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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why Facebook Does Not Replace Your Own Business Web Site

If you have a small business and think that you don't need a dedicated web site of your own, think again.

I have noticed in my research that a great many businesses--most of them mom-and-pop-sized, though some surprisingly large--have no web site to call their own. Their business name, when put into the address bar, is often either not taken, or takes me to an entirely unrelated business, sometimes with the same name, but hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

A Google search often reveals that they have no site of their own. Over and over again, I have looked up local businesses in a search engine and scanned the results, only to find everything but a web site. Now, granted, in a few cases, a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) for that company does turn up, but it's not the same as the business' name. Obviously this can't always be helped, since there might be another business with the same in another state, or even another country. It happens. It's unavoidable: their ideal URL had already been taken. But you find a way around that, and you move on.

What I mean to address here is those businesses who don't even bother.

I understand how a business-owner can think that a site of their very own, with their own domain, isn't necessary. If I were a small business person whose company was coming up in searches and listed on Yelp, or Urbanspoon, or Citisearch, perhaps I would think that's enough. I might think that between that, and the fact that I have my own Facebook page, I don't really need my own domain. Because, after all, those are complicated, and expensive, and I don't really know how to go about doing all that. I might think that.

And I would be completely and utterly wrong.

The reason for that mistake can be summed up in one word: control.

You see, while a Facebook page may seem almost like your own domain, it's not. While it's great to be listed on or Dex or Manta, like Facebook, they are very different.

You, the business-owner, have no control over them whatsoever.

Yes, some of them offer a way for the person whose business is listed to contact them and add information, or even correct it when it's wrong, these processes can be long and drawn-out. If they make even a minor mistake--say, in your business hours--anyone who is viewing that information may think you're not open when you are, and that can cost you business. But say a customer who, through no fault of your own, was unhappy or dissatisfied with a product you sold them or a service you provided, and out of spite (because there are people like this) posts a bad review or says something bad about your company. There may be a way to request that it be removed, or to post a response with an explanation. But while you're going through that process, there is often no way to counter that. You have no control over it. And if you rely on one of these sites to promote your business, you're stuck.

Having your own domain and site may not counteract that bad review, but it does give you the advantage of being able to post the positive comments and feedback you receive. Also, since often when your potential customers search for your business, your own site is the first to come up (aside from the paid advertisements), they will likely see your own site first. They may never get to that other site to see the false bad review.

You might be asking yourself at this point what this has to do with Facebook. Facebook, it turns out, seems to many people like it's the main part of the internet. But it isn't. It's a business like any other. And while it's great to have a place you can put information about your small business, it shouldn't be any company's main place on the internet.

Again, you have no control over it.

Yes, you can add and delete information. (I won't go into the every-changing rules and privacy settings here; if you use Facebook at all, you're familiar with that.) But as a very large entity, Facebook has to automate many things. And sometimes people get caught up in that. You can have your account suspended without much notice, if any, for any number of reasons. If their automated systems believes for any reason that you have violated the TOS (Terms of Service), you can be suspended.

This is not unique to Facebook, of course; they are simply the largest entity with this issue. A friend of mine had this happen with a blog site she uses. Some automated subroutine looked at her blog and, for whatever reason, decided that it resembled a pattern of spam. Like me, she is a writer, and uses her blog to display her writing and keep her followers interested. But one day, she just couldn't log in. She was informed of the supposed issue, so she made the prescribed report, and was told that a human would have to check her blog and determine if it could be restored.

It took nearly six weeks.

She had absolutely no control over this process, nor could she even tell any of her regular readers what had happened, that it was all a mistake, and that she would return . . . eventually.

This sort of thing happens all the time, be it with my friend's blog or with some poor person who was either accused of posting something inappropriate or against the TOS on Facebook.

This, above all other reasons--and there are many!--is why you, as a business-owner (small or otherwise) should have your own domain and your own web site.

Often this isn't as expensive as you might think, depending upon how elaborate your site needs to be. But for a small business, having that control is absolutely vital!

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