I’ve noticed a disturbing trend recently in small business startups, especially those started by young people. A lot of these entrepreneurs, when launching their businesses, are jumping on the social networking bandwagon and using a Facebook or MySpace page instead of a traditional website. It could be because it’s a natural extension from the tools they’re used to in their personal lives or because it’s self-service and can be live in minutes, but I’m here to say they’re doing it wrong. Here’s why.
Whose brand are you trying to push here, anyway?
As an example, let’s take a look at the Facebook page for Renaissance Design – you may even have arrived here from there, because these blog posts are automatically cross-posted to the Facebook page. Yes, my logo appears prominently at the left of the page but overall, whose branding does it have? Whose company colours is the page in? What is the overall brand experience you take away from the page? What is there to differentiate it from any other Facebook page?
Even big brands are making this mistake, with more and more TV adverts displaying the URL of a Facebook page rather than the company or product’s own website. Worse than that, while your user is on Facebook they’re open to distraction by notifications, messages from their friends, and their Farmville farm. Do you really think you can keep their attention in the face of that barrage?
MySpace is good for bands, not so great for businesses
MySpace is a little better for branding than Facebook, as it allows you to visually customize your page. However, it’s still existing in the infrastructure of MySpace. Since the advent of Facebook, MySpace’s popularity as a social networking tool has declined, but it still offers a number of features geared towards musicians. Lily Allen famously kickstarted her career on the back of her MySpace page so surely if you’re a band that’s all you need, right? In that case, why is there a lilyallenmusic.com?
MySpace: It’s Not Your Space
If your online presence is your own website on yourdomain.com, you can control every aspect of the branding, the user experience and the content. You can move your website to a different hosting provider, you can refresh or completely redesign it and as long as you’re careful all the links you’ve spent months or years building up will still work and still be bringing you traffic for years to come.
In contrast, the content you post to MySpace or Facebook does not truly belong to you. Either website could shut your page down for any reason under the sun and you would have no recourse other than to start all over again.
Newsflash: Nobody searches for goods or services on Facebook
When someone wants to find goods or services online they don’t search on Facebook. They go to Google (or Bing, or Yahoo) and they find companies and service providers with a real, tangible Web presence. Having your own website is like having an entry in the Yellow Pages: it makes you appear established, respectable and professional. Having no website makes you look like a fly-by-night cowboy. Which image would you rather project?
Social Media: Doing It Right
Ok, so where do you go from here? There must, after all, be a reason that social media marketing has been such a hot topic over the last couple of years. Surely there’s a way of doing it right?
Of course there is, and I’m going to explain it by way of a little analogy. Think of yourself, your company and your Web presence as a country: the Republic of You. Your Facebook page, your Twitter page, your Squidoo lenses – these are your embassies in foreign countries. They exist on the sufferance of that country and at any time they could be shut down but while they are there, they exist for you to communicate with and help your people in these foreign countries. If all you had was your embassy nobody would take you seriously but with the weight of your country behind it there’s no limit to what you can achieve.
Use your company blog¹ and Squidoo lenses to build a reputation as an authority in your field. Use Facebook and Twitter to build a relationship with your customers, to communicate with them and to bring them to your website. Build your own brand, not somebody else’s.
¹ This should, of course, be on your own site rather than a free service like WordPress.com or Blogger – but that’s a whole post in itself, so watch this space.This entry was posted in marketing and tagged Facebook, marketing, MySpace, social web, Twitter. Bookmark the permalink.