Do we still need a business website?

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The title of this article is not a throwback question to the 90s when advisors were really asking this question of the nascent internet, it is a serious question for this year.

Financial planner company websites have proliferated over the past 30 years, increasing in complexity, sophistication and aesthetics along with the functionality available.

Beautifully created, highly functional, optimized, mobile responsive sites with multiple pages, links to client portals, blogs and even, for some at least even more, with syndicated news, blogs and even performance data.

So why the question?

Exchange website for social media

It came up recently in a session I was doing with a counseling practice. The founders are committed to continuing to stand out, to be seen to innovate in everything while improving processes and communications with customers.

During the team session, we discussed their appearance online. We explore how they go about keeping their digital communications continually updated and dynamically promoted and this practice has a particular fondness for using images of the team, their company and the passions of the team.

Seeking to be very visual like they do, they are already very prolific on Instagram and we ended up collectively exploring whether Instagram and/or Facebook with their ease of use, ability to post longer posts, have discussions online and tagging could be a replacement for their company’s website.

Since we all know about websites and website hosting, the associated and ongoing costs, plus the pros and cons, as we all have one, let’s think about this question.

The good sides

Creating an Instagram page, or running an already established one, is free, if not time-consuming. Maintenance and development are the responsibility of Instagram / Facebook / Meta (yes, Instagram belongs to the online monster that is Meta).

They are very intuitive compared to, for example, WordPress or other CMS systems used. Getting up and running takes no time at all.

They can perform many of the same functions as a website. Promotion, imagery, blog, links (using a system like Link tree or similar).

It can be easier to establish easy and more emotional communications and to create or exploit online communities, many customers are already on social networks and the pandemic has only increased their use and usefulness .

Luxury brands are also making huge efforts with their Instagram and Facebook pages, as they have discovered that while younger users have migrated, the affluent baby boomer generation is very active on these platforms and now uses them for research, peer review products and services and browse them much more frequently.

Many practices already have an Instagram page or a Facebook page, already devote time to it and are simple and free to set up. Uploading and managing content is also very easy, no massive learning curve or excuses from team members based on not understanding the software as pretty much all of us at least a social media account.

While there are now many examples of individuals and businesses using social media well and even abandoning an official business website, there are real downsides to consider along with ease of use and the low cost of social media options.

The inconvenients

While this approach may reduce costs, the easy-to-use functionality offered by social media platforms may not be sufficient for the majority of small businesses, especially those that need to offer e-commerce, access to Client portals and websites can be very important in establishing hierarchical -authority.

A well-designed and managed business website allows for a more customizable experience, gives much more control over look, feel and functionality.

In-depth SEO and analytics are much easier to access on websites, and links to portals, other sites, and services like platforms are easier to achieve.

While it was great to explore the pros and cons, at least for me and while the company is still investigating the matter pending a final decision, the dangers of social media are just too great.

A lack of control over data, comment moderation, direction, or functionality all add up. Also, with the dangers of the services being removed without notice, just look at the various user accounts that had “Meta” in their social ID after Facebook announced that they had their accounts suspended for “impersonating someone. ‘another’. So, to me, it’s still not clear that ease of use and cost savings for most businesses will outweigh having a quality, well-built, bespoke website.

However, as many services and platforms continue to overlap in functionality, continue to introduce new innovations such as reels, chat rooms, blogs and micro-blogging, real-time messaging more, it is certainly a subject to watch closely.

Lee Robertson is CEO of Octo Members

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