traditional website. But it’s important to recognize that the website has evolved from a static, portfolio-driven space into one driven by dynamic content. So if you’re debating Facebook page vs. website, invest in both and devote time to authoring exciting and insightful content for each. Do you have a Facebook page for your business? How are you using it? Do you see the benefit? I’m curious to hear what works for you!

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