Social media supports your website and extends the value of your investment in that website. Crowdsourced and user-generated content are great opportunities for linkbuilding, wonderful places to meet your customers and show them what great goods and services you offer, and the ultimate in professional networking.
So where’s the vs. in “Your Website vs. Web 2.0”?
It came from a question a client asked me yesterday. “If you’re good enough at social media,” she wanted to know, “could you do without a website?”
It’s an interesting question. If your business is adept enough with Twitter, Whrrl, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Squidoo, Digg… and so forth … then that could be your entire online presence. People searching for you could type in your name and see your Amazon lists, your Flickr and YouTube contributions, and your deviantART portfolio, and learn all about you.
There could be advantages to this:
- In general, those sites are free. You save the cost of building a website.
- You can present different sides of your business to different markets.
- You can change and update your information continually even if you have very limited technical skill.
There are also disadvantages.
- Those sites are only free if your time is free. Putting time in at a few sites is great support for your website, great for networking, and good business practice. Managing your business via forum and aggregate site is extremely time-consuming. I know people who spend most of each day maintaining their presence at multiple free sites. They aren’t running profitable businesses. These two facts are connected.
- All your different sides will be visible to potential customers at all times. So will all your changes and reinventions. I’m extremely visible on the web, myself, and you could see different sides of my life if you made the effort to do so — but my website is primary. That means that the professional face I choose to present is the main one. People who search for my business aren’t going to happen upon pictures of my family unless they make an effort to find them. If you conduct your life all over the web, you have little or no control over what tops the list when people search for you, and it will change from day to day.
- Even if you maintain a consistent presence across all Web 2.0 spaces you inhabit, you still have very limited control. Some sites will allow you to show products and some won’t. Some will give you the option of showing certain information and some will insist that you do. None will let you present a consistent visual effect — especially if you have limited technical skill. Forget branding your business.
- Your customers will hate you. Seriously. Let’s say that I discover your products on Flickr and contact you via Twitter to buy something. A couple of months later, I think what a great gift that item would make for a friend — but I can’t remember your Twitter name. I Google you and find your Ning page — but with no website, I can’t track down your products easily, and I’ve already spent fifteen minutes getting cross about not being able to find your website. I’m not going to make the extra effort involved in finding you.
- It shows a lack of seriousness. All businesses need websites. If you don’t have a website, it’s going to be hard for people to take you seriously enough to send you money.
Your business website is the foundation of your online presence. Your participation elsewhere on the web supports it. But you can’t do without it. (Want some figures? Check out “Can You Do Without a Website?“)