Online Marketing Q&A: Website vs Social Media Profile(s)
Karina Pardus, of Coy Compositions, asks…
Is a website necessary when you have Facebook, and a myriad of other social media sites to point people to? Can social media become as “professional” as a website is? Or should a website be the non-negotiable way to go? (for context, if it matters, my website would hold my portfolio more than anything else from the beginning anyway.)
So first off, let me thank Karina for allowing me to share her name and this Q&A session with you. Thank you, my friend!
Over the years, my opinion changed a few times on this topic. I have personally been building websites since May of 1996 when I took my first HTML class at a community college type class. By August of that year, I left my Advertising Agency job to go work for a small boutique web development shop. So in the last 22 years, I have seen a lot come and go and change in the world of online marketing. One thing that I think is as true today as it was in 1996 is that creating a website for your business is a cost-effective way to build your brand. But before we finalize the answer and wrap this article up, let me go into some detail of the Pros and Cons of both.
Why A Website Still Kills It For Online Marketing
The beautiful thing about a website is there is so much flexibility and potential power for building your brand and your business. It is flexible in that you can build a single page that touches on everything your clients may need to see, or another single page option could be the Get On Our Waitlist, used to only build your email list. Then there is the common small business, static (non-changing), digital brochure site that has 5 to 10 pages and again tries to hit everything a client would need in one small site. This one is often built once and typically not updated for years (usually until the owner gets tired of the look and thinks an “update to the design” is the reason for why no clients are coming in). Next there is the website that is a “platform” for building thought leadership in the marketplace and sales leads to generate more business. This is the one I recommend to most small business owners. Then there are e-commerce stores where you sell your products (which are great for some industries and as good or better than the “platform” website) and lastly, there are the enterprise, huge mega-sites of large corporations.
The problem with websites and all this flexibility, is, it is now difficult to make a decision on what you need. There are so many opinions and so many people “doing websites”, how do you really know where to turn and what to do. I recently talked to a friend that had their website built by a young kid. This is awesome in that it was probably relatively cheap to get built. The downside is although a kid, or your nephew, or that designer on fiverr, know how to do the technical work of building a website, they know nothing about building a brand, capturing your personality, positioning you as a leader in the marketplace and building the website that is a business tool focused on generating new business. Another problem is ongoing management. If you are not tech-savvy, can’t afford ongoing support, or these web designers do not thoroughly train you, you could be stuck with a site you can not edit or update. In which case the site is a little useless in the grand scheme of things. This is where getting a platform that is easy to mange is important (but if this is not your area of expertise it might be tough). A better idea might be to commit to building a relationship with a marketing “partner” who’s goal is to work with you to help you build your cash machine because there are a lot of moving parts no matter which direction you go with this stuff. Yes, this can get costly, but so can a site or social profile that never brings in cash.
I spoke to another business owner recently and they got prices from $200 to $8000 for the website project they were looking to do. Many of the bids were using the same language, so how is a business owner to make a decision which way to go? Split the difference and pick the person closest to what you think this work is “worth”? That could be a crap shoot for sure. This is tough right? Then there are social media profiles, pages, and groups and they are “free” so why would I even want a website? Okay that is a valid question. Let’s address that…
Here’s the deal, no matter the direction you go, any form of marketing you do should be focused on 3 things.
- How will whatever you do make money? If you do not have an idea how you are going to turn your efforts in to cash and monetize the whole thing, than you have a hobby and not a business. Build a business that makes money or get a job to pay for your fun hobbies.
- Whatever platform you go with should be easy to do, something you think is fun, is affordable, has a way to measure results, and is easy to build a commitment to do, basically forever. Consistency is the key to winning with marketing and pretty much anything in life.
- Lastly, your marketing platform should help set you up as a thought leader in your space. People only do business with people they know, like and trust. If your platform doesn’t help you… get KNOWN, get people to LIKE you, and more importantly TRUST you, then there really is no reason to do any of it. Keep in mind this takes time, it doesn’t happen over night.
So Why is a website necessary?
I can honestly tell you my web analytics give me more business insight than any social media analytics that I have seen. The reason a website is still valid is because you can keep your fingers on the pulse of what is happening. The more you understand how people are reacting to your marketing, the easier it is to keep it going. If you aren’t sure if your marketing is working it is very easy to give up. To dig deeper, check out this article that might help clarify this importance of this idea – IS SEX APPEAL ENOUGH? OR SHOULD MARKETING FOCUS ON CONVERSION RESULTS?.
The last thing I will say about a website is once it is built, YOU OWN THE PLATFORM, it is yours and you can do with it whatever you want. There is a lot of power and control of owning your own platform. Keep in mind a website is useless unless you can get traffic to your site. To do this you need to be pushing out content regularly (weekly is best – blog articles, videos, audio). Again, consistency builds trust. Oh yeah, and make sure you have a way for visitors to subscribe to your blog, podcast or video series so you can easily keep them updated on what you’re putting out as well as so you can build an email list for future email promotions and announcements.
Why is Social Media necessary if you have a website?
To be honest, you still need social media to push and promote your website other wise you’ll have very little traffic to the site and it will be harder to have others help you get exposure. Social sharing makes it easier for visitors to share great content. So not only do you need social media profiles and pages to push your content to, you also need social share buttons on your site so people can share any content they see helpful, entertaining, empowering and educational.
Is Social Media enough?
About 5 years ago, there was this push that a website was not needed and you could do everything you needed on LinkedIn or Facebook or whatever. There is some truth to that and you certainly can build a HUGE presence if you are consistent and persistent. I think of my friend Lynda West. She is the queen of Facebook Live and has done well over 3000 FB Live videos. She is awesome! However she is a special breed and not everyone can do what she has done. This is in her DNA which is great for her, but if it is not in your DNA than it might be tough for you. It can be done I guess, but it takes a ton of persistence and commitment (are you hearing a theme here?). Mastering one area is one way you could create a business model from social media. That being said let’s review the pros and cons of social media.
Social Media Pros:
- It is free.
- You can really build a strong Personal Brand.
- Millions of people hang out on these platfroms including your prospects.
- The tools are pretty easy to use and figure out.
Social Media Cons:
- You do not own the platform. If the platform decides to cut a tool or change the way they do things and this was your main source of business development, you are sort of out of business.
- Although it is free to sign up, the goal of the platform is getting you to do ads or subscribe to professional versions to gain more exposure. Sometimes the paid tools for boosting your business are challenging to learn which actually becomes costly and if you ever stop, everything you’ve build kind of shuts down, instantly.
- These spaces are cluttered and so if your messaging isn’t tight and on point, you get lost in the clutter.
- Unless you sell products via e-comerce and this is connected to your social platform, it is hard to see an ROI on your efforts and closed deals that are growing your business. It often can be a bit of a guessing game trying to convert Likes and Shares into real money.
Can social media become as “professional” as a website is?
Depending on the industry, a social site can be as professional as a website. There are a lot of designers that have really solid BeHance profiles. Check out this great product promotion titled – The You Inside Project (the world’s first transgender educational toy). This is pretty amazing and very professional promo page. The downside is although it tells a beautiful story and sells you on the idea, there is no way to do anything other than “Appreciate The Project”. Sadly, appreciations do not drive revenue. You can see one of the designers here – Jean-Philippe Dugal. You can message this person, but if he sucks at sales, the deal may never close. It took some serious research to find Gender Creative Kids and this article – Stopping transphobia before it starts. Again, although this article builds on the BeHance page promoting this idea, it is tough to find the Donate button to support this cause. So my point is being professional is important, but if you look professional alone is that enough? Not in my opinion.
Then there are sites like Patreon, where an awesome artist I love, Amanda Fucking Palmer has found a way to make over $12K per month (probably WAY MORE, but I am estimating based on her # of patrons and her $1 base starting point) by getting subscribers to pay her for her work starting at as little as $1 per month. Patreon is sort of a social site, website hybrid, but it is built on the idea of generating revenue. The great thing is it could turn into a recurring revenue model. It is obviously great for artists and creatives, but I am not sure it would work for accountants or plumbers, so it is sort of limited to certain industries. The other thing to understand is you can not just put up a profile and expect to get paying “patrons” without a lot of work. Amanda had a huge following and truly mastered the skill of “loving on her tribe”, well she also is very free with her body and nudity which might not be easy for everyone to get comfortable with or do.
So you certainly can go the social only route, but I do not think the average person can build their personal brand big enough to turn it into a cash machine easily. There are other sites like SoundCloud for musicians (which might be relevant in your world). Again these can be great because they are free and can help you build a portfolio. I think you might be able to build a WordPress site and find plugins to import your portfolio which might be a good way to go for someone in your space. Here are some interesting artists – Awful Piano Sound, and Baby. Even a business can share their audio like the master at “online personal brand building”, Gary Vaynerchukk – garyvee. Keep in mind as Gary Vee will tell you… business is a long game. Success doesn’t happen over night and it takes a lot of work and just like Gary, you kind of have to be everywhere – on the web, on video, on twitter, on facebook, on podcasts, on audio, on linkedin, on instagram, and the list goes on and on.
So of course your next question must be… okay, but where do I start first?
To which I’d say… where can you find money the quickest because without some form of revenue generation, all this stuff cost money (either physical money or your time). Think through what is your best way to generate cash.
- What business model am I building?
- How will whatever marketing I do, start making the cash register ring?
This may sound crass, but business is a money game and any one of these tools could bring money if you are creative enough, make the right pitch and create a way for people to know, like, and trust you and you attach a payment button when the prospects are ready to buy. If customers have to work to buy, you are dead in the water and business becomes a weight around your neck. People are kind of lazy and have to be in serious pain to WORK to give you money. So the easier you can make it on them, the better off you will be.
I covered a lot of different ideas in this article. I hope some of them helped get you closer to your goal and closer to making money in your business. It ALL takes lots of work and commitment so pick one tool and commit to it for a year and see where you are at the end of a year. This is where people drop the ball, they quite after a few months and turning on the cash machine takes work, but once you get it turned on and get momentum built, this can really start building a solid business. Start with one area – a website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and then you can add another tool to your mix – example if you start with blogging weekly, in a few months in you can start mastering Twitter, and then get things dialed in and add Instagram or whatever. The reason I typically recommend starting with the website “platform” is because blogging gets you in google with less effort than some of the other platforms and since everyone goes to google, I like to start where they are hanging out and searching for solutions.
Don’t forget, it helps to understand who your customers are and where they hang out and what their real problems are and how they speak about them. If you define this stuff, picking a “platform” to marketing on might be easier.
Good luck and happy marketing!
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