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Can Social Sites Take the Place of a Small Business Website?

It’s true that a full-blown website can be a hassle, especially for a struggling one-person business. Where’s the time, even if the money is affordable? Many businesses opt for the cookie-cutter solutions offered by large online companies. You’ve seen the commercials for “have your own website up in minutes to deliver business.” Unlike the baseball movie, “if you build it they will come” is almost never the case. The moment your website is published, it’s one of more than a hundred million or so. A cookie-cutter site with pre-written content isn’t going to get any search engine attention. Even if you customize the content, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, has become the domain of the deep pocket sites.

So, what’s a tiny business supposed to do? Why pay a monthly fee, even if it’s just a few bucks, to have a website that sits there gathering…well, dust? The social sites are free for the most part, but can they be effective to deliver business? The answer is the same as it is for most any business marketing idea or strategy. If it’s done well, the social sites can deliver business, but it’s the “done well” part that gets away from many people.

Build a Business Page or Presence Separately

You probably already use Facebook and Twitter, as well as Instagram, Pinterest, and maybe even Google+. If you’re in a B2B, Business-To-Business, you probably also have a LinkedIn presence. Other than LinkedIn, which is dedicated to doing business, the other social sites all started out as places for people to share on a personal level. As business began to take notice of the hundreds of millions of users on these sites, they became a place to market goods and services.

The most important thing to do is to set up a separate presence for your business. Sure, you have a profile and timeline with posts on Facebook, but you really do not want to mix your business and personal, even if you do offer very personalized service. Building a free business page on Facebook is easy, as the site walks you through every step, starting with specialized layouts depending on your business type. Your first choice when you start building a page is for business type, and choices are:
• Local Business or Place
• Company, Organization or Institution
• Brand or Product
• Artist, Band or Public Figure
• Entertainment
• Cause or Community
From there you’re walked through the entire process. Build your business page to market yourself and your products and/or services. You’ll post there about what you do or what you sell. No one knows your business better than you, so posting about it shouldn’t be a problem for you. Don’t worry if you are grammar or spelling challenged, as the site will help you a bit with that. The key is to keep posting regularly, with your contact information up to date with a phone and address if it applies.

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Leverage the Web

Now you move on to the other sites. The biggest value of internet marketing is the ability to leverage your exposure to multiple sites just by using linking. Now set up your Twitter account, again a different one from any personal account you may have. You’ll be using Facebook for long content, and then you use Twitter as a kind of news advertiser with headlines linking back to your long posts on Facebook. Here is where learning how to write a strong headline that builds curiosity and demands a click is important. You have the shorter character count on Twitter to get their attention, and linking to the longer Facebook content to get their business.

Instagram and Pinterest are more visual sites, so you’ll use images there to get attention and direct visitors to your Facebook posts. Take photos of your products, artwork, even your desk if you work at home and offer services. If that’s your gig, you may forego these image-heavy sites. If you do have products or you do work that has a visual result, even cleaning offices, then take photos of your finished spotless results.

Google+ is not as popular as the other sites, but depending on your business, it can be quite valuable. If you offer a local service, starting a Google+ Community could be a great move. It’s free as well. A community on the site is a place where people share commentary about a topic or area of common interest. It could be a community about local real estate, antiques, or just about anything. The beauty of this site is that people join your community because of their common interest, and the content they post there and their discussions allow you to communicate with them about your business.

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LinkedIn, as already mentioned, is about B2B, and if your business fits there is no better site to market. Say that you’re a bookkeeper or you clean offices. A LinkedIn account allows you to join groups and discussions with other local business people. You can answer questions and build a presence in the area.

The Cons

The only really important negative about this marketing approach is that you have no control over the platforms or your content. Facebook is a good example, with constant changes in their rules and requirements, not to mention the interface and displays. While it is doubtful that you’ll lose your content or presence completely, you can’t control what it will look like tomorrow.

The Pros

Low to no cost is a big benefit, though you can pay for inexpensive ads on some of the sites. However, you’re not paying for website hosting, design services or SEO, Search Engine Optimization. These sites are major, and the content there gets exposure around the internet.

If you want to build and promote your business, you can do so without a personal standalone website. At least, the social sites are great places to start. Once you’re growing, you may want to go to the full website option.