One thing that we hear occasionally is "why do I need a website these days, can I not just use a Facebook page?". The simple answer is you can do what you like, but if you want to do well, you'd be best investing in a good website, and also having a Facebook page in your arsenal. Why do either when you can do both?
It should be clarified that this is not a Facebook bashing article, I actually quite like FB for social catch ups as well as for business growth and feedback, not to mention chuckling at witty comments and reminding me of birthdays. However context is everything.
Control & Scope
Yes FB apps are growing by the day and some are dead cool, but they still don't have the versatility that you get on your own site. Also with functionality, you just don't have the same scope of options as the 18,000 free WordPress plugins for example. You can do a startling array of things with those.
On your website you're in complete control of all your content, how it's viewed, arranged and what you want to do it with it. It's your own space. If you get bored of the look or design, you can jazz it up with a fresh premium theme and completely change your site's appearance with no loss of content. However with Facebook, all pages look virtually the same in layout if not in colour. The good people at FB are making some changes gradually in that regard but it's not an open system and you can't change the layout format.
There are great Facebook plugins you can get for e-commerce to allow you to sell directly on your wall, but these only suit low cost and low explanation or impulse buy items. These are not viable for any product or service you have to explain, or for higher ticket items or subscription services where you need to address a lot of customer concerns before they're willing to buy.
Pub is for Social, Office is for Business
For those who like an apt analogy: Facebook is like a party (how many times have we heard that?) or a noisey pub with lots of people hanging out there. It's great but when someone's looking right at you in the pub it can be hard for them to hear you through the noise, let alone would they want you to sell to them. Don't forget even if they're on your Facebook page they still have all the other stuff on their Facebook screen. Standard pages have four columns of info to distract them from your message or discovering what you can do for them.
Your website is more like your own place, they can drop by and have a chat and a virtual cup of tea one to one without all the noise. Since it's your space you can put your best foot forward without having to compete on their screen for their attention as you control everything they see in front of them. When they look at your website, they are not being distracted by anything you don't want in their view.
To continue the pub analogy, if a friend of a friend asks what you do, you don't launch into full hard sales attack mode. You usually have a 30 second synopsis of info that will inform them and hopefully not scare them away, if they're interested they might even ask to hear more. It's informative, concise and light, not a sales pitch. As the science says, when people are confronted with your business message they need to orientate first, understand what you do or do for them and then potentially move to the next step of becoming a client or refering someone on to you. That's where Facebook can be handy, to be social, informative, playful, more human and straight talking and less business speak. To interact without attempting to sell. It's a non-confrontational way of finding out the basics about you. If they want to know more, then they can move from the social 'pub' space to the business end of things on to your main site, where you can answer their questions and concerns and take them to the next level.
It's precisely this reason, being more of a social space that a commercial space that lead to a significant number of major big brand stores shutting down or completely reshaping their Facebook stores and pages. As one spokesman put it,
There was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop... But it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar
Facebook Ads weren't there in the first place. The site was designed not for advertisers or commerce but solely for users. Just like in the Social Network, Zuckerburg argues that ads would take away the site's 'cool'. It was the positive warm blue banner, clean lines and white space that was a big factor in people enjoying hanging out there. Will this be less so now that they're ramping up the advertising and filling the page real estate to make money for their latest round of investors? It's starting to be reflected in news articles observing that Facebook user numbers in some market areas are dropping most notably in the US, UK and Canada. The other problem they face along with people leaving the site, is for those who stay it's a more confused and busier interface; Facebook advertising is becoming less effective as there's more interference. It seems clutter is bad for business.
Also with the rise of over 40s and 50s being a major demographic joining the site, many of the younger users don't want to be where their moms hang out. But here's the key point; as of February 2012, there's currently 845 million people on Facebook so it's still very worthwhile being there. Your website is independent of any changing attitudes to Facebook from any demographic or generation.
Think in terms of Spokes
Think of a bicycle wheel with lots of spokes ending in the centre of the wheel. That's the same idea of how to arrange your social media. So you have Facebook Page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn Profile with LinkedIn groups, a YouTube channel, and a half dozen others, maybe even a handy mobile app but they all lead to your website. Your website is the hub where all the key info lives and is expanded upon and where people know to go for the good stuff, you and your value in full and unadulterated.