In the early days of Facebook, I recall having a few conversations with people who wondered if the platform may one day serve as a website replacement. Facebook Pages, after all, enabled organizations of all sizes to easily connect with their audience.
The argument made sense on some levels. Facebook Pages were free – websites not so much. Why pay for a potentially complex marketing vehicle when there was a simple, no-cost option? This seemed like a particularly good path for small businesses.
As you might have guessed, that optimism faded rather quickly. Facebook started charging for the ability to reach your entire audience. It also became increasingly difficult to stand out in a user’s chaotic social feed.
Now, let’s fast-forward to today. Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter (and subsequent headline-grabbing actions) has caused concern among users. Content moderation has taken a backseat to the billionaire’s vision of what the platform should be. It’s fair to wonder how this will impact the ability to reach and engage with people.
With that in mind, it seems like a good time to reinforce the important role websites play. Here are some reasons why they’re still the best bet for anyone that has a message to share.
A Permanent Home for Your Content
Social media still offers a great way to promote your content. But your content shouldn’t live on Facebook or Twitter. Rather, social postings should point readers toward your website.
Housing exclusive content on social media is a risk. Changes in platform ownership or policies could negatively impact what you’ve built. And if you decide to leave a particular service, how are you going to take everything with you?
Websites serve as a repository for content. That’s precisely what content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress are meant to do.
News, blog posts, and multimedia can be added, edited, or removed at any time. Most social networks don’t make these processes easy. Finding a particular tweet that you failed to bookmark, for example, is like finding a virtual needle in a haystack.
Most importantly, you’ll maintain ownership of your content. This means that you’re not subject to the whims of a third-party service provider. And you can keep it as long as you want.
The Focus Is on You
Users have a notoriously short attention span. Add to that the sheer number of posts in a typical user’s timeline and the popularity of doomscrolling. This makes social media a difficult place to make an impact. All but your most loyal followers will struggle to see your message.
At the very least, a well-made website will take those last two items out of the equation. Getting users to care is still a challenge. But you’ll stand a fighting chance when compared to the algorithm-enhanced free-for-all on the likes of Facebook.
A website can provide visitors with a clear path to action. It gives them space and time to explore content. And it serves as a reference that can be easily accessed later.
You’re not limited by character counts, nor forced to compete with thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of other posts on a feed. For one shining moment, the focus is on you with zero distractions.
It’s an opportunity that most social media platforms can’t offer. Plus, you’re in complete control of the user experience.
Websites Can Live Anywhere
Companies can come and go without a moment’s notice. Others may simply fall out of favor (I see you, MySpace). It’s something that can impact both social media and website providers.
The big difference is that a website offers options. Even if your DIY website tool were to go belly up, you could still rebuild elsewhere. And an open-source CMS gives you the flexibility to host anywhere.
If your social media network of choice went away, you’d likely be left in the cold. Your data may or may not be accessible. And what use would you have for it, anyway? It’s not like you can import your tweets into LinkedIn and keep moving forward.
Plus, if you’re not satisfied with your current site, you can make changes. Hosting, CMS, look, content, and underlying technologies are all fair game. If you have enough budget, virtually every part can be customized to match your needs.
Keep the Roles of Social Media and Websites in Mind
For a brief moment in history, the lines between social media and websites may have become blurred. Some saw the potential of the former to be a primary messaging tool. But as social media has experienced both growth and controversy, the division between the two has become clear.
Sure, many web designers may have understood this concept from the start. But clients aren’t always aware of what makes a website necessary and unique.
They may have been swayed by the thrill of posting content wherever they’ll get the most “likes” and comments. As such, they may not have thought about what happens when a platform goes away or is no longer an attractive option.
If you help clients with their marketing and content strategy, it may be worth having this conversation. Help them to understand what role social media can play in their success. But also look at the associated limitations and risks.
Conversely, there are benefits to using your website as a driver of content. This is a solution that can withstand the test of time – no matter what happens on social media.