Deathwatch: Why Facebook won’t kill your website

Posted on August 6, 2010 3:01 pm by | Business | Death Watch | Facebook | Web

Not that long ago, a chorus of voices rose in opposition to advertising campaigns that drove consumers directly to a Facebook page at the expense of the company’s website. They raised all kinds of alarms over this approach, from lack of control (what happens if Facebook shuts down?) to SEO issues (why would you want to share the link love with Facebook?).

Now Jay Baer insists Facebook is killing your website. On his thought-provoking Convince & Convert blog, Baer, writes:

Like print newspapers, basketball players under 6 feet tall, and the McRib sandwich, the website as we know it will soon be a thing of the past ??? a quaint reminder of the original Internet era…RIP websites. It was great while it lasted.

As usual, Baer’s case is well-argued and worth reading. Facebook’s assault on websites, he says, is being waged on three fronts:

  • The switch in expectations from passive reading of web pages to active engagement with smaller social objects.
  • Facebook’s ever-improving functionality.
  • Your customers are already on Facebook so it’s less of a chore to get them to visit your company there than to pull them to your website.

While all of this—and more—is true, it doesn’t mean you should abandon your company website. In fact, I can’t find a single instance of a company, large or small, that has disabled its website and started pointing audiences exclusively to its Facebook page.

In most of my speaking engagements over the last couple years, I have told audience (usually to a collective gasp) that the era of the destination website is over. (All credit to Steve Rubel for the phrase.) But that doesn’t mean that cmopanies will no longer create or maintain destination sites. It only means that destination websites, which once dominated the web, will now represent just another kind of web object sharing the space many others.

Rather than rely solely on a company website, organizations will be able to shape their sites based on the strengths of a wholly-owned online venue while capturing the value of social participation on sites like Facebook and Twitter. As eConsultancy blogger Patricio Robles wrote in his post questioning the wisdom of putting your eggs in Facebook’s basket:

A stellar user experience and compelling content/functionality are worth their weight in gold. A Facebook Page has inherent limitations, and businesses have far less ability to create unique experiences on Facebook.

That stellar experience can include an ecommerce component, something companies can’t easily add to their Facebook page. Actually taking orders from your customers is just one of many things Facebook isn’t about.

Your corporate website can do a lot of things better than a Facebook page, particularly if you know the goals your site is meant to help the cmpany achieve, you embrace the principles of excellent web functionality and truly understand your audience. A media center, a section for investors, the ability to showcase your products, the ability to present information to analysts entirely on your terms…the list goes on.

There are also good reasons to avoid relying solely on Facebook—or any other site, for that matter:

  • Despite the jaw-dropping half billion active accounts, some of your customers or other stakeholders may not be on Facebook.
  • When somebody wants to know something about your company, it’s still second nature to go to yourcompanyname.com. Even though companies are doing some impressive things on Facebook, I wonder how many people think first of Facebook when they want to know something about your company.
  • Facebook can do something you don’t want to be associated with, such as an abrupt change to their privacy policies.
  • Facebook can make other changes that create problems for you. Consider the companies that invested in collateral driving people to their Facebook fan page only to have Facebook decide they’re not fan pages after all.
  • You may not like the advertising that appears alongside your company’s page.

On a personal note, I like the diversity of approach companies bring to their websites. While companies might use Facebook differently, ultimately all Facebook pages look like…well…Facebook.

Your company website, Facebook, Twitter, email, YouTube—they’re all tools. The best approach is to determine which of these tools will be most effective in helping you achieve your goal. In the early days of the web, destination websites were about the only option. Now we have multiple options available to us, which allows us ot evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and make sound strategic decisions. You can also adopt an approach similar to what Uni-ball did with its Facebook-centric campaign: Send an email to everyone who registers an email that directs them to your website.

Destination websites will undoubtedly get smaller as Facebook and other channels provide us with better alternatives, just as many people (myself included) have spent less time on email as Twitter and Facebook have emerged as more efficient for some communication. And some companies—small ones most likely—may opt to go the Facebook-only route, particularly if a dedicated website doesn’t provide them with any advantages.

But will company websites die off altogether? Yeah, sure. Right after RSS feeds, print (including newspapers), traditional marketing, mainstream media and widgets.

Are you aware of any companies that have abandoned their websites in favor of a Facebook-only online presence?

 

Comments

  • 1.Shel

    Outstanding post and even handed discussion. I sort of agree with Jay. I do think the current iteration of company web pages will die off...but I'm not so sure the destination website will die off. Instead, I think platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., will provoke companies to go beyond the static website to develop organic sites that live and breath with ever changing content and both company and consumer voices.

    These new living sites will likely be highly integrated with the major socme platforms of the day -- whatever those may be -- to create a web unlike the one we know today but far more powerful and interesting. IMHO
    @TomMartin

    tom martin | August 2010 | New Orleans

  • 2.Jay Baer has captured the fine art of writing and attracting readers with a thought provoking idea. It's classic television talking head tactics that gets folks fired up. (I borrow from him so thanks Jay) Now if Jay were really serious he wouldn't have a blog and would have created his article in other social spaces. But no, we all need a place to call home.

    The term destination is perhaps wrong. The correct word to replace it may be repository. We need a place to, as George Carlin would say, keep our stuff. So sure, we leave some of our stuff other places, videos on YouTube or Vimeo because they are great video serving platforms and it would cost us a bunch more money to put it on our ISP servers, or Facebook pages to participate in a community that exists there. Plus Facebook is like your friend growing up who had all the cool toys and a pool so it was more fun to hang out there, but you always went home.

    No, we will not be digital nomads roaming the web like the horsemen of Mongolia, but just like we are in the physical world, we will be digital travelers. We will leave toothbrushes in places we stay(ed) , oh come on you've done that, and lend communities like SlideShare our work, (like loaning a book to someone), but we'll always have a place to call home. Jay may call it his blog, but it's a place that is recognized as his and we appreciate his hospitality.

    Shel your point about those platforms changing is important. Just this morning I'm looking for an interview I did on Utterli and can't access that site. Me thinks it's gone because their Twitter profile was last updated in May. So your point is both well taken and experienced first hand.

    All the best to you (happy birthday recently) and your readers.

    Albert Maruggi | August 2010 | St. Paul, MN

  • 3.Shel thanks so much for your very kind words, and for weighing in on what could end up being a historically important fulcrum. I'm a big fan of your work, so I'm delighted that you're thinking through these issues as well. Perhaps the more accurate title for my post would have been "why facebook is stealing all the content and engagement tools from your website." Because I don't believe we'll delete our websites per se, but rather that websites will become yellow pages ads - rote, stale repositories for downloadable instruction manuals, exec bios, and other lesser lights in the content spectrum. Just as the web didn't entirely kill brochures, Facebook won't entirely kill websites - it will just relegate them to the brochureware that was their initial role.

    Jay Baer | August 2010

  • 4.I wholeheartedly agree. You cannot rely on one way to reach customers, same way we advertised before the internet became so huge. Newspapers, telephone, word of mouth, it is all important to getting the information out to the customers. Thanks for the reminder

    Christina Davis | August 2010

  • 5.Thanks for commenting here, Jay. I suspect we're part of a mutual admiration society. ;-)

    I fear you're right for some organizations -- their websites will regress to a 1996 state. At the same time, there are plenty of companies who will see opportunity based on what their sites can deliver that Facebook and other social sites cannot. Hospitals, for example, can handle pre-admission paperwork on their sites. With the introduction of HTML 5 and more technologies we haven't heard of yet, company sites can offer all kinds of functionality and provide unique experiences the one-size-fits-all Facebook approach cannot.

    With apologies to Tom Lehrer, company websites are like a sewer. What you get out of them depends on what you put into them.

    Shel Holtz | August 2010 | Concord, CA

  • 6.Though Facebook can really kill some websites like social bookmarking sites or other social networking ones, I doubt that it would kill the other websites. Facebook is great in distributing information available in the internet. Instead of killing it, I believe that it actually promotes it. If users find the site interesting at the feeds, they are going to visit it.

    texas nursing schools | August 2010

  • 7.Facebook is nice social bookmarking sites, I don't think it can kill other websites the promote social networking.

    eric cantona | August 2010 | Los Angeles

  • 8.I think Facebook (and other social media sites) should just be seen as a tool, to be aware of and used if appropriate, rather than something people *need* to be on.

    If a good marketing idea involves facebook, then use facebook. If it doesn't, then don't shoehorn "social media" in because it's fashionable - it may damage a good idea if it is presented in the wrong format.

    Leeds Website Monkey | December 2010 | Leeds

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