Is it time to surrender to Facebook?

One of the most frequent questions that comes up in my classes is “With Facebook, do we still need a website?”

Certainly this is a valid issue. After all, in its quest for world domination, Facebook has effectively created an alternate universe, their own in-house Internet.

They have continued to add useful and effective technology that can replicate almost anything a website can do, including …

  • eCommerce
  • Powerful demographic information and analytics
  • Product sampling and local coupons
  • Mobile integration, text and email
  • Games, surveys and other interactive options

And then of course there is the fact that the world is there … or seemingly will be there. As marketers, we need to be where our customers are and that means Facebook.

In addition to this obvious fact, the data suggests that people are spending far more time on Facebook and less time on websites.

Up until now, my argument in favor of maintaining a website has been:

  • Why would you give up the only thing you OWN on the web?
  • I think it is a matter of when, not if, Facebook will have a privacy crisis that jeopardizes its viability. Why would you expose your company to that risk?
  • Highly secure transactions should be executed behind your own firewall. Social platforms should point back to your website where the business takes place.
  • Do you really want to trust your business to those guys in the Social Network movie?

I also remember a friend telling me last year about building a $50,000 eCommerce application for a customer that became obsolete the day before it was supposed to go live because Facebook changed the underlying technical requirements.

Another common argument I’ve heard is that companies need to hedge their bets. Surely there is a “next Facebook” coming down the line?  As I expressed in a post called Why Facebook is more important than your house, I don’t think that is something to be concerned about any time soon.

But over time, my arguments seem to be sounding more emotional than practical.  Maybe we should just accept the alternate universe and view websites as a back-up plan.

Why spend money building, promoting and optimizing a website nobody wants to visit?  Do we surrender?  What do you think?

All posts

  • Great questions. I also think that we should always keep our website ready in the back pocket, just in case. I also built a tab for the company I work for and 3 days after it went live, Facebook changed the dimensions and we had to pay to re-programmed it  (not fun !) The biggest thing is that we don’t have actual control on Facebook, we’re playing by their rule, and that can be dangerous if you go all-in with them. 

    But your question remains excellent, do you want control of your site and nobody that visits it or you want to be where the party is at?

  • Bill


  • aahhhrrgggg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Are you kidding me????  Your initial arguments are more valid than ever! Facebook is NOT the internet!  Any company that places it’s entire electronic future on a single site is like saying “the world only needs 5 computers” or “what’s good for GM is good for America” and other silly statements that suggest anything has absolute power. 

    A few years ago, the same thing was being said about advertising and Google.  Why would anyone want to spend their advertising $$ anywhere else.  IMHO if any company puts all of their eggs in this (or any) single basket, they’ll be giving up a lot more than just a website.

  • Great questions, Mark. And I agree with your arguments for keeping your website. I have a feeling Facebook will get too big for its own good and implode one day. You don’t want everything to go down in shambles with it.

    If you already have a website, don’t ditch it. However, I think this question comes into bigger play for the smaller businesses that don’t have one. For arguments sake, many solopreneurs may ONLY have a Facebook page because that’s all they can afford. Is that so bad? Take my sister for example. She’s started making baby blankets and other handmade items she’s selling online. She’s got a Facebook page and a page on Etsy. They are also connected. Would a website be a good thing? Sure. But for her tiny business and her non-existent budget, Facebook and Etsy work for her just fine.Personally, I wouldn’t surrender. I think a website that you own does a better job of selling your story and promoting your brand because you don’t have to live within the confines of Facebook. But I can see why some smaller businesses opt to not build a website in the first place. An interesting debate for sure!

  • My argument in the past has always been to have a website that you own because what are you going to do when Facebook goes the way of MySpace. Its a valid point but now I am not sure that Facebook will ever go in that direction.

    What concerns me is that it seems that the tech industry has ceded control of the social fabric that makes up the internet to Facebook. I caught some of the streaming feeds from Techcruch Disrupt this past week and it seemed like every startup built their system to work on top of or with Facebook. If I were trying to launch a company I would probably do the same but where are the competitors to Facebook? Google will try to make a run at them but I am not sure that they “get” social.

    Especially if you are a B2C business, keep your website but have those Facebook hooks. 

  • YIKES!! Mark, I agree with Steve, below! Your initial argument is a great one! In fact, I am just finishing up a guest blog on this very topic, scheduled for a June 9th release!  

    Don’t give in… you need your website more now then ever!

  • No surrender!

    Your argument for keeping a website is still as valid as when you wrote them, but then you already knew that didn’t you?

    Thanks for an enjoyable reminder of why independence is still desirable.

  • There’s still a ton of value in a company website. You’re right, the Facebook page should be just a way to engage your audience but ultimately bring them back to your home website. We’ve had a few applications go haywire because Facebook changed a rule last minute without giving anybody notice. You could go without a website if you don’t mind playing by somebody else’s rules. 

    I do think e-commerce could work on Facebook and provide a valuable customer experience. However, it’s all about execution. When JCPenney loaded their entire catalog onto a Facebook app, that wasn’t valuable. However, if you allow fans to shop on your page via a limited yet ever-changing assortment of products, it would work. That small assortment would pique your fan interest and make them want to go back to your own site to see even more (theoretically). I know that’s one methodolgy e-commerce platform ShopVisible promotes. 

  • Having the control and the independence of my website with Facebook as an introduction and lead into my work has been — and is — desirable and extremely workable for me! 

    Thank you Mark for asking this intriguing question to engage and share in this constantly changing issue…

  • Excellent post Mark. Of course no brand should put everything that they own on the web towards one property and that includes Facebook. The web ecosystem will continue to evolve, and companies should plan accordingly.  In addition, there are many B2B brands and financial brands where Facebook isn’t a viable alternative to a customer facing website, not to mention privacy concerns.  Lastly, the thing that concerns me with all of the social platforms out there is that brands are often losing their personality and not focusing enough on providing real value to their customers.

  • I think going without a website today is like shooting yourself in both kneecaps. For business to business, the numbers for social media, particularly Facebook, just aren’t there, and I doubt they will be very soon. Plus they get to play with the big kids in the sandbox like Google. Talk about competition 🙂

    Social media is a large universe. Yes, many people use social media, business customers are consumers too, and as marketers we need to be where our customers are. But, are your customers there? Sounds like some research is in order.

    Search is going nowhere for a long time.

    What we do see is that social media is being integrated into search. Blogs have already been searchable for many years, now it’s Twitter on Google and some Facebook content on Bing. But it still comes to search for many businesses.

    Having a presence online that you control, can optimize, and can engage with people on still wins the day. There’s just more ponds we need to spend time in nowadays.

  • Best. Answer. Ever. 😉

  • @twitter-19694465:disqus we can being the Facebook party to us though via integrations like Facebook comments and Facebook Connect. That way we keep our websites and plug into the “social scene” even more.

  • Mark,
    Great post!
    I think there’s one huge problem with dedicating your entire marketing efforts to one new media channel – it’s a terrible liability… anyone remember the days when MySpace was the media darling? Or when AOL and Altavista ruled the day – or go back even further to when Compuserve was the best way to get on the internet?

    The life cycle of any new media channel is extremely predictable… the internet won’t be going anywhere but the flavors of the day are fickle and fast moving.

    Make sure you own your most valuable asset – the content you create and diversify your channel participation. You’ll be successful no matter what.

    Thanks again!
    – Drew

  • This is a good example Laura, your sister with a small, online biz. Still think she could have her own site, as her biz develops. WordPress (.com) wouldn’t allow the e-tail, but she could still blog about the biz for free, have a home base. Domains and hosting can be bought for $60/year, there are plenty of quality WP free themes to do a self-hosted WP site. For an SMB it’s about the time and learning how to DIY, but then… there’s time learning the best ways to customize that FB page, ‘brand’ that Etsy store. Either option would, as Mark suggests, give her more control and really, help her FB page, provide content, etc. FWIW.

  • It would be foolish for brands to give up their website for a Facebook page. Consider that Facebook has some pretty strict requirements on what you can do with your page, how you interact with your audience, what information you capture and so on. Not the case with your own site.

    Why on earth would a company WANT to co-brand their content with Facebook when they don’t have to? Why pay Facebook to drive traffic to a Facebook page? If you drive them to your own website they have an opportunity to interact with ALL of your content, engage with you in different ways on different platforms and ultimately buy something from you.

    What happens if Facebook has extended downtime?
    What happens if Facebook users get bored and leave?
    What happens if Facebook changes it’s terms of service to something you don’t like?
    Who owns the content you place on Facebook, you or them?
    What about those consumers NOT on Facebook?
    What about other traffic sources like direct or Search Engine referrals? How are they going to find you?
    How are you going to email those fans?

    If you’ve given up your website for a Facebook only page, you’ve basically created a nightmare for yourself in the long run. 

  • “Maybe we should just accept the alternate universe and view websites as a back-up plan.”
    Seriously? First off, this defeated type post is not like you. Second, no matter what goes on with FB, your website is still the center of your social media universe. The site points to the social media platforms, and the platforms point back to the site. The website is the the initial plan, the starting point, not the back up.

  • Surrender is not an option. Fight to the bitter end!!

    I know more people (smart, educated, gainfully employed) not on FB than I do that are my FB friends. The privacy issues are a big part of it, they also already have enough contact with far flung friends and family, they don’t want the digital intrusions and many are like me, have no interest in mixing biz and personal to that extent. Plenty of consumers not interested (and I’ve had friends who’ve left) in being so ‘social.’

    I just wrote about how unique FB deals – per @drewhawkins:disqus  comment – caught my eye, got me to click… and go to the website, got me to spend money. Rare. Facebook and social media as a whole aren’t a panacea for marketing ills. Now the profile of those people ON Facebook, that’s what to consider. I think the latest stats say that 70% of FB is outside the US; mobile users are more active than non; I think more than half of US users are 18-34… and on and on. Look at that basket like @twitter-15056439:disqus  said before you decide if it’s the right place for some of your eggs. FWIW.

  • Speaking as a techie your friend’s experience with the $50k eCommerce app is the best reason for maintaining your own “business” site where transactions take place. Your friend was lucky that it got obsoleted before roll-out. What would have happened if it got obsoleted the next day, or after a week, or even a month? Your friend’s company/client would have looked bad and taken the hit, not Facebook.

    Facebook has a history of quietly changing things on their clients. That kind of unpredictability is not good for business processes. Yes, all those changes may have improved things for FB users, but for a business something that’s consistently bad is better than a new adventure every day. At least when it’s consistently bad you can work your way around it 90% of the time.

  • Facebook and all social media are very useful tools. That being said, why would you put all your eggs in that ever-changing basket? I wouldn’t trust Facebook with any secure transactions. Why would you want Facebook to own all your content? 

  • Wow that is quite a dose of reality. Thanks for passing that sobering comment along!

  • In another two years we will need to revisit this comment that Facebook is not the Internet. For many people it already is!

  • Agree with both of you … If that is possible. All good points! Great points.

  • I know this sounds counter-intuitive, maybe even heretical, but I think the social “layer” is complete and it is Facebook. It is taking over pics, videos, and soon music and movies. We mY not like it, but we’ll hAe to deal with it! Thanks.

  • That’s my instinct but @LauraClick has a valid point around small business below. Will be interesting to see how it evolves.

  • Well I have my thoughts but I don’t pretend to have all the answers! Thanks Louise!

  • This highlights the inherent risks. Add the high probability of privacy implosion and I think that’s the case for websites! Tanks Drew. Sorry I missed you this weekend!

  • Glad to hear this small business perspective. Very important view. Thank you!

  • Rick that is such an excellent point. Wen everybody sucks up to Facebook does anybody stand out? Drives back to content. Very good insight. thanks!

  • That search aspect is a very important nuance I missed entirely in the original post. Where were you when I needed you? 🙂 Excellent addition to the conversation Robert!

  • Joe Sabado

    Until facebook can integrate with enteprise apps like student information systems, electronic medical records, shadow system, … – the answer is no.

  • You know, I agree with you in all cases but I’m not so sure about Facebook. I recently asked a hi school kid if she would switch away from FB if I have her $5,000. She said no without batting an eye. Point is, the switching cost is enormous and that’s what most people miss. I don’t think there’s is going to be a next FB unless they totally screw up on the privacy thing, which is entirely possible/probable.

  • I’ve got a blog post in the queue about how draconian and oppressive FB really is. I mean if we looked into the future a few years ago and would predict that this how people would share and communicate — in such a limited way — we would think we were living in some communist state. Great comment, great thinking, great addition to the dialogue. Thanks!

  • Well of course this post was a bit provocative to stir dialogue (which it has) and I think there are some good points in the comment section about when FB makes sense. For the record, in my classes I teach that you need to have a website. FB scares me. Didn’t mean to get your blood going Brian! : )

  • Great wisdom here, Davina, as usual! Of course we need to view this from a rational marketing perspective … but there is also a lot of emotion in the comment section, too, isn’t there? it is certainly an emotional topic.

  • Colin this is an extremely important perspective and I thank you for taking the time to share it. I’m not a techie so I need people like you to come in and comment! Thank you!

  • I think that is where the battle will take place! Thanks Brad. Hope you’re settling into your new routine in Ohio!

  • Great blog, Mark, thanks for bringing a question to the fore that I suspect many are wondering about.

    From my perspective, putting a brand’s eggs into one proverbial basket, Facebook, is an erroneous business decision. Facebook’s limitations in terms of what you can (and can’t!) do with your page are certainly the first gating factor here. Dan Cristo, who posted earlier in this comment thread, hit a lot of nails on the head. Additionally, any marketer knows the best strategy is to hit all the touchpoints a consumer may see/visit. 

    A brand site provides an opportunity for deeper engagement with your audience on the brand’s own terms, not the terms of another entity. Privacy concerns can be better dealt with via a branded site. Sure… engage them initially on Facebook, but take them to your own site where you have all content available. Would you want to cede your content (and possibly its ownership) to Facebook? And, while it may not seem possible at this juncture, what happens when the next great social site comes along?  

  • I’m nothing if not passionate 🙂

  • Always a pleasure to engage and share with you and your {grow} community Mark ; )  Thank you for your support!

  • I think there will be fractures along each line of online engagement. For example, 40% of Americans on not on the Internet. That’s a fracture. There is a subset of people on the Internet who are not on social media. That’s another fracture. And what you’re articulating here is another type of wall. Thanks. Great comment Joe!

  • Well said!  So delighted to see you comment Star. Appreciate it!

  • What struck me the most is: Why Would You Give Up The ONLY Thing You Own On The Web. There’s much truth in that. A website is where businesses can have full control, flexibility over its contents AND it is all about you – no competitors popping up on your wall, sponsored ads on the sides, no distractions from games or chats. Facebook should only be an extension to the business and not THE business itself.
    Relying on Facebook alone is like giving away your keys to your business. One wrong move (say, violating the promotional guidelines) and your page is shut – losing all your contacts in a second. It is definitely not worth the risk.

  • Nope, not even close.

  • Hi Everyone,

    A friend of mine, at this very moment, is developing websites within facebook pages and going as far as ecommerce. The page/ site looks very slick, he’s doing a great job. However, I think there is also a website to go with it.

    Facebook is certainly massive and some people know how to use it better than googling. Maybe this is something to bear in mind.

    Personally, I still think it should be a springboard to a regular website… but an active, monitored FB page works great for fielding initial enquiries.

  • What does it cost to give up and let facebook be the “internet”?
    What will you gain? if you let them have you?
    What will you loose if you don’t join facebook?

    Seems like cable tv of the internet: you get what they give you for what they charge you, or you don’t get anything of much real value. Oh! all your content is now theirs too…

    I know you don’t buy the facebook thing. It is a good question to ask. After a post from Liz Strauss I made my decision.

  • No way I would trust my online marketing to ANY other site than my own.  That’s a recipe for disaster. 


  • Great content here Jan. Appreciate your passion on the topic.

  • I read that search on Facebook tripled in 12 months. Didn;t that used to be Google’s job?  And what about video sharing?  Wasn;t that YouTube?  They are creeping into every corner, including eCommerce so we’ll have to keep an eye on how this develops!

  • I’m slowly becoming convinced that Facebook can be a valuable enhancement to a company’s (or solo professional’s, or whatever) online presence—but:

    NEVER surrender what you own to someone else. I know, this probably sounds like a control freak talking, but let’s face it, if you don’t have complete control over what your business says and stands for on the internet, you’ll eventually find yourself losing the game.

    As far as I’m concerned, I see Facebook as one of your own content’s (your website’s) outposts. As long as it works, fine. If it suddenly stops working, you’ll still have your presence intact in your own sphere. The same goes for all other “not-in-my-control” apps: Twitter, LinkedIn, SlideShare, you name it.

    Sometimes, “emotional” equals “practical”. If they don’t want to visit your website now, that’s no problem if your content is available elsewhere. If the elsewhere ceases to exist, you may suddenly find the interest in your “official” website increasing exponentially. It’s just a matter of where the water cooler is located…

    As far as the non-existent budget is concerned—I believe it was Laura Click who said this—there are alternatives for every budget. I’m on a hosted server that costs me the equivalent of $5.42 a month, including just about anything you can hope for. Not a big investment, even if you have to take it out of your family’s food budget. Provided, of course, that you believe in your business.

  • You’re absolutely right, Davina. She definitely could benefit from her own site and there are ways to do it rather inexpensively. But for now, since it’s mainly a side hobby, what she’s doing is working just fine for her. Though, I’m sure I’ll twist her arm at some point. 🙂 

    You make a good point though – for SMBs, it’s just as much about the time and learning curve as it is about the money.

  • Yes emotions and personal preferences will bias our opinions; I’m not a huge FB user so that certainly enters into the equation… as does my like of Twitter and blogging. Still think that emotion needs to be tempered with with some strategic reason, find a balance. Then use that balance to make the FB page and website work together rather than compete. FWIW.

  • Absolutely not. What is the cost of maintaining a website really? It takes time. And monetarily it is very cheap. 

    Like you say, it is the one thing you own. You can control everything you do with it. With Facebook you give up control and have to play by their rules.

    And yes, it is a huge player (will probably be the biggest soon if not already) on the internet, but that doesn’t mean they are the ONLY way to go. 

    People used to claim that Google was the be all end all for website traffic. Well that’s not really entirely true. If you rank #1 on Google, then yes, your traffic will explode just from that one source. But there are so many other sources that if you combine them all you can do just fine without ranking #1 on Google.

    I think Facebook should be viewed as a tool for you business, not a platform for it. 

  • One of the best, and most rational, explanations I’ve seen!  Thanks!

  • The mind game is … what if Facebook becomes bigger than Google, even for search?  What if Facebook rewards people who invest in Facebook with higher rankings and other benefits? What if people spend most of their time on Facebook and ignore the rest of the Internet (many are already doing so).

    It could come to this.  Seriously.  We just need to be ratioanl about it and keep an eye on things.  Thanks, Eugene.

  • What if people spend most of their time on Facebook and ignore the rest of the Internet (many are already doing so).   This may be the future.

  • I do see what you’re saying. And as new generations come into the online world, and older generations leave, Facebook will only become more dominant I think. But I still don’t think that the rest of the online world automatically become irrelevant. 

    You can still use Facebook to generate traffic to your own websites where you can play by your own rules. 

    Much like Google. Google is a dominant force but you don’t automatically throw away your own blog because Google has a blogging platform in Blogger.

    There will always be a dominant force on the internet, that is no reason to neglect your own assets. Relying solely on Facebook is like renting space from a landlord. Owning your own site is like owning your own internet real estate. Sure, I might not be Donald Trump, but that doesn’t mean I should never invest in a house or two just because I will never get to his level :). 

  • No problem, I’m in and out of there a few times a year so there’s always next time!

  • THIS story needs to be told!!! Can’t wait to read it!!!!

  • Absolutely! There have been many ” Facebooks” over time and I believe there will be many more!

  • Hmm.. perfect opp then to go after the other 5 billion not on FB? I’m not on FB all the time, it doesn’t dominate my day or my searches (nod to @robertdempsey:disqus ) but I do know those numbers are growing. I also know that numbers of productive hours lost to SM networks is growing, many businesses are using those stats (as well as security) risks to block networks. Which brings me back to mobile, as technology is also greatly responsible for social growth. 

    As to the future, what happens when someone else does it better? If someone builds a better social trap and truly be a one-stop-shop, that can be all things to all people by giving users real controls that they can customize per their own uses.. something that does the personal/professional balance thing, ensures privacy, has efficiencies built in and gives you more than games and likes. IDK.. in this world, just b/c someone is on top of the mountain now, doesn’t mean someone else can’t come along, write that algorithm or invent that tech that changes everything and shoves them right off. Wild speculation, that’s what I got today.

  • A friend of mine is a Fashion Photographer in Germany. He told me last week that he’s very concerned about what’s happening on his Facebook page: People posting sexual remarks about the models in his photos, assistants getting inappropriately personal with clients or trying to hook up with models, pictures of wild parties the night before a shoot, and make-up people writing how horrible a specific production was.

    I think he’s correct in saying that every action on that page reflects on his brand. Depending on the industry you work in and the maturity of your audience, you can have a big problem. (Does anybody have thoughts on this? I haven’t really made peace with mine…)

    I suggested that his website is the place where he can introduce his brand, work, ethics, and vision uninterrupted. It’s where he can talk without putting everything up for immediate debate and commentary. It’s the quiet space, his point of reference. When people are in doubt about what he stands for, they can go back there and find out.

    I would never advise anyone to give up the brand’s website for that reason alone. Creative expression, flexibility, power over the logical structure and navigation, content integration and owning the space aside.

  • I can’t imagine a time when I would give up a website for Facebook. I control what happens on my site. I set the rules and regulations. 

    But I see no reason why I can’t work on some sort of integration between the two. FB might be the funnel I use to drive traffic back to my site. 

  • There will be users fractured along the way. Heck, there are still people who are active on MySpace. I think. : )

  • We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I think Facebook has it locked in. The switching costs are too high. This is different.

  • We are seeing a growing number of small businesses choosing  to use Facebook and have either ditched or not developed a traditional website.  The main reasons are familiarity with Facebook, site development ease and cost.

    But we’re seeing an even larger group choosing to focus their web presence efforts on Facebook.  They are keeping their traditional website (at least for now), but as a secondary site.

    So from our perspective the question is not either/or, the question is which form of web presence is going to get the most attention and resources from small business owners?  We think the answer is increasingly going to be Facebook. 

  • OK everyone.  A lot of people are saying don’t put your eggs in one basket. For the record, I think there may only be on basket.  Here is a post I wrote some time back explaining why the switching costs are so high for Facebook. I think it will help explain my views on this: 

    Why Facebook is more important than your house

  • You just described what FB is going to be. They are becoming the phone. They are becoming the bank. They are becoming the television. I’m serious. I don;t think they weill be shoved off. Read this for my reasons behind this: Why Facebook is more important than your house

  • This is a fantastic example. Everything communicates, doesn’t it … and this might be the number one reason to stay away from FB as a primary communication channel — lack of editorial control. I know the purists cringe at that, but it is one thing to have concerend customers airing grivances and another to have people posting porn on your site. Really great point Dagi!

  • I think that is a wise approach.

  • A dissenting opinion!!  I love it!  Thanks Steve.  Will be interesting to see if there is any backlash over time and customers return to websites as they grow larger.

    Thanks for bringing this feedback to the comment section.  Sounds like it’s already happening.

  • Mark:  A bit data on this comes from the Small Business Success Index (SBSI) done by the University of Maryland and Network Solutions (  According to their January wave,  9% of small businesses said they were eliminating (4%) or spending less (5%) on their traditional website due to social media.    This was up from 2% just 6 months earlier!     

    We first started seeing early signs of Facebook replacing traditional websites in the small business sector in 2009.  Since then a significant number of small businesses have started using Facebook for business  (27% of all smallbiz, according to the SBSI) and their numbers are growing rapidly.

    I really don’t consider myself a dissenting opinion relative to the other comments.  I don’t think businesses should get rid of their traditional websites either (at least not yet). 

    But the trend is clear, at least for small businesses.  They are moving to Facebook.  

  • This is a wonderful addition to the dialogue, Steve. Quite interesting. Something to keep an eye on!

  • Hmm… cost of switching, lifestyles, that is very valid but it’s just not for everyone. Not yet. Not everyone types and reads and blogs all day, for work or fun. Many people read emails, pay their bills, Google directions, send pics to grandma, laughs at YT and thus ends their 2 hours online. You mentioned the need for competition to drive the market, also valid. Still think FB needs to be better, stronger, faster, more life enhancing, making things more convenient and efficient to the point people can no longer justify NOT being on it .. much the same we may have resisted cell phones, cable, high speed internet at some points. Just thinking.

    I’ll get back on the FB train when they let me be social my way; a little control of my audiences like with Twitter. I can network on the biz side w/out spamming or boring the crap out of the personal side; let me gripe about horrible work days, bad clients w/ out the biz side seeing it; and let no one know how much I sometimes I play Farkle (though I now have that Angry birds crack on my sister’s iPad. EVIL.).

  • I don’t think it’s just about facebook doing something wrong or unjust to those trying to do business on facebook. I think there’s a lot to be said for brands using facebook as an extension of their website. In my line of work, I meet too many people who think that ‘social media’ means facebook. That is the real problem. There are ways for content (which by the way, for me, is the new currency) to exist outside the facebook platform. Facebook then, merely becomes a way of sharing that information. So, like you correctly point out in the post. You give them a reason to look beyond facebook and people will. It’s the same extended logic that has allowed Bing numbers to rise in spite of Google’s domination.

  • Apart from the very valid points in favour of maintaining your own website is the fact that just not everyone of your target customers is, or ever will be on Facebook. You might also see that as popularity of FB increases further, people will start turning away from it since it is becoming too big and generic so that it is just an Internet within an Internet… so I might as well just stay on the Internet.

  • Ursula

    It would be foolish for a company to not have their own
    Internet site.  Similarly it would be
    foolish to not have a Facebook page to help drive traffic to their Internet
    site.    Thus, it’s not one or the
    other.  They should coexist together
    along with other social media channels (Twitter, YouTube, etc.)

  • Great post Mark.  I often wonder what type of community I could build if I spent as much time on Facebook as I do on my blog.  Facebook is a really amazing platform because people go there to be social.

  • stefankrafft

    My guess is that you´re gonna use Facebook for one thing and “internet” as another. We are a social types as humans and Facebook is by far the most relevant place to hang out on if you want to  be social on the web. That´s for sure and in that perspective you can see the rest of the internet as content that will be filtered several times before it ends up in your feed, and when it does you can be sure of that it´s in some way relevant for you. Your feed becomes I life-stream and everything in it is “ok” from the people and brands that you trust in. That´s what Facebook is all about as I see it. 

    If you look on it that way the answer is clear, you need both and they need to interact. But people are doing different things on these two big “networks”. I realize it´s stupid to look upon the whole web except Facebook as a huge content filler to Facebook, but in some way you can see it like that. 
    I believe that filters and filtered information from the web is gonna be huge and therefore you´re gonna need different filters for different occasions, FB is the biggest filter today, but when it´s getting to big your´re gonna find other ways to make the whole internet look the way yo want it to. 

    Yepp .

  • David Fardon

    One thing to bear in mind is that Facebook has about 500 million users, yet there are 6.5 billion people on the planet. Can you afford to ignore the 6 billion people who aren’t on Facebook?

  • That is a superb point Rohan and I agree.  I was recently a guest lecturer at an advanced marketing class at a major university and the instructor said “Will you please tell them that not every marketing plan starts with Facebook!”

  • Interesting how so many businesses say they can’t afford a website. Isn’t having a website kind of critical mass for even being in most businesses these days?  Thanks Pete.

  • I kind of agree. I don’t think it necessarily HURTS a business to have a FB page, but I don’t think it should be a priority for many businesses, especially B2B.  I mean who wants to friend your ball bearing company?  As I said, probably doesn’t hurt but we need to manage expectations. Thanks, Ursula!

  • I admit that I am FB challenged. It is the least intellectually stimulating platform in my estimation.  Yes, there are conversations but generally about the dumbest things. Even the smart people I know seem to dumb it down on FB. But you can’t ignore it.

  • This is a very interesting perspective Stefan.  Another way I look at it is that Facebook is becoming a “layer” meaning for a lot of content, people have to go through FB first. It is becoming the primary receptacle for video, photos and other content.  There are profound implications for this, both in terms of FB’s power and the implications for marketers trying to reach people on FB.  Thanks for the excellent comment!

  • This is particularly relevant if your target market is outside the US where people may never be on FB.  Great point.  Still, Mark Z is aggressively trying to penetrate Japan and other countries so who knows where it will end up. It’s still growing fast!  Thanks so much for taking the time to comment David!

  • @jaybaer and I have formed an Angry Birds support group. You should apply for admission!

    All the improvements you are suggesting for FB — they are happening, and they are happening fast. They have mass and they have money. Quite a combination.  I’m not a big fan either but need to immerse myself to stay relevant I think. Too big, too important to ignore!

  • It’s like a real-life science fiction story.

  • I’ll start by apologizing if my comments sound extremely familiar as other comments (I saw the 82, and choose not to read them all)

    Mark this is a fascinating post, as I have been asked this question many times myself, and I feel I often answered in a similar fashion.

    “Yes, having your own space is extremely important.  It’s the difference between having a store in the worlds biggest mall, and having table in the worlds biggest mall…Your store is your own, the table on the other hand isn’t”

    But, like you suggested, is this now more “personal” than it is “factual”?

    Honestly, I feel there is, and will be a reason for people / businesses to still have their own space. One of which is the fact that you can’t control when Facebook changes something. If you like one style of layout, the fine people at Facebook my select that another layout is better overall (as a very base level example)

    However, more important than control is TRUST…Although this is only surface level trust, people still want to see a companies website before they purchase. 

    And an FYI about this whole “control thing” – Although as business owners we spend a great deal of time worrying about who controls what, we often neglect the point that this is just “perceived control,”  that has little effect on the purchasing habits of consumers.

  • Jon

    Thanks for the post, Mark. I love a good controversial topic that gets a lot of commenting and opinions. I apologize if my arguments have already been mentioned. I started reading the comments and after about the first 10 I couldn’t take it anymore.
    It is simple: Facebook should NOT replace your Website if you’re in the business of doing anything other than social networking. First of all, content is still king. If less than 10% of your followers return to your FB page after their initial interaction, your content is quickly lost amongst the thousands of other posts received on a daily basis. Secondly, FB is not a secured site. Whether you’re working in B2B or B2C security should be a major concern. There is also real value to owning customer information, your own proprietary information and of course, credit card information. Lastly, FB is JUST a social media tool. Although it has become the #1 tool on the internet it is still only a means of reaching people through a media source. Social media is a channel of communication, which implies that it is a connection between two things. In this case, it’s potential customers and your business. For example: Customer – Facebook – Your Business. Here’s another one: Customers – Television – Your Business. Need one more? Customer – Newspaper – Your Business. Yes! Even print media is still alive and connecting customers to businesses.
    Thanks again for the post and thank you Mr. Zuckerberg for creating a media source so strong that it has people second guessing the purpose of media.
    Jon Stodola

  • Ann M Augustine

    My question is, do you want to rent property or own property? I like to compare the Internet or more specifically, the World Wide Web to real estate. Renting space on Facebook is essentially giving up all ownership rights to the owner. Owning your own website gives you all rights, privileges, and integrity to drive your brand equity. 

    Business owners will surely benefit from the social exposure on Facebook and others, but will be limited within the confining Facebook real estate. The combination of your own website with many social media tools can’t be beat.

  • First let me say its great to see you here!  It’s been to long!

    I like the approach that we need to just deal with facts. I see a lot of emotion on this issue, even here in the comment section.  And despite what we may personally feel about FB, or Klout, or whatever the topic may be, we need to sift through that and deal with what is, not what we would wish for. I think that is the heart of what you’re saying here too. Thanks!

  • Jon, this is a tremendous comment and addition to the discussion. And I understand about not wanting to sift through all the comments. I have the same reaction when I come on to a blog and am faced with that much “ink!”

    I’m with you 100% on this but might take exception with the statement that FB is JUST a social network. I believe it is evolving — quickly — to be much more.  FB is becoming a primary source of entertainment, including music and video.  It is becoming email.  It is becoming a phone. It is becoming a bank.  I think we would be remiss in assessing our marketing strategies and potential by simply looking at what FB is NOW.  We’re at risk of missing out on a major shift in content consumption and commerce.

    Thanks for the extremely insghtful comment. Much appreciated!

  • I love that analogy Ann.  I intend to steal that and claim it as my own. : )  Thanks!

  • I think you’ve got it exactly right in thinking “value” first.  What if the customer would find the best value in an app?  Or in a touchscreen at an airport?  The great thing with all these channels is to micro target cheaper than what it used to cost macro-targeting (big ad spends).  In the micro-targeted universe, your website perfectly fills a niche for some percent of your stakeholders.  And so does Facebook.

  • I don’t think your social layer is complete until you shuffle off the mortal coil. Why?  Because part of identity building is the place in which you build it.  That’s why even if someone created the world’s best bar, there would be people next door at the world’s crummiest just because it’s different and every person wants to believe they’re special. 

    I just ran into a community where forums (forums???) are the way to go. Not blogs, Facebook or Twitter.  This group LIKES talking in a different place than everyone else.  That instinct won’t go away.  Not even if one happens to be a heretic 😉

  • It has been to long Mark…and I could throw a million reasons why (but they are all just excuses)

    You read my message extremely well. At the end of the day, we do allow the majority of our actions be dictated via emotions. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can cloud our judgment.

    Ideally, what a business should do is set-up a Facebook FP, and a Website with similar (if not the same) goals in mind. Evaluate over the course of 6 – 9  months,  and that will give a clearer rational of

    1) Thank God We Have A Website
    2) Nope don’t need it
    3) Hey, would you look at that, we need both (this is what I personal feel will win)

  • I’m a small biz, antiques.
    Two years ago we dipped in heavily into Ning social groups, ran biz website as social group. Worked well Ning changed rules…. we’re gone.
    In analyzing options,  going SM only or Website, we chose to remain with website for stability and control.   Chose WordPress as best platform.  Website became less “social”.
    At first, had FB hooks, connects, Twitter connects,Google logins, etc.   Noticed little actual usage… discontinued.  
    Our initital target was the “faithful 1000” (as per Seth’s blog posting).   After 1 year we’re up to 960 members+ and having a SELLabration at 1000 offering discount to first 1000 with closed registration for a week.
    My objective in bypassing FB as prime channel was to see if we could reach the 1000 without investing heavily into SM platforms.  Our twitter/FB/Google presence is minimal, in most cases just feeds out from website, or occasional comments.
    Site is up to 1000 visitors daily, 100K pages viewed monthly,   all without the SM support.
    Dare I say this is in SPITE of SM support? 

    I’m beginning to think so 🙂

    Yup building is slow… but with any small biz… slow building could mean longevity  too.
    At least we’re quite sure that FB will not gobble up our 6000 email customer list anytime soon 🙂

  • Hey, this is a very interesting question! My short answer is – it depends. 

    In more detail, I see communication, marketing or call it as you wish as composing music. You got a bunch of instruments that you can use to come up with a harmonious tune. The more instruments (website, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, email, etc.) you use, the harder it is to harmonize them, but if you’re about to compose a symphony, you’ll probably use most of them.

     I can see musicians that go for a simple, but catchy tune; something to make it to the Top 10 charts, for a month or two and after that, it’s OK if it’s forgotten. For this kind of “songs”, focusing 100% on Facebook might work for a short term campaign, but I don’t think they’ll become evergreens. 

    As you pointed out, Facebook is a tricky instrument, we got no control over how it’s tuned, and with time some “songs” won’t sound as great as before.

  • A man after my own heart. Certainly. The answer to all marketing questions is, “it depends!” Thanks!

  • Agreed, I can’t and don’t ignore.

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  • deb from p.s.bohemian

    i can not imagine ever feeling comfortable is having facebook be my only online avenue for connecting – facebook has its place and can be an awesome tool for building and maintaining relationships but the lack of control over changes and privacy concerns… well, i just do not want to put all my eggs in that basket!

  • Gregbohrer

    Never Surrender! Facebook is big and important but because it’s a closed universe it makes it difficult to generate “mass”. Companies must play but can’t consider it the only game. I see it as another arrow in our marketing quiver not a replacement for anything.

  • Draconian and oppressive are the right words! I look forward to reading that post.  I think it’s very dangerous to trust your brand and your business to Facebook. 

    Recently, a story came out about parents trying to sue Facebook. Their daughter had been brutally murdered. The EMS responder took a picture of the corpse with his cell phone and posted it to Facebook. Facebook refuses to remove the photos. I’m wondering why they’re fighting this. The family isn’t seeking financial retribution. They just want the photos removed and destroyed, but Facebook is fighting the lawsuit. Is the cost to defend the lawsuit less that what it would cost to figure out how to permanently delete the photo?  (Here’s a link to an article on this story:

    Is this who you want in control of your website?

  • Anonymous

    Great, timely piece. And I agree thoroughly. A couple comments-

    I don’t think anyone has discussed the reverse of this. Start-ups who don’t have the money to build a website can have a strong web presence with facebook. Because facebook has evolved into a highly adaptable resource for large and small businesses alike, it is entirely possible to effectively build a “web presence” and get the 1-2 punch of social stickiness. With customizable apps like those that involver provides, a facebook presence can be even better than what a company would get if they invested the same amount in a web site.

    Regarding my mention of involver, my company created a full ecommerce experience (minus secure checkout which occurs on our website) with our catalog of products. We did this in partnership with involver and thus, did not invest too much monetarily. I will say that socialized shopping isn’t attractive enough to facebook users to be a very profitable outlet, although it very well serves the purpose of introducing people to our brand. Our brand is in a big growth phase and has a long way to go before we saturate and are known to all. In that way, I’m glad we did it.

  • Mark,
    Fair point. Facebook may stick around, but it’s certainly changing and changing rapidly. A mass migration isn’t out of the question and even as users see the end of their Facebook Honeymoon period it’s possible they’ll see a huge slowdown in engagement and value of the property. This happens with almost all platforms at some point.

    That being said, it may continue to innovate and actually sustain it’s momentum and continue to be a great platform in which to engage.

    No one knows.

    Thanks again for the great post.

    I just posted something completely unrelated about CMO Churn… did you know the average CMO lasts 28 months?

  • Mark, a little late to this one, but I found this to be one of your most interesting posts. As a B-school guy, to me, one of the coolest things about you is that you studied with Drucker. I have only read him, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that fact when I read this post. I couldn’t help pondering that Drucker would applaud you asking the question but would reject pretty quickly the notion that any business should put most if not all of their entire economic well being in the hands of another business with differing economic interests. You knew the man, so I’ll let you tell me if I’m off base.

    You mentioned that there is a lot of emotion on this topic. I think that is because people have intertwined their lives so much with Facebook, have made it such a part of their daily existence, that they have begun to view it as a right or at least an entitlement. You can get rid of the emotion quickly if you see Facebook for what it is: an incredibly large company that will do whatever is in its economic self interest (which might not be what is in your economic self interest). I actually just put a great quote on Davina’s blog a few days ago (from Consumer Reports of all places), which I am repeating here because it cuts to the heart of the matter:

    “You are not Facebook’s customer. You are the product Facebook sells to it’s customers.”

    I think Facebook is a valuable outpost and once I get my Twitter Tao in full force, I am going to be working with it more. But I think it is very risky to treat it as anything more than one spoke in an online wheel with your own website as the hub.

  • Wayne

    I agree – nothing is ever complete; it just becomes obsolete when the next big thing comes along. And we must always remember that Facebook is in business to make money for Facebook (just like Google and everyone else), not you or me. Even Zynga will one day wish it played somewhere besides just Facebook. Of course, if you have already taken your billion bucks to the bank, it won’t really matter.

  • 1) Facebook posts are ephemeral.
    2) You get SEO with your own blog / website. People find  you who not would have.
    3) Not everyone is on Facebook.
    4) You don’t create an identity on Facebook.
    Those are the first reasons I thought of in 15 seconds. Just a short list. You probably knew all this though 😉 Isn’t your article a self-fulfilling answer?! 🙂

  • Jack W. Parks

    One reason to be leery of a idea like moving everything to Facebook would be AOL (back in the dialup days).  They were the “internet” for many people and had some great technology, but when innovation starts to lag they will become almost irrelevant. 

  • Mark, I agree that businesses need a Facebook presence, but not to the exclusion of their own websites and presence in other social network services. The reason is very simple–Facebook controls its platform and sets the rules. As you pointed out, it has demonstrated over the years that it’s very happy to change its rules overnight, often to the detriment of its users.

    You have complete control over your own website–how it looks, what services it provides and what content it contains. Facebook controls and constrains all of those elements. My argument is that if people aren’t visiting a company’s website, it’s because the company isn’t giving them any reason for them to visit.

  • Drucker always scolded us when we tried to “solve” case studies. Instead he said, the role of the wise leader and business observer is to ask the right QUESTIONS.

  • A very valid perspective. A few people have pointed out the value for small businesses. Thanks!

  • Well said Greg. Thanks for contributing your perspective!

  • Seems to be the majority view. Thanks for weighing in!

  • How about a bit of both? A corporate website and a cool interactive Facebook page. I think a great balance can be found in scaling down the corporate website and all the usual fluff content from say a 10 page to a 5 page website by getting rid of the useless clutter that visitors don’t care to read. Then use your Facebook page to engage the 700 Million members.

  • I”m a conversation starter, nothing more. And respectfully, each of your points might be invalid depending on the business. For example, it s true not every one is on Facebook, but perhaps all your customers are. As I said it depends. Thanks!

  • I think that is a very accurate analogy!

  • Thanks for adding your wisdom to the topic today Jack.

  • Guy Higgins

    Let’s see, we don’t like monopolies, but maybe we should just surrender to Facebook and wind up with another Microsoft — a big, blundering company with products that no one particularly likes but, by virtue of a 90% market share, we have to accept.  By surrendering to Facebook, we’re also setting up for ourselves up for a classic “collapse of diversity” crisis.  With a single vendor out there, bad guys (and there are a lot of them, including the famous Mr Murphy) have a single target.  No, make Facebook compete and let other go-getters have a chance at your business.  We like competition in sports, what’s wrong with it here?

  • Joelinpdx

    The simple fact is, Facebook doesn’t work…at least not for business promotion. Facebook users mainly want to chat and exchange pictures with people they barely knew in high school. You can make all of the noise you want about people believing what they hear from their “friends” over advertisements…but when the rubber meets the road, Internet uses don’t go to Facebook to be advertised to.

    Facebook is about fun, about playing on the Internet. When Internet users look for information about a business they go to Google or Bing or Yahoo. Think about it: When’s the last time you typed “Buy…” into the Facebook search box. That’s what I thought. But I bet you’ve typed “Buy…” into a Google search more than once.

    For all of the reasons of security and usability listed here… all of them…are good reasons to have your own website.But the most important reason to have your own website is this: Your own website works for doing business, Facebook doesn’t.

  • I agree–unless Facebook takes a sabbatical in their pursuit of continuously upgrading and adding features, they will likely maintain their position in the social world.  However, if they do take a break from upgrades, it might not be to long before another Facebook like site with more features to appear.

  • A very wise perspective I think Jeff.

  • As much as I would like to buy into your argument, rationally I do t think using Facebook or not using Facebook as an individual business owner will stop the monopoly. That’s like thinking that turning your car in for a bike will stop global warming. Unless you are ready to lead a cast anti-FB insurgency, which will fail because kids are addicted, we just have to deal with what is, not what we would wish for. FB is. We just have to figure out how to make the best of it from a business perspective. Thanks very much for your view.

  • I respectfully disagree.

    FB works extremely well for some businesses. If you are a beloved mega-brand like Coke you better be all over FB. Even for small businesses, there are some very compelling case studies. My friend Chandra Michaels has a global art brand and realizes 60% of her sales, and her highest profit margins from Facebook.

    So it absolutely does work … sometimes and we need to remain open-minded to the possibilities based on the business case.

    I hope you don’t mind that I disagreed with you and hope you’ll continue to comment here, as well as lodge any appropriate counter-challenge.

    And I do agree with you that people are sick of being “sold” but there are opportunities for businesses to engage and entertain while building a brand.

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  • Pros

    Who says no one is visiting websites anymore? Websites and search are still generating the lion’s share of activity and customers for my clients — even for those who are active on social media.

  • Mark, I was really surprised by this one. Your first assessment is still correct–what has changed? Nothing, except their behavior has gotten worse. Dan Cristo outlined the major points quite well, and lots of other very credible people have drawn the same conclusions in posts over the past six months. For a business to rely only on Facebook for its social/online presence is basically a decision to become their slave. You might as well hand over the keys to the office.

    I’ll be the first to admit that for consumer marketers, the Facebook question is one gnarly hairball of complexity. If I had to market beer or toothpaste for a living, I’d rather drive a cab. But for B2B companies, it’s a simpler equation. First, decide IF you need a Facebook presence, which is to say would a FB presence help you achieve an actual marketing GOAL? There are still many companies for whom it adds little or nothing, and it’s an individual, situational decision. Then if you do have one, you need to know what segments of your audience are on it AND want to engage with you there (vs. on it and DON’T want to engage with you there). And finally, you need to figure out how you’re going to engage with your audience who either is not on FB or uses it ONLY for personal stuff. For this last group, of course, Facebook is utterly USELESS, as it is for all its millions of members who are NOT in your target audience.

    Never has there been so much confusion and wrong-headed thinking about what is basically WASTE CIRCULATION than with Facebook. To apply this hysteria to an earlier era, it’s like thousands of people are telling the local painting contractors they’re doomed if they’re not buying 30-second spots on the CBS Evening News. It’s bogus.

  • I didn’t change my view … just threw it out there as my role of Chief Conversation Officer : )

    BTW, can you please cut and paste this int o the 6/15 post on Budweiser and FB? Very relevant to that discussion too!!!

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