Should I Build a Website or Just Build a Page on a Social Media Site like Facebook?

As I think about growing my business, I want to have a web presence. But now I am not sure whether I should even build a website. I can create a page on Facebook, build a blog on Posterous, create a Twitter account. Do I need to build a website anymore?

Answer

Caty Kobe (Community Support Manager, Get Satisfaction)
As a consumer, when I'm looking for information on a business my first point of reference is their website, not a social media page. An actual site shows potential customers that you're serious about your business and not just looking for a free way out. Also, not everyone in the world is on Facebook or Posterous or Twitter, so a website guarantees a URL that anyone can visit. I definitely recommend having social media pages in addition to your site, but they should not replace it.

Cost is often the biggest hinderance to site building for small businesses, but luckily there are several vendors that offer cost effective & easy to use site building tools. SquareSpace is one of the most well known, but you might also look at Weebly or Yola. If you're not confident in your own design skills, and don't like their ready-made templates you can always look into hiring a freelancer to build the site for you. Web design students will sometimes offer to build sites at a lower cost in order to grow their portfolio and design reputation. With so many resources, there's really no reason not to have a website.
10 Additional Answers
Miles Austin ("The Web Tools Guy" - Sales & Marketing Technologist, Fill the Funnel)
Wendy, You need a website. You are able to OWN your domain name and maintain full control over it at all times. You do not own your Facebook page (or the other social platforms). They are in control of their policies, layout, what they allow to be posted and can even choose to shut their service down.

Your business needs a website. It should be used as your 'home base' for everything else that you do online. The you can set up your social presence so that Facebook points back to it, LinkedIn points back to it, Twitter points back to it, you get the idea.

I encourage you to create your website with a host that allows you to use your own domain name. You are building your reputation on your domain name so do everything you can to protect it and your good reputation.
Christopher Ryan (Business Consultant, Project Manager, Prime Logic Consulting)
Although it is true that there are a lot of free or low-cost ways to have an Internet presence, the reality is that many consumers will not take your business seriously. I have met too many 'business owners' who give me flimsy cards pointing to their site-at-someone-else's-real-site (sub-domain or sub-directory hosting, being the techie term) and asking me to email them at Gmail. I don't mean to sound harsh about it all, but I think that trying to piece-meal too many components is a recipe for very slow business growth and eventual failure.

As Caty mentioned, there are more and more low-cost services popping up to offer 'build your own' tools. We use Elance for much of our business cycle, from gaining new web design clients to sourcing, and you can find many very reasonable designers who can create a decent web presence for a couple hundred dollars or less.

At the end of the day, I would suggest staying away from the all free al-a-carte. : )
Ben Collins (Senior Online Strategist, n-tara)
WARNING: There is some straight up BS going on here and you better watch yourself.

If you think you can get a good website for a 'couple hundred bucks' or you can hire a 'some college kid' to build your site, then you're really living in la-la land. Ever heard of the phrase You Get What You Pay For?

If a couple hundred bucks really is your budget, then hire a professional consultant to explain the basics of the web to you and spend some time learning the ropes of SquareSpace or WordPress and bring the pro back in as you can afford for more advanced concepts like content strategy and template design.

Seriously, I have seen so many business think they can treat their web presence half ass and they end up coming to me later begging for help repairing out-of-date, unfocused, customer-repelling nightmares. Websites are like tattoos. Good work isn't cheap. Cheap work isn't good.

Do you take seriously how you treat your customers? Do you take seriously how the inside of your store looks? Then don't imagine you can approach the web haphazardly. Not only will it probably not work, but you are at risk of damaging your brand.
Scott Herring
I agree with Caty that a website says 'We're for real' and a social media page says '...and we know how to extend our brand into social media'.

Here's the best advantage of a website versus social media: Google. In the sites I manage, Google accounts for over 60% of the first-time traffic. Facebook doesn't allow Google to spider it, so you're missing LOTS of potential traffic.

Dejan Petrovic (Director, DEJAN SEO)
Agreed. Website will give you a professional presence which social media cannot replace.
Jeff Ogden (President, Find New Customers)
I agree with Miles. You need a website. Buyers look first and foremost for your website, and then they check out your social network channels.

One low cost way would be to register your own domain name http://www.godaddy.com and then use Pages in www.wordpress.com to create your website. For a very small fee, Wordpress lets you use your own domain. For instance, my blog www.fearlesscompetitor.net is hosted by Wordpress, but it uses my own domain name.

Hope this helps.
Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
Find New Customers 'Lead Generation Made Simple'
http://www.findnewcustomers.com
@fearlesscomp
Soumya Prakash Dhar (Business Development Social Media)
Ben; You are obviously passionate about the topic and you obviously know enough about the matter at hand to make a judicious and balanced observation. I have only to offer two things and that is PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor is a widely used, general-purpose scripting language that was originally designed for web development to produce dynamic web pages.) originally created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1995. The next thing is facebook - coded more or less entirely in PHP and so yeah a college kid could do that !! But yeah you gotta put a huge lotta thought into it which most people cannot as this is just more often than not is not their area of expertise!!
Charles Forchu (CEO: ForchuTeck Consulting Group)
The Social Media (Facebook,, Twitter etc) is not a replacement for a website. To gain credibility for your business, a website is a must have. Get a professional to design your website for you. That is what we do. We help small businesses get great websites at very low cost.

Check out our eportfolio: http://www.forchuteckconsulting.com/eportfolio/

We are running a special for small businesses at the moment. The great thing about us is that we build a website based on your budget. We offer FREE hosting and FREE Domain names.

Check out our special: http://www.forchuteckconsulting.com/BusinessPackage599/

Businesses that are startup companies, we make it affordable for them or give them an option to make monthly payments that fits their budget.

FEEL FREE to contact me directly: 678 849 9000.
Paul Dunay (Chief Marketing Officer, Networked Insights)
I was talking to a small business owner last night. They are in the middle of a very costly redesign of their B2C website and I couldn’t help but ask if they had plans to set up on Facebook as well.

Right now, I have Facebook on the brain since I just finished writing the 2nd Edition of Facebook Marketing for Dummies (Wiley) with my long time friend Rich Krueger who is the CEO of AboutFaceDigital – an agency devoted to helping companies setup and optimize their marketing efforts on Facebook.

But anyway I found myself thinking – why does any business need a website any more?

With Facebook Fan pages you can build your own website on the Facebook “Platform”. A website that is totally FREE of hosting and server costs, public and indexable on all search engines, with unique URL’s for individual landing pages that you can tune based on if they are Fans or Non Fans, where you can host all your video (so long as it is under 10mb) and upload your product catalog with detailed descriptions (and get feedback from Fans), where you can throw an event or show presentations on a Slideshare ap, run a contest or a survey, host your blog or retweet your status updates (or better yet – just use Facebook instead of Twitter). Oh don’t forget send emails to your Fans for FREE and if you want to buy targeted ads you can do that too.

With all that in your favor – Why would any business need a website anymore?
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