These days most small businesses jump into the social media space — primarily on Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebee and other similar platforms. They lose out on the power of running their own websites on their own domains.
It’s really not surprising. It takes no great technical skill to jump onto social media. Create an account, do a profile, and post and comment. That’s it. In this particular series of articles, we are going to look at the multitude of reasons why it’s in your best interests to create your own website, even if there are costs associated with doing so.
Being dependent on social media means that you have to abide by their policies, and how they are applied. Generally, you are probably not going to violate most policies if you are a small business, BUT you will never know whether an automated scanning system or a human reviewer might react to one of your posts or comments. Large social media platforms rarely provide you with explanations about violations of policy, and it’s hard to get to talk to a human. Changes in policies happen. What will happen if hitherto free services are now charged for? And you’ve worked very hard to build a following. You’ve written tons of content. And you just got suspended by a computer algorithm and can’t get hold of a human.
It’s not a huge risk, but it’s a risk nonetheless. A website is YOURS. While you have to comply with reasonable laws on content, beyond that, it’s all pretty much up to you. And if there’s a problem with your web host, it’s simple to relocate to another web host without significant downtime.
provided you keep current backups of your website, and you own your own domain, you can move that content to any other web host you please without engendering significant downtime. You web host raises its rates? No problem, there are hundreds of other companies you can move to. The web host is unreliable? No problem. To contrast that with social media platforms, if the platform you use becomes unreliable, or changes its policies, you can’t take the content (and your followers/friends) and move them elsewhere. At least not easily.
Visitor Information and Metrics
Social media platforms provide you with almost NO information about what visitors do on your pages. In fact, the basic metrics: views, comments, likes and/or dislikes are virtually useless. Or misleading. Social media companies don’t tell you how those metrics are calculated, and without that information, they are useless. (click the link to open a new window to learn more about social media metric failure).
When you have your own website, you can use free services like Statcounter, or Google Analytics to delve into whatever level of detail you need about how your site is doing, and what your customers are doing on your site. Want to know if people are reading what you write? No problem. You can track things like time spent on each page. Want to know your most popular pages? No problem. Want to know how your visitors got to your page? Again, no problem. Need to know where your visitors come from? Are they mostly in Europe or North America? Or China? Easy. You can also see what time of day is the busiest for YOUR site.
n social media, it feels like the people who follow you or friend you belong to you. You can contact them, right? Well, kind of. In fact, social media platforms allow you to contact people, but they do not allow you to do so independently of the platform you are on. So, as an example, you might send an email on LinkedIn to a possible connection or customer, but you don’t have access to the person’s actual e-mail address.
So you can, in effect send them an e-mail, but it can only be read via the LinkedIn platform. If you own your own website, you can offer the opportunity for visitors to sign up for, let’s say a newsletter, or special offers, and then you OWN the mailing list. You can use it as you please (presumably in a way that won’t alienate your subscribers. You get to choose what software you’d like to use for this function, and you aren’t limited by various policies, or fees required by social media platforms.
Protect Features You Need Or Want
Periodically, social media platforms remove features and functionality. Often it seems random and without substantial logic, and it has happened on ALL major platforms. Or, they start charging for something that was previously free.
You have NO control over this. On your own website, YOU decide what features you want. And it’s doubtful anyone will be taking them away from you. Want a mailing list system? Fine. Want the facility for visitors to comment on your articles? Fine. That’s YOUR choice. While technical problems can occur with website features, and they can be frustrating, once the code is on your site, there it sits — usable and suiting your needs until YOU decide to remove the feature, not some policymaker on LinkedIn.
A Memorable “Location”
Is your social media address memorable? Does it reflect your brand, personal or business? Is it short? Can people easily get to it by typing something into their browsers? You have no option to specify that address or make it shorter. It’s derived from the article title and your account name.
Your own website will have a domain name YOU choose, that reflects your business. It’s not always easy to come up with domain names but you have the choice. Your subpages can be addressed any way you want. You choose the structure of your site to provide logical navigation that works your YOU, not the corporations that run social media.
Controlling What Content
On social media platforms, what assurances do you have that your content will not be shown together with ads or other content from other providers that you find objectionable?
Not much. No control. Social media platforms control what appears on your account pages. It’s that simple. Don’t want ads from rival politicians during an election? Too bad. Don’t want sparsely clad women selling bikinis plastered on your content? Oh well. Having your own website allows YOU to choose what is displayed. You can protect your brand from being sullied by whatever you don’t like because YOU choose what to put on it.
This is particularly important for websites that appeal to children. There’s lots of content that’s of a mature nature that you don’t want visitors to your site to see if your prime audience is parents and their kids.