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The only platform business owners have real control over is a website
Management

There's no substitute for a website

11/09/2017
By Sue Cockburn
Social media plays an important role in an online marketing strategy but it’s a mistake for a practice owner to think it could replace a website. SUE COCKBURN discusses the reasons why websites are key.

With so much talk about social media it can be easy to question whether a website should be the hub of a business’ online presence. After all, Facebook announced in June that it had surpassed two billion users, therefore many people believe a Facebook page works just as well as a website.

The approach is misguided; having a strong business presence on a social media network such as Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram cannot, and should not, replace a website.

Building a business presence on one or more social media platforms is great; however, don’t assume that the presence developed there will remain the same for as long as a practice exists. The features offered by social media platforms can change in the blink of an eye (no pun intended) and as networks expand and evolve so too do the rules of the game – especially for healthcare professionals.

In fact, it’s quite possible that the social media site you’re using today may not even exist 5–10 years from now.

Rules are evolving

The reality is that businesses have no control over what the rules will be for using social media tomorrow, let alone a year from now.

"Social media should be treated as one spoke in the wheel of the overall online marketing strategy, with the website as the hub."

Small business owners who were early adopters of Facebook were initially delighted at being able to reach people in their news feed for free. These businesses worked hard to build a fan base for their pages, sometimes paying to increase the number of ‘likes’, but they had no idea that in 2012 Facebook would begin to limit how much of their shared content would actually make it into their fans’ news feed.

Today, it’s unlikely content will be seen in a news feed unless Facebook page owners pay for the privilege.

That said, Facebook and other social media networks can be worthwhile investments of time and money; however, they shouldn’t be the hub of an independent optometry practice’s online presence. Businesses don’t own these platforms and as such are at the mercy of the owner of that platform.

One spoke in the wheel

Social media done well can help strengthen an online ‘brand’ and promote traffic to the business website. It should be treated as one spoke in the wheel of the overall online marketing strategy, with the website as the hub. Social media should never be viewed as an isolated activity from everything else conducted to promote the practice or optical retailer – it’s a spoke in the wheel.

Consider this: if the business looks great on social networking sites such as Facebook but the website ‘sucks’ then that business and the first impression people have of it will suffer. Because the only platform business owners have any real control over is the website, then that should be the hub of a business’ online presence not a social media page.

Websites are the hub

Most people who want to learn about a practice’s services or products look to a website first.

"Whether healthcare practices or optical retailers are looking to build their first website or make improvements to an existing one, it needn’t cost a fortune."

This could be for a number of reasons: they may have seen the business somewhere; a friend or family member might have mentioned the name; the business could have appeared in a search result.

However, it’s what they do when they arrive on the website that determines whether or not they stay and dig deeper or whether they leave immediately. If potential customers discover the business on a social media network then the next logical step for them will be to visit the website to learn more.

Either way, it’s clear that people will search a website in addition to its social media platforms. It’s also important to note that, according to Google, most people will visit websites while on their mobile device so make sure the business website is mobile-friendly.

No need to spend a fortune

Whether healthcare practices or optical retailers are looking to build their first website or make improvements to an existing one, it needn’t cost a fortune.

It’s not about having all the bells and whistles, and in fact, sometimes these can actually harm the experience online visitors have rather than help it.

The crucial considerations are the quality of the images and content used along with the layout, design and functionality. Having a website is not enough; it must accurately represent the business and should aim to educate patients and potential customers about eyecare.

The cost involved in having a great branded business website is small compared to the advantages it will offer. Remember, a presence on social media can’t replace having a solid business website.



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