Well, it depends (like most things). Note the word “need” in my post title. First make sure you need one for some purpose (doesn’t have to be something you get paid for, though). Let’s go through the possibilities:
- Service business (even if it’s just local) = yes
- Products to sell (autos to xylophones) (even if it’s just local) = yes
- Something to say (influencer or writer generally) = yes
- Hobby that you want to share in a community = maybe
Facebook Page or Group Instead?
Generally, no, with emphasis on “instead.” The hobby option is the only one where just having an FB group or page (group might be better) might be enough. Keeping in mind that you still are not in control of what happens to that group or page or what kinds of things you can share on it. And the contributions are in most-recent-date sequence, so it’s harder to jump to a topic that might have been covered a month ago, for example. Working with forum software solves that problem, but truth be told, lots of folks are used to the FB interface, so I see the appeal of FB groups.
If you run a business, though, by using Facebook, you are giving up a lot and not getting much in return. Even aside from the fact that the corporation can take and sell all your data, they control your visibility. If you don’t pay for ads (and often even if you do), the posts on your FB page will remain largely invisible unless you have lots of active friends (just the ones that love your profile posts and comment). And those friends need to share your posts a lot. That’s sort of the price of “free.” And not that you shouldn’t have an FB page or group to provide coaching or whatever, just don’t make them the only place you operate. Social media should be a set of satellites for your business’s visibility, not the main territory.
Local Business with Local Customers
Maybe, but at the very least, a Facebook page. Just to take care of your current customers and maybe add some who search on “Mexican restaurant near me.” For example, I frequent a Mexican restaurant in my small town, one where you can call in your order and go pick it up. Food and service are wonderful, but no portable menus at the location that I know of, and no sign of the menu on their Facebook page.
The only menu is a photo on Yelp. Which does work with a search, but the Yelp photos are out of date now. And again, Yelp is not an online territory you have control over. Their photo display is very basic and their focus is on reviews rather than on making your business look good. That’s really up to you on your own website territory.
A simple, four- or five-page website for a local business with a list of services or products (you don’t have to sell stuff online) will be fine. And your emphasis can be on location and contact information. No blogging necessary, but a site using a content management system like WordPress, Weebly, or Wix will make it easier for a non-geek to update the content, which will be good for customers also.
Online Influencers and Online Businesses
You really need to own your Web territory. Yes, Google really “owns it” in the sense that like Facebook, they have some control over your site’s visibility in their search engine. But they are a bit more neutral than FB. The search engine only cares that your site is searchable, relatively active (updated regularly), mobile device friendly, and has a simple security certificate (https). Google doesn’t directly control what your site looks like the way FB does with its Pages feature.
You can have your site hosted at a very reasonable price (your data is kept on a physical server somewhere) by a number of companies. There’s been some consolidation in the web hosting area, but a lot are still independent of each other. Big or small, they do not control how you display information or what information you put on your site. If you use a good content management system (like WordPress), you can:
- create a professional website that makes it easy for potential customers to find information and make a purchase;
- keep the site updated easily so Google will make it more likely to come up in search results, as well as heading off any technical changes that might break your site;
- and automatically keep the site mobile-friendly so it displays nicely (and readably) on phones and tablets.
Own Your Space
What’s not to love? Yes, web hosting is not free, but at anywhere from $7 to $30 per month, it’s a small investment to make in the independence of your brand. Most of the extra functionality (called plugins) available for WordPress is free, at least for basic features. Compared to the outlay for a brick-and-mortar office or shop, these costs are minimal.
You also have lots of choice around investing time versus money on your site development and maintenance. You can dig in and do it yourself without being a computer programmer, including checking for updates and adding or subtracting content. Or, you can invest anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 in the talent and time of a designer to build a simpler or more complex site for you. You can also pay that designer to do the upkeep on the site for a monthly fee. It’s a world of choice, really.
Personally, I like having control over my brand and the way it is displayed. How about you? Do let me know when you’d like to talk about investing in your business by building a website. 🙂