Could Facebook Replace Websites for Small Businesses?

Facebook… Upon hearing the word, the first thing that comes to most people’s minds is friends. The second is photos, followed by likes and comments. Other than being a successful social network for connecting people (and a source for updates of their everyday routines) it is also a marketing and business platform. Facebook fan pages (profiles for business) are rapidly becoming effective potential connections to potential customers.

According to Pakistan’s Social Media Marketing Report for June-July 2015, June has shown increase in numbers in Pakistan’s Social Media Marketing sector. The average number of Facebook fans increased from 1,669,982 to 1,686,212. Facebook has become the most used social network in Pakistan.

Armed with this knowledge, it is appropriate to assume that small business owners would forego building websites and instead rely on the biggest social media network at no cost. But is Facebook enough?

Facebook’s Recent Updates and Their Impact

Facebook’s attempts to make the forum business friendly by opening up two new sections for the business pages -Shopping and Services – paint a rosy picture for online businesses in Pakistan. Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandburg announced the update during a press event at the company’s headquarters this month.

The Shopping section will allow the businesses to showcase and sell their products from their page while the Services section will allow them to highlight their offerings. They are still in testing phase but Facebook plans to make them more widely available in the following weeks as an attempt to customize the pages according to their types.

They are also testing three new “call to action” buttons: “Call now,” “Send Message” and “Contact Us” with the aim to help businesses communicate with their customers. Other recent updates to assist page administrators like “saved reply” for common questions and “reply privately” option for public comments also make it easier for business page owners to regulate their pages and clientele. These features are intended to keep the entire buying process on Facebook and complement those already available.

Business ‘Fan Page’ Features

Business accounts are easily set up by creating a page without setting up a personal profile first. Public facing by default, these fan pages are branding sources where prospective customers, vendors and even media can access your company’s information. It is a free alternative to customer engagement on your website. The wall, sharing of photos and videos, messages, discussion tab, events tab to schedule promotions are features which allow interactions that provide a wealth of information regarding the customer needs and expectations allowing an efficient customer service.

In addition, Facebook’s ‘Page Insights’ tools allow marketing and communication analysis by showing you the interaction statistics (comments, wall posts, likes); posts, reviews and mentions and fan demographics, allowing you to specify the target customers. Then Facebook also helps your business drive sales with the option of paid targeted adverts, by letting you choose the type of people you wish to reach. They can view your advert in the mainstream of information along with the stories from friends and family. The Advert Manager app makes the process even easier.

Pakistani Success Stories on Facebook

There are several success stories of Pakistani businesses which have started and grown on Facebook.

Irfan Ahson, an established photographer has over 361k fan base and he owes his success to Facebook. In his own words:

I relied on a positive reputation and word of mouth to get projects at first. But being on Facebook is what has helped me establish myself and cement my place as a reliable photographer. Almost all my clients come from Facebook.

Apart from getting the opportunity to do a photo-shoot abroad, Ahson also gets requests from NGOs and other startups on Facebook to promote their work.

An online cupcake shop venture Mini Treats, which was initially a small scale venture for friends and family, made a Facebook page and managed to capture a permanent clientele with a 72k fan following. According to the owner:

90% of our audience comes through Facebook. We are not only able to efficiently navigate through orders but can also get feedback, identify our potential market and target the right audience.

OLX Pakistan, the buying and selling portal, has crossed the 2 million fans mark in Pakistan for its Facebook page.

The Drawbacks

While the entry barriers for Facebook businesses are very low, there are still come hindrances to it completing replacing websites. With the ease of making fake profiles and pages on the site, the businesses have to spend some time building credibility of the product/service quality.

Also, you will need to pay for promotional posts once your audience grows bored. While a dedicated website allows complete control of your brand, Facebook doesn’t. People can easily copy your information and make similar fake pages. And finally, Facebook has the authority to take your page down if enough complaints are launched: this won’t be very good for the business.

So should you make a Facebook page for your start up? Yes, it’s free brand exposure and a good way to communicate with clients. Is it enough? Probably not. You will need to couple your Facebook page with an external link to your website in order to have more credibility and influence. However, if you’re strapped for resources at the moment, it’s a great way to jump start things.

  • No, A formal online presence is necessary for a business. Facebook page can be a plus but not a replacement

  • With Facebook pages now gaining so much popularity, keeping a website is moot. Yes, if you are a business you should register your domain name, create a static page with company description and links to your social media page.

    I see lots of customers now using Facebook messages to communicate with a company. People now prefer to FB message/tweet rather than email, and usually its much faster than email.

  • Online business is obtaining a spike and being trendy in Pakistan. Undoubtedly facebook has played a vital role but with a few set backs on the other hand.

  • While trend of on-line shopping is growing in Pakistan and in the West, there is a big market to bring conventional brick and mortar stores on-line. Facebook can provide a quick online presence for such stores. And its free.

  • My wife runs a clothing store on facebook exclusively. Customers love that they can get instant feedback on their requirements and we love that our selling platform costs us zero. If you want to use seo, advanced analytics, customer tracking etc u need to get a website. If you have small scale, low volume business, getting and maintaining a website is a pain. Plus the response rate on facebook ads is much much higher than google ads, so it costs less for us to acquire new customers through Facebook.

  • AOA Ms Laraib, excellent article. I’m pretty sure that u must have gone through intensive research while writing this article about FB pages. Can u share the references and more data (if any) u’ve. I’ll be really obliged.
    [email protected]

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