Which is the best online presence for small business?
These days, there are very few businesses that get by on word of mouth and business cards alone. An online presence is crucial to allow customers to discover, learn about and interact with your small business. However, traditional websites aren’t your only option: there are also millions of businesses active on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.
So, which type of online presence works best for small businesses? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both and discuss what you need to consider for your business.
Social media: a place for fun or serious business?
- Anyone can do it: While there may be some extra bells and whistles at a cost, basic social media is typically free and easy to use. You don’t need technical skills to make a profile page and upload content, and there aren’t ongoing fees involved.
- More exposure: When customers like or follow your business page, your posts will show up in their feed. Provided they use the social media app regularly, your business may get more incidental exposure and stay fresh in their minds.
- Easy communication: The clue is in the name: social! By nature of their design, social media platforms make it very easy for customers to get in touch with businesses, whether it be via comments, direct messages, or simply looking up your phone number or email address.
- Content limitations: The type of content that social media platforms allow you to post can be very limited. You may have difficulty adding links to posts, attaching menus or other documents, completing a sales cycle, or implementing contact forms.
- Time commitment required: You need to upload new content regularly in order to stay active in your follower’s feeds. Creating interesting and engaging content can take a lot of work, so you need to make sure you have the staff or time to handle that part of the business.
- Lots of competition: Being popular and cheap to run means the social media scene is crowded. You may not stand out amongst your competitors. If your followers have too many friends or likes, you’ll have to work hard to stand out in their feeds.
What can a website do for your small business?
- More control: A website allows you to have complete control over the layout and content of your website. It doesn’t have to sit within the framework of a social media platform, and you get to decide what is and isn’t included to create a unique and functional brand experience.
- Legitimacy: Provided the design is simple, clean and informative, a proper website lends a significant amount of weight to the credibility and professionalism of your small business image.
- Less ongoing maintenance: Unlike social media, which requires frequent content posting to compete with other businesses, websites only need minimal updates after their initial creation.
- Less incidental exposure: Customers are unlikely to come across your website unless they’re actively looking for it, or the type of products and services you provide. You’ll need a marketing strategy or SEO optimization to drive discovery.
- Investment required: Websites require domain name registration and ongoing web hosting fees. If you hire a web developer, you’re looking at an initial investment of $300 to $1,000+, depending on complexity. Creating the website yourself will save money but require a lot of time.
- Communication is less casual: Websites don’t come with the multiple communication channels that are built into social media platforms by default. You’ll need to make sure your website has a Contact page that’s easy to find so customers can get in touch.
Finding the right mix for your business
If you already had an inkling of where this was going as you read through the pros and cons, you were right: the best solution is, ultimately, a mix of both a website and a social media presence. The trick is to determine the best approach for your small business. It varies from industry to industry: for example, a restaurant may have a simple landing page for a website that hosts their menu, location and contact information. The majority of their focus is social media: by nature of their trade, they have lots of appealing dishes and drinks to photograph for frequent content updates.
Conversely, a professional service like an accountant agency may struggle in generating interesting social media content which is driven by visual stimulation (i.e. photos and video). They may invest in a business website to provide clear information about their services and qualifications, with a simple social media profile serving as a catching net for customer enquiries. They may see better results investing in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for their website as opposed to generating an engaging social media feed.
Here’s some key points to consider when planning the online presence for your small business:
- Identify what your customers need: Would your typical customer expect interactions with your business to be casual, or formal? How can they access your business in the most efficient way? Some aspects of a sales cycle, like online shops and custom contact forms, are much better suited to websites. You can then utilise social media interactions to direct customers to those web pages.
- Find the right fit for different content: Are you selling products with a lot of visual appeal, or services that require detailed explanation? If you have videos showcasing your products or services, you may prefer to upload them on social media pages to avoid costs associated with increased bandwidth usage on a website.
- Make it consistent: Your branding and contact information should be aligned on both your website and all social media profiles. Your website should link to your social pages, and vice versa.
Getting started with a business website
Are you ready to take your business to the next level with a dedicated website? Here’s three basic steps to help get you started:
- First, you’ll need a domain name – this is the address for your website. iiNet Business can help you register an Australian domain name through our accredited provider, Connect West. Check out pricing here. (Note: We have international domain name options, too, but local businesses seem more credible with an Australian domain, such as “.com.au” or “.net.au”.)
- Next, you’ll need to build your website content. You may choose to engage a web designer to help you with this, but with a little time an effort, it’s possible to do it yourself. We’ve found some beginners guides for both WordPress and Joomla to point you in the right direction.
- Finally, you’ll need to get a hosting plan for your website. This allows the files for your website to be stored on servers and accessed via the internet. And the iiNet Hosting Team are ready to help with our range of affordable hosting plans! With user-friendly features and awesome customer service, we can tailor the best web solution for your business’s needs.
Want to know more? Call our dedicated Hosting Team on 1300 378 638.
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