Start Establishing an Online Home a.k.a a Website that YOU own
In the last post, I started to answer the question I’ve been seeing a lot of lately,
I’m about to launch my business. Should I start with a website or a Facebook business page?
At the end of that post, I urged you to buy your domain name when you start your business. Since you have that domain name, put it to use! A simple, one-page website could be all that you need to explain your services and start collecting potential client information, and it can be done more simply than you might think. But today’s post isn’t about how to do that, it’s explaining point #2 in my 3-point-list of what having a website (vs having only a social media page) allows you to do…establish an online home that you own.
Social Media is a Tool
Starting a Facebook Group or business page is definitely a good thing to do, as is establishing yourself on other social media platforms where your client is active. These allow you to be present and active with potential clients, showing your expertise and relating to them in real time. However, a website is the only one that you can truly own. Your content under your control.
Social media platforms can disappear tomorrow, likely not, but it can happen. I’ve heard stories of Facebook pages being turned off due to content or other reasons. Having fans in a Facebook group is great, but if your account disappeared, you do not have their information to contact them again.
Your website can be designed to give a glimpse into what it would be like to work with you by way of the tone of voice used in your copy, the icons, and colors you use to convey a feeling your visitor might connect with.
It’s really hard to establish a consistent visual mood or tone when you are posting on Facebook or Twitter, with their blue colors surrounding all of your content. Your content is broken up possibly by other posts and it’s sometimes really difficult to have a flow to your thoughts. Twitter allows you only so many characters in a tweet. Facebook has certain restrictions on how you can use the pages you can create.
Social platforms are great , don’t get me wrong, but they should be used as a tool to direct the readers to your online home, where you can truly show them what you do, explain to them who you serve best, and create a bigger picture surrounding how what you do best can help them.
Social media is an excellent tool to learn more about your ideal clients by connecting with your audience regularly in ways you can’t with a blog. Social media is where you can ask questions and be interactive, getting to know them better and helping them in *almost* real-time. You can be real and show them little glimpses into your life, which will help them trust you more. You can give examples of how working with you can change their world. There are so many ways being on the social media where your clients are can benefit your business.
So the purposes social media serves? It is a tool to direct people to your website. Also, its a tool to learn more about your audience and be real with them so you can do what you do best a little bit better,
Your Website is Home Base
While social media is a great tool for getting to know and be real with your audience (and potential customers/clients) your website is your home base. It’s the foundation of what your business is, does and aims to be for your audience. Your website is where the deeper learning happens, and/or the steps to working with you take place. It contains the more ‘static’ information that serves to truly inform your audience they can benefit from your expertise. It’s the online presence no one else has influence over.
Free Website Builders
You can create this online presence on a free website platform, like Wix or Weebly, (even WordPress(.com), but I’d recommend self-hosted WordPress (.org) for a few basic reasons. These free website builders aren’t truly bad, just not suited for everyone. Here’s a quick list of reasons I don’t build with the free website builders:
- Business websites built on them, and ending in something like xxx.wix, aren’t seen as professional and many tend to view their owners as not experienced. I know some now allow you to purchase your own domain at a cost per month.
- Your site will always promote the building platform you built on as long as it’s free. Free might entice you to begin your online presence there, but to remove it from your domain and their icons and ads from the body of your website you will need to pay for a plan. If you’re going to pay anyway, why not pay for something you can control every aspect of?
- The websites tend to load slow. People just aren’t as patient as they used to be!
- Some of these builders use technology that isn’t used across some mobile devices (like Flash) restricting where or how people see your website.
- Rules and policies are set by the owner of the platform (not the owner of the website) and may include the inability to sell directly from your site and be restricted by the lack of functionality your online business may need to grow.
- When your business outgrows the builder platform, there isn’t always a way to retrieve your content in a format usable on other website platforms.
When you own your online home, it can be a true reflection of you and your business AND it can’t be shut off at someone else’s whim. Other platforms have certain policies and rules in place about what can and cannot be on your website, and they have the power to just shut down if they want to. Basically, you own your content, but they have the power to keep your passion from being shared. If they decide to shut down, your content might not ever be seen again, even by you. Imagine months or years of blog posts gone at the flip of a switch. All the hours you spent on creating it to perfectly reflect your business’ personality.
WordPress (.org) allows you to own your online presence. You own the hosting, you have complete control over the looks of your site, and can create backups of your content so you’ll never lose it. All of this allows you to transfer your site to another host if desired, or make your site look entirely different or grow when your business grows, either in looks or in size.
You can start your website on WordPress(.org) with a lot of planning, structure and some dedicated time (well, and a little bit of money for hosting and a domain name, too.) It can start simply as a one-page website, have a blog, be many pages, even have an online store as part of it. It can start small and grow, or can start big and be simplified. It’s yours to do with what you will!
Other Website Platforms
There are other website platforms as well, like Squarespace and ShowIt5 (mainly a platform for professional photographers). These are designed to have all costs for a website rolled into one. It also means your content might not transfer if you leave the platform in the future. That said, however, many find these are the best for their circumstances. I’m not as familiar with these platforms at the moment as I am with WordPress(.org).
What’s Really Important for my Website, You Convinced me I need one!
With any size website you create, and on any platform you use, you’ll need to make sure that site has the necessary information:
- What you offer and who you are to offer it
- Who you offer it to
- How you help
- How to contact you
You’ll also want your website to reflect your business’s personality, through the look, tone, and feel (using images and icons, colors, and fonts to convey them) that your ideal audience will connect with and relate to. This is called branding, which is much more than a logo, colors, and fonts. This is a topic for another time.
So by all means, when you’re just starting out go ahead and make that Facebook page, sign up for that Twitter and Instagram account if those are the places your clients are and you can connect with them. But also buy that domain and hosting, and spend the time planning out your website to be a foundation to send all the contacts from your social media accounts to. Own that space. Own your business presence everywhere your clients will see it.
And when you’re just starting out, it’s fine to own that space with a simple website that will begin your email list, capturing the information of potential clients so you can stay in touch with them if something happens to your social media presence.
If you’re just starting out and trying to figure out where to stake your claim online: drive that nail where you know your audience is on social media, but also create an online home that you own. Create a website as your foundation and build a social media presence that will lead your ideal client to your website for at least the basics of who you are / what you do, who you help, how you help and how to contact you.
If you’ve been around a while: evaluate whether you need to be more involved on social media, interacting with your ideal audience. And reevaluate your website:
- Is it really conveying the look and feel of my business in a way that connects with my ideal client?
- Does it really tell my visitors who I am to do what I do, who I work with and how I work with them?
- Does it have a contact form?