Can Facebook Pages substitute SME websites?

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Can Facebook Pages substitute SME websites?

Facebook page instead of webpage

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Published on HONG KONG BUSINESS, April 30, 2013

If you are managing a small to medium size company, or getting ready to do business in Hong Kong, you have probably spent a lot of time defining your product or service for the local market, analyzing your target audience, setting your pricing strategy and scouting ideal locations. Having completed all of the above, you are probably thinking about how to communicate your amazing product/service/restaurant/club to the city’s online audience.

Hong Kong’s fast paced marketplace does not easily forgive mistakes and rarely affords entrepreneurs the luxury of time to build up their business organically. The need to succeed immediately has many business owners looking for fast-impacting communication strategies, too often relying solely on the magic of social media at the expense of well planned and built company websites.

The likes of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest promise direct access to millions of targeted users, so why should you go through the hassle of also building a website? After all, your followers will act as free agents, promoting your business to all their friends and family as they like and share your every post. Unfortunately reality is rarely like this and Hong Kong’s entrepreneurs should consider some important pros and cons of going down this route.

Pros of using a Facebook Page as your website

  • Quick and easy set up. Setting up a Facebook Page takes hardly any time and can be done in house.
  • Cost. Creating a Facebook page and populating it is (currently) free of charge.
  • Maintenance. There are no hosting, domain and maintenance issues to have to think about as it all falls under Facebook.com
  • Following. Creating an impressive number of followers can be achieved relatively quickly, although usually at a cost unless you are already a well known brand.
  • Insight: user information now available to Facebook Page owners has improved substantially.
  • Temporary Fix. A Facebook page can be a good way to have an online presence while a webpage is being built. It can also be used to create a teaser and build up anticipation for the upcoming website.

Cons for substituting your business website with a Facebook Page

  • Lack of Control. As your Facebook Page’s domain will indicate (www.facebook.com/yourpagename…) Facebook always comes first. They own the platform you are running your business on and can make all the changes they want to the terms and conditions, whenever they want.
  • Constant Changes. How many times have you read about Facebook changing their policies over the last few years? Probably more times than you should be comfortable with if you are planning to hand over your entire web presence to one company.
  • Cost. Although the creation of the page is in fact free, you will find yourself paying up whenever you want to promote the page, increase your likes or even promote a single post.
  • Visibility. Because of the way Facebook ranks what it considers to be relevant or important for a single user, your posts will most likely not be visible to all the people who liked your page. Furthermore, users can choose what messages they see, increasing the chances you will not show up in their main newsfeed.
  • Branding. What message are you sending out to your customers if they search for your company online and only find a Facebook page? Is this how you want them to experience your brand? Is this the best way to showcase you products, menus, images?
  • User comments. User interaction defines the success of any social media tool but it can also expose negative comments and customer feedback. Large, well known brands are able to handle this as they have enough critical mass to ride over negative comments, but if you are just starting out you probably want to manage these differently.
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): although some of your content will be indexed (mostly the brand name, location and other static information) your business is not building up search engine ranking. If your business relies on certain key words and being found in search engines, having a Facebook Page alone, will reduce your chances of influencing ranking.

These are just a few considerations to make before deciding which route to take. Facebook pages can in-fact be a successful campaign tool but are usually best suited for specific promotions or campaigns, temporary placeholders while you build or revamp your site, launch pads for competitions or a tool to target a specific subset of users.

At the end of the day, ask yourself if your really want your customers to only see your business’s image, brand and communication through a platform you have very limited control over. Investing in a well designed website might seem superfluous, but, if done properly, will deliver results as it caters to Hong Kong’s multilingual audience with its high penetration of mobile web users.

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