More and more small local businesses are using social media profile pages, rather than websites, as the main face of their operation. Columnist Wesley Young explains why this isn’t the good idea that it may seem to be.
Why are we still having this discussion? Because data show that a surprising number of businesses still don’t have a website. Surveys from as recently as October 2016 find that close to half of all small businesses don’t have a website, and it’s not just solo work-from-home moonlighters, either.
Specifically, a Capital One survey of 400 small businesses — its Fall 2016 Small Business Barometer Survey — found that only 56 percent have a company website. And only 53 percent of those were mobile-optimized. In other words, fewer than 30 percent of businesses surveyed had a mobile-optimized website.
Further, there is a fair argument that websites are no longer as effective in the local market. Technology and cost certainly are no longer barriers given the availability of subscription options for even the least sophisticated users and slick DIY platforms for those who don’t want to hire a freelancer or agency. Instead, the challenge is that websites must compete for relevance in a market with many other media platforms — social media sites, directories and review sites — that are often viewed as proxies for the face of the franchise.
Today, social media is dominating SMB attention, a survey conducted by the Local Search Association (my employer) has found. Almost 43 percent of SMBs surveyed said that it would be the media of choice if they could only select one form of online marketing to use. That was the top choice by a large margin, with SEO ranking second at 25.6 percent. This preference explains why social media pages such as Facebook pages are increasingly used as the primary public-facing “landing page.”