More importantly, does it even matter? With Facebook increasingly adding to the functionality of their pages and the range of ways you can reach and engage with a targeted audience, the question needs to be asked of what is the purpose of your Facebook page, compared to your website and whether pages will ultimately negate the need for websites?
Uniball kicked up a bit of a fuss recently, with their campaign that directly promoted their Facebook page ahead of their website. The feedback on this was largely negative, despite Shel Holtz's rather valid point, that no-one actually knew the purpose or KPIs of this campaign. I'm not sure that it deserved all the criticism it got. The campaign itself highlights a very interesting issue. Your website has traditionally been the point where you 'convert' and social media has been the fluffy stuff that sits on the periphery. Now though, it's becoming an integral part for many businesses and you can see why a company would want a big advertising or marketing activity to drive fans and, hopefully, engagement.
Facebook vs Website
A consideration we have when discussing client projects is that the Facebook page doesn't just replicate the content of the website because, well, then there wouldn't be much point in having one. A Facebook page also needs a different structure and a different kind of content because the focus is on creating an engaging user journey, that leads to interaction. It's not recognised as a place to sell your wares. But with the functionality that Facebook are introducing, pages are slowly becoming almost a replacement of a webpage. You can have all the same content that drives conversions, while maintaining a community. Something you don't get from your standard website. The battle between websites and Facebook pages is being fought at quite an intense level. Developers are spending more time on Facebook pages, where they often exceed the functionality of the website.
An interesting example is RedBull. A look at their Facebook page shows there is clearly some development and design skill being devoted here :
But then look at their website (which is equally snazzy) and take a look at how much space the Facebook widget is taking up on the site
A great big box taking up nearly a quarter of the space above the fold. If businesses are dedicating so much of their web space to Facebook, then how is this really any different to devoting ad spend to promote your Facebook page? Surely the website is the more sacred terrirtory -every department vying for their slot on the homepage.
Facebook also gets over the rather sticky microsite issue. We hopefully all agree by now that microsites are no longer serving their purpose. With the ability to tailor your page with a vanity url, tabs and apps that can do pretty much anything, the purpose of microsites is certainly called into question. With a page you can create bespoke, campaign-based content that sits on its own tab, which can then be re-skinned, redesigned or replaced altogether without having to start from scratch for the next big project, and managing your community in the meantime. The fact that so many businesses purchase ads that lead through directly to the page shows that this is where the perceived value now is.
As well as competing with websites, Facebook is increasingly becoming the default option for campaigns. A post on Inside Facebook discussed how, at SXSW,promoters largely opted for Facebook events over listings on their own websites. The attraction in doing something like this is clear. You can then reach a targeted audience in diverse ways, as opposed to competing in Google, where your only option is pretty much to get to the top as quickly as possible.
There are of course, drawbacks to promoting your Facebook page over your website. Not least that you are operating under Facebook's rules. Great - so you built an app whose virality was dependent on posting aÃ‚ notification to the user's wall. Not so great when Facebook go and change the rules on you. Or take Facebook's guidelines on promotions, which are no longer permitted to be run through the wall. As well as being a general pain in the ass, it also means that many companies or agencies found themselves having to rethink their strategy with little or no warning.
The devil is also in the detail. We had an issue with a client ourselves recently, where the use of images within a Facebook page meant that, by default, Facebook then owned the image. This went against the copyright usage of the image owner and we ended up spending at least half a day on a workaround. If you are to devote so much of your time and resource to Facebook, then you have to know their rules inside out. I can tell you first hand that this is a headache and a very serious consideration for businesses.
You must also consider whether your target audience is on Facebook. Though this is steadily becoming a moot point (it will no doubt be a given that if you are on the internet, then you are on Facebook, or can certainly navigate around it), right now it is still something to think about. There is also no point trying to fit your product into Facebook. For some products, a static splash page may be all that they need. There is no need, in some cases, to force your product or service onto a Facebook page when there is not going to be any level of engagement. Static content doesn't work on Facebook.
Even with these considerations in mind, I can see the importance that Facebook pages are getting and the advertising budgets they are grabbing more of. I don't think this is a bad thing. It ultimately makes the internet more accessible. I wouldn't really have a clue how to build a website, but I can certainly build and design a decent looking Facebook page, to a point. It is certainly not unimaginable to see Facebook ultimately functioning more as 'an internet', with a Facebook page being your gateway to your audience, rather than your own website. Facebook Connect is helping here, as it moves closer to becoming the one login you need for any given website. I'm not suggesting that I would be in favour of a company exerting this much control and the behemoth that is Facebook is certainly something to watch carefully. Right now, it is the path of choice for many brands and it's easy to see why. The question of website vs Facebook is one that needs to be asked by marketers, when they are very close to doing exactly the same things anyway.
Simply Zesty are a Social Media Agency located in Dublin, Ireland who offer a range of Social Media Services (including Facebook Marketing).