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April 15, 2015

Why do you need a website for your small business?

“But why do I need a website? I already have a Facebook page. It’s easy & free and is enough for me”

Website

If I had a dollar for every person who says that, I would have been well and truly on my way by now to taking Richard Branson’s private Island off his hands! 🙂

Seriously though. This is a belief many small business owners like yourself hold and why shouldn’t they?

Anyone can create a page for their business on Facebook (or any other social media platform) in a matter of minutes and you’ll never have to pay a cent or have any technical or design knowledge.

For a small business who neither has much money or much time, this seems like a no brainer.

As a result, for many many small business owners, their only online presence is their Facebook page.

Are you one of them?

The problem with social media

The best way to explain the difference between having your own website and only having social media as your online presence is to use a reference from the real-estate world:

If all you have are your social media profiles, you are just a ‘tenant’ when it comes to the Internet. 

Rent photo

Now, when it comes to life outside the Internet, there is nothing wrong with being a tenant. Many people do this as a lifestyle choice or due to affordability.

The trade-off they are facing though is that because they are tenants and not home owners, they have a multitude of constraints placed on them.

They can’t paint the walls,  put hooks in them or tear them down to create a bigger open space, change the blinds, close the balcony or even run a business from the place they call home unless they get prior permission from their landlord (who doesn’t have to agree to any of that).

Furthermore, the landlord can change the rent or almost any other term in their tenancy agreement and even tell them to leave if they want to sell, get someone else in there or move in themselves.

To put it clearly, the thing that a tenant lacks compared to a home owner is complete & total control.

How does all that relate to your Facebook page or other social media presence?

Simple really. If all you have as far as your online presence are your social media profiles, you are nothing more than a tenant on the Internet!

Without a website of your own, you are just a 'tenant' online. Not a property owner. Click To Tweet

But what’s wrong with that? It’s easy and free and I can post and do pretty much whatever I want on my social media accounts. Why would I need anything else?

That’s a fair statement and a question I get all the time.


Instead of giving you the usual ‘sales pitch’ you probably heard a thousand times from web designers and webmasters such as myself, I will tell you a little story about a lovely lady called Yolanda.

Now, Yolanda is not a real person. I made her up.

However, she definitely can be a real person and I have no doubt many of you will relate with her story.

Yolanda has had enough working for someone else and decided to start her own small business.

She has always been very good at baking and all her friends and family could never get enough of her cakes, cupcakes and other sweets.

cakes photo

“Why don’t I start a made-to-order cupcakes and cakes business? I can work from home at hours which suit me and have no boss to answer to, very little overheads and most importantly: do something I enjoy doing anyway!” said Yolanda to herself.

She talked about this with her husband and, being the loving partner that he is, he was fully supportive of her aspirations and encouraged her to go for it.

He just had one question: “How are you going to get customers for your new business dear? Advertising is very expensive.”

Yolanda thought about it long and hard for a few days and then she had her ‘eureka moment’: “I’ll just start a Facebook page for my new business. Everyone is already on Facebook anyways and I can have it up and running in a few minutes and don’t need to learn anything about the Internet. Better yet, it’s totally free!”.

Makes sense right? No doubt many of you have gone through the same thought process.

Yolanda was an action taker so she fired up Facebook straight away and in less than 10 minutes her new made-to-order baking business was online!

She then told all her friends and family about her business and new Facebook page and asked them to put a ‘like’ on it and also tell everyone they know about it.

She also posted several times on her personal Facebook profile telling all her Facebook friends about her new venture.

Yolanda had over 500 Facebook friends and many of them have put a like on her new page. Her friends and family were also super keen to help her out with her new business so they told everyone they could about her Facebook page.

Within two weeks, Yolanda’s Facebook page had over 1000 followers. Word of mouth is without a doubt the most powerful form of advertising.

“That’s great” said Yolanda to herself “Now I have over a thousand people I can advertise my business too. If just 10% of them become customers of mine, my new baking business is cooking with gas” (her oven was actually electric but you get the idea 😉 ).

“Better yet, I spent 10 minutes setting up my Facebook page and didn’t spend a cent on getting myself online. That is pretty awesome” said Yolanda.

Success photo

A few months have passed…

Yolanda became very savvy indeed with using her Facebook page. She regularly posted great photos of her cakes and testimonials from her happy customers.

The number of ‘likes’ on her Facebook page grew steadily and was now almost 5000. Lots of people were contacting her and ordering her cakes and cupcakes.

Every time she posted something on her Facebook page, her enthusiastic fans would like it, put a comment and some would even share it to their timeline so that all their other Facebook friends could see it.

Some of these other Facebook friends would also come and start following Yolanda’s page.

Things were on the up and up for Yolanda.

And then, in November 2014 she came across a cryptic post on the Facebook for business blog.

In this post, Facebook said that they are going to limit the amount of so called ‘promotional content’ fans will see from the pages they liked in their Facebook news feed (or ‘wall’ as it is also known).

Yolanda didn’t really understand what this means exactly and whether or not it’s relevant for her so she just went about her business the usual way.

Towards the end of 2014, Yolanda started noticing something strange when she looked through her Facebook page insights: despite her number of followers constantly going up, the number of people who were actually seeing the posts on her page looked like it was falling off a cliff!

Only a few months ago, about 50% of her page’s fans would see anything she published on it whereas now, only about 10-15% would see it.

Not surprisingly, the number of comments and likes she was getting on her page has also dropped like a rock.

Yolanda has a friend called Sally. Sally is a mobile massage therapist who treats people in their home.

Like Yolanda, Sally doesn’t have a website and runs her business mainly through her Facebook page.

Yolanda told Sally that she noticed that a lot less of her Facebook fans are seeing stuff she posts on her page. Sally told her that she noticed exactly the same thing.

Sally also told Yolanda that she remembers seeing some clip on YouTube about this and she’ll try to find it and send it to her.

This is the clip Sally sent Yolanda.

 

 

Yolanda was a bit worried after watching this but didn’t know exactly what to make of it and what does it actually mean for her.

She then decided to do a Google search to see what ‘the experts’ were saying about this drop in the number of people seeing posts from Facebook pages.

One of the first articles that appeared in the search results was this one.

Again, Yolanda didn’t quite understand everything that was being said there but being the bright lady that she is, she knew it wasn’t good!

There were two particular sentences in that article that raised concerns for her:

  • Facebook makes additional changes and announcements saying organic reach will decrease below 2%.
  • We’ve heard that organic reach will drop even further, potentially to insignificant levels
Your posts on Facebook will NOT reach your fans unless you PAY! Click To Tweet

Yolanda freaked out initially but being a rational person of action, she decided she needs to find a way to work with this new Facebook environment instead of fighting it.

“It seems like it’s going to be a numbers game from now on on Facebook. If the percentage of fans who see my posts is going to keep dropping, I just need to get more fans! ” she said to herself.

After doing a bit of thinking, Yolanda decided she is going to do the following to increase the number of fans on her page:

  1. She is going to run a competition whereby people can be entered in a draw to win a free wedding cake in return for putting a like on her page and sharing the competition on their own wall. As she wants new fans for her page, she is going to post about the competition through her own personal profile so that her friends and followers who are not yet fans of her page can see it ; and
  2. She is going to spend a bit of money on Facebook ads in order to get more likes for her page.

As option number 1 above didn’t require her to spend any money upfront, she decided she’ll give that a go first.

So she posted on her personal profile inviting people to enter a draw to win a free wedding cake made by her in return for liking her page and posting about the competition on their own wall.

Within less than an hour of doing that, the post disappeared and there was a notice from Facebook in Yolanda’s account with a one sentence saying that the post was removed “due to breach of Facebook’s terms of service”.

Yolanda had no clue why that has happened and the notice from Facebook had no explanation.

Frustrated Woman

So what does one do these days when they don’t know the answer to something? Well, they turn to Google of course!

So that’s what Yolanda did. She Googled “Facebook competition rules for small business pages” and one of the first links that showed up in her search results was this one.

The following bullet points immediately caught her eyes:

  • You CAN’T ask people to Share a post as part of a competition.
  • You CAN’T run a competition via your personal timeline or ask people to post something on their personal timeline as part of a contest.
  • You CAN’T ask people in a post that doesn’t depict them (eg you can’t get people to tag themselves or anyone else in a picture of a product).

“Aha! So that’s why Facebook deleted my post” she said to herself. “I get this now. It sucks but what can I do? I guess I’ll just go with option 2 instead and fork out some cash”.

Yolanda had no clue how to advertise on Facebook to get likes for her page so she turned to Google again and searched “advertising on Facebook to get likes”.

She got a page full of articles but at the bottom of the first page there was something that caught her eyes. It was a link to a YouTube clip with the title “Facebook Fraud”.

Being the curious person that she is, she clicked on that link and all of a sudden a guy popped up on her screen whose face looked kinda familiar.

Here is that clip

“Oh no! That’s terrible! I worked so hard to build up my Facebook page and now Facebook tells me what I can and can’t do on it and won’t even let me reach my fans” said Yolanda to herself.

I’m a small business owner, I can’t afford to pay Facebook every time I want my fans to see my posts and even if I fork out a bit of cash to get more likes for my page, those likes will most likely not be genuine and will be useless to me (or even worse!)

she said to herself, getting increasingly annoyed.

So how does your Facebook page look to you now? Do you still ‘like’ the idea of having your entire online presence revolving around it (pun intended)?

Yolanda is a smart lady and she has been very diligent about building her online presence through her Facebook page….and that exactly was also her biggest mistake!

Throughout her entire foray into the online world, she has always remained a ‘tenant’ of Facebook and has never made the transition to ‘home ownership’ by creating her own home on the Internet –   her own WEBSITE!

When you look at it, the most basic goal of every business is to create assets!

Assets can be patents over its unique products, stock, brand loyalty & good reputation (known in accounting terms as ‘goodwill’), cashflow and most importantly, customers.

For any business that is not purely online-based, they also need business premises to conduct their business from but even those businesses can’t stay competitive these days without an online presence.

Needless to say that with an online business, their online presence is their only ‘business premises’.

Let me ask you this:

As a small business owner, can you afford for someone to come in, take all your products, all your customers and all your cashflow and just walk away without you receiving any compensation or having any recourse against them?

Well, if you don’t have your own website of which you are fully in control, this is exactly the situation you are facing when it comes to your online presence.

It’s blunt and maybe a bit shocking but there is just no other way to say it!

But wait! I heard there are several platforms (e.g. Medium, WordPress.Com, LinkedIn publisher) which allow anyone to put blog posts on and they already have a large audience of engaged readers. What about those kind of platform?

That’s a very fair question actually!

Those platforms are great for getting lots of ‘eyeballs’ on your content quickly as they already have a big and engaged audience of readers.

Better yet, content on these platforms tend to rank very well in the search results.

However, there is a ‘catch’!

Instead of trying to explain what this ‘catch’ is, I thought I’d ‘clear the stage’ for one of the most respected experts in the world on Internet marketing and Google’s search engine and let him do it instead in the video below.

Meet Rand Fishkin.

If you want to see a bigger version of what Rand drew on the board in the video above, you can find that here.

If you want to read a transcript of the video, you can find it here.

Hopefully, after reading and watching everything on this page, you are now convinced that:

If you don't have your own website, you have no assets online! Click To Tweet

However, it doesn’t end here.

It’s not enough for you to have a website. You need to have the right kind of website in order for it to serve your business well and become a true asset.

What kind of website is that? Read on.

 Image used on this page is courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net