Facebook, it's the place many of us first remembered that we actually didn't like most of the people we knew in high school. But between all the baby pictures, cat memes and inappropriate rants from your crazy uncle, the platform evolved into a juggernaut that has provided a lot of value for small businesses.
And here’s the thing, there is a lot of value to be had in being on Facebook as a business—particularly if you have the money to advertise. The problem is many small businesses rely exclusively on Facebook for their digital presence. There's no easy way to say it—that's bad.
From restaurants to landscapers to beauty salons, there are far too many businesses out there whose digital presence is 100 per cent in the hands of a platform that they don't control.
So, why is relying exclusively on Facebook (or any social media platform) for your business a bad thing?
1. You don't control the platform
If you build your business exclusively on Facebook, you are living on someone else's land. While it may seem like Facebook has been around for forever (remember Vine?), things change, rules change, and you don't want your business to be subject to the whims of a cranky billionaire (unless that billionaire is you).
There is nothing stopping Facebook from changing its algorithm tomorrow to ban certain types of businesses; charge for access to the platform; or forcing everyone to speak exclusively in Wookie. Their platform; their rules.
Giving one company that much power over your livelihood is not a great strategy. Having your own website with a custom domain name gives you the control and flexibility you need to run your business your way.
2. It's harder to find your business
While it may seem like everyone is on Facebook, the fact is only about seven-in-10 Canadians are on the platform. That's a lot but why wouldn't you want 100 per cent?
Not having a website can also significantly impact your SEO (that stands for search engine optimization) which is how Google (and other search engines find your website).
Oh, and one more thing, the rise of voice computing is also a huge factor. If you've ever said, "Hey Google where can I get some noodles", "Yo Alexa, I need some TexMex-a" or "Hey Siri, I'm hungry for nigiri," you should know that those services can't pull results from Facebook (or any other closed platform).
Owning your own website makes your business accessible to the entire world, for free with no restrictions, by simply typing in a web address.
3. It's a single point of failure
If your business is run off a Facebook page you are only one tanker truck full of maple syrup crashing into a data centre away from having no business. Even the largest companies have outages and if Facebook goes down, your business is offline.
Having only one point of digital access is also a security risk. There are dozens of stories of influencers who have had Instagram, Facebook or YouTube accounts hacked and lost their entire business.
A website is the hub of your digital strategy that includes social media platforms, email marketing, paid advertising, events, influencer marketing and so much more. Even if your website is down, having more than one point of digital presence helps ensure your business is never offline.
4. Functionality is limited
Anyone remember MySpace? While it is a reminder that a social media platforms don't last forever, it also illustrates why Facebook was so successful.
MySpace was a canvas of creativity; you could post an animated gif of a cat puking rainbows and have the theme song from Chariots of Fire playing in the background and no one could stop you. Facebook came along and dominated social media by giving users a nice, neat, clean template (and the ability to poke their high school crush).
While that structured template allowed Facebook to take over the world (and undermine democracy…sorry), it also means a Facebook page has limited functionality.
There are many restrictions on content, functionality and accessibility that can limit what your business can do. That's why you see restaurants posting blurry photos of their menus rather than having a nice readable text-based menu.
Running your own website gives you the flexibility to build, create and post whatever you want and not one can to you!
5. It's not portable
While it may seem like Facebook is everywhere, there may come a time when you want to leave (or when Facebook becomes the next MySpace). When that day comes, how do you move everything over?
Facebook does have a content export feature but it's not ideal. You also need to deal with the problem of telling you customers where you've moved to.
However, if you had your own website, with a custom domain name that you control, you can move your content, or your business, anywhere and simply point the domain name at the new location. Your customers always know where to find you.
6. Facebook is…problematic
So here's the awkward part, Facebook is having a rough time these days. Whether it be hate speech that would make your crazy uncle blush; privacy breaches that expose your personal data to foreign governments; or misinformation that makes you question the nature of reality; Facebook can be problematic.
Should you leave Facebook? It's probably not necessary (though we did join the #StopHateForProfit boycott earlier this year). But relying exclusively on a platform known for such negativity right now might not cast the best light on your business. Facebook's troubles have also led a growing number of people to leave the platform, which shrinks your audience.
Real talk, being on Facebook to help promote your business is probably fine but relying on it exclusively is a big risk.
So, what do you think? Is relying too much on Facebook a risk? Do businesses that don't have their own website bother you as much as they bother me? (deep breaths, calm down).
Facebook, and other social media platform are essential parts of your digital strategy, but they shouldn't be your primary focus. Only a website that you own and control can truly be a digital hub for your business.