I have come to observe a bit of a troubling trend. Apparently, there are some people who believe that the social web is rendering websites effectively obsolete. Earlier this year, I published an article detailing my 30 day trial involving the study of a popular content management system called Joomla! (not a “website help” article; sorry to disappoint). One of the reactions I got from this article was to the effect that website tips are becoming less relevant in this emerging Social Age.
I have also found that many musicians hold a similar attitude toward websites. They believe that the social web has made personal domains superfluous. I have always been a proponent of having a central domain that I own, so my feeling is that failing to do so is just poor foresight and bad planning.
Long-time music marketing pundit Bob Baker recommends what he calls octopus marketing, which is quite simply the act of creating a “home base” on the web, and from there extending out to the many social channels. Musician and live music producer Kevin Pauls also notes that you should have a central space out of which your social media flows. Former CD Baby founder Derek Sivers has, at times, pointed out how social media sites can be little more than “flavor of the week” only to be abandoned, replaced, or shut down at a later date.
Outside of the music industry, many online marketers, from Social Media Examiner’s Michael Stelzner to Smart Passive Income’s Pat Flynn would surely pipe up with their own reasons for starting a website and a blog, and some of the reasons would likely include items like SEO, building a mailing list, promoting (and getting compensated for) affiliate programs, among others.
With that in mind, it is true that website help is already available in abundance across the internet, though we do have to bear in mind that someone had to go to the trouble of providing it in the first place. It is also true that paid and free templates as well as full-fledged theme frameworks have cut down on the amount of design work people have had to do compared to the past. One could also hire virtual assistants to take care of some of the tedium of web and graphic design. So, there is some truth to the idea that website help is not as top-of-mind as days past.
However, the assertion that websites are outdated because of social media is a little off-base. If you wanted to go and pull some of the dazzling statistics and statements around social media (they’re not hard to find), it may appear that way. Google+ has 500 million members. Facebook has over a billion users. Allegedly, some businesses are seeing higher engagement on their social streams than their websites. In the same way that Google is synonymous with search, Facebook has become synonymous with social networking. That much is hard to deny.
However, that’s not the whole picture. Aside from the statistics, let’s consider why people might be inclined to believe that social media is taking over websites.
Perhaps there are a percentage of people that do use social networking sites as their home base. Maybe they truly do spend all of their time on social media (gaming, socializing, surfing, etc.), except to follow a link to other content that looks interesting. This would give credence to the idea that their knowledge and understanding of the web is largely limited to social media. We could also build the hypothesis that marketing on Facebook really should be a priority for marketers, especially if there are people that can only be reached on that corner of the internet.
Finally, we have to consider the idea that some people are just plain lazy. I have often reiterated the fact that bloggers, individuals, businesses and musicians need their own website (and I'm not likely to stop any time soon). However, it does cost money, and it does take work. Personally, I would sooner invest time into writing articles and blog posts than uploading all of my pictures to Facebook, but that’s because I have understood the concept of ownership. What you own, you control. If you invest too heavily in what you don’t own, even if it doesn’t cost you anything, it will definitely cost you in time, money or opportunity at some point.
So, in summary, let’s take a look at the main reasons why websites are likely to remain an important part of anyone’s marketing strategy.
- Ownership: you don’t own what you post to social media. On the other hand, what you post to your website is yours.
- Customization: on social media, you don’t have much say over the layout and design of your page. On your website, you get to decide what goes where and showcase what you consider is the most relevant and important content, as opposed to having that dictated to you.
- E-commerce: there are ways of selling product on social media, of course, but none of them really provide full-fledged online store components. Businesses need their own web stores to sell their services and wares.
- Visitors: believe it or not, lots of people still visit websites sooner than associated social channels.
- SEO: I’ve talked about social SEO before, and it’s certainly good to take advantage of it. However, it’s primarily built off of the content you publish on your own website. If you want to target keywords, drive traffic, generate more leads and sell more stuff, it’s a good idea to have your own website.
- Mailing list: certainly, you could build your mailing list from your social profiles if you were inclined to. However, it’s easier to create more opportunities on your own website, where you could have an opt-in box at the end of every blog post, or a nice, stylized pop-up asking for visitors to sign up. In the same way that some people don’t value websites, they don’t value email either, but that’s another article for another time.
Social media is definitely great for marketing, and as a business it’s worth creating a presence on a few different sites, depending on your target market. I don’t want to take that away from anyone. However, with the MySpace example still fresh in many people’s minds, at minimum remember to back up all of your pictures and posts. Save your friend list or fan list. Be prepared to move to the next trending site, should that eventuality arise. Moreover, just have a website. It’s not going to go out of style; at least not the way several social networking sites have gone in the past.