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Don't abandon your website just yet

Keir Thomas | March 9, 2011
A survey shows that 70 per cent of small businesses intend to take up social media over the coming year

SAN FRANCISCO, 9 MARCH 2011 - Nearly 70 percent of small businesses are either "somewhat" or "very likely" to use social media in the next 12 months, according to a research firm Techaisle, which looked at 406 US businesses of up to 99 employees.

Of those businesses, 36 percent already use Facebook, 35 percent use LinkedIn, and just 24 percent use Twitter, which is second only to MySpace, at 14 percent. As far as more traditional online media is concerned, 28 percent have a blog, while 81 percent have a Website involving their company name.

That's good news for Mark Zuckerberg, no doubt, but is it wise for a smaller business to invest precious marketing expenditure in social media? And should that be at the expense of Websites, that nearly all businesses have in place, but which perhaps are showing their age in the social universe?

Traditional HTML-driven Websites are just another publishing platform. They offer rapid publishing compared to print, and the content can be changed as often as a business requires. But from a marketing perspective the model is not much evolved beyond billboards or other forms of advertising: people will look at content if it catches their eye or if it contains information they need, but ultimately they move onto something else.

Even getting visitors to visit your Website is not guaranteed. In short, if you build it, they won't necessarily come. The specialized skill to acquire visitors can add significantly to a Website's cost. Businesses can try and game search engines to get their sites near the top of the results list (something called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO) although, more effectively, businesses tend to support the Website via other forms of marketing--everything from Google Adwords that appear alongside search results to mentioning the URL in traditional forms of advertising.

In short, a Website requires a lot of propping-up from other components of a marketing budget, so perhaps isn't as inexpensive as merely hiring a Web designer for a few days, as is commonly thought.

By way of contrast, Facebook and Twitter are inexpensive, almost self-sustaining and offer a constantly evolving stage for your products. Create a Facebook page for your new product or service and you'll be able to instantly respond to questions from users, as well as generate a fan base that will automatically share details of your product if they like it. Make a tweet about the product and it might be retweeted by others, and again you can instantly field responses.


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