You cannot build your house on rented land and be upset when the land owner increases your rent astronomically. The same applies to social media. You cannot build your brand on social media, land you don't own, and be upset when the land owner—aka Silicon Valley folks—make you pay to live there. Well, technically you can be upset, but it won't help your bottom line or the success of your business.
There is a debate between business owners, digital strategists, and influencers about the importance of a website vs. social only content/strategy. While most agree that a mix is necessary, much like the ratio of peanut butter to chocolate in a peanut butter cup, the balance of these digital spaces doesn't satisfy all palettes universally. Just so we're clear, I prefer mine dark chocolate with about 80:20 peanut butter to chocolate.
Why Social Media Isn't Enough to Build Your Brand
For brands, a website allows you to own some portion of your customer base and traffic while also allowing you to build authority in your industry with very little say from a gatekeeper like Facebook or Twitter. Anyone who says "social only" is the way to go, thank you, next.
After owning a brand and working with countless brands over the past decade, plus a shift towards a pay to play model on social networks, I lean towards investing more in your website (and SEO) while also keeping a healthy dose of social media. But social cannot be the be all, end all. Realistically, your social should feed from the content you're creating and investing in for your website.
Tips on What to Invest in for Digital Brand Building
Your Website Is Your Home: Invest in Content + Platforms You Own.
For many brands, visibility is essential to growth. You want more interested users entering your doors, so investing in a homebase—your website—is essential to staying in touch.
Think of your online store like the show Cheers: You want to go where everybody knows your name. The more you tailor a message (or drink) to Norm, the more loyal Norm is to your business.
Now imagine if Cheers had a bouncer, and even though Norm is on line (or in this case, online), the bouncer changes from day to day. He never greets your customers with familiarity, and half the time, he turns away 50% of the clientele for no reason. Social networks are the bouncer, and while you may be the ones paying them, they work for themselves, not you. Remember, if you never greet Norm, and instead, let social media do your bidding, it is sometimes impossible for Norm to enter, and now you have no way to connect with him again and again.
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And they're always glad you came. Make sure your customers know you're always glad they came to your website.
Organic Traffic Is Free. Social Media Is Not.
If you searched "Why Social Media Isn't Enough," you probably found this post. My only cost was my labor, one single time. Just like the trees, this baby is evergreen. I do nothing to it (except update the pages as new information is available and/or social networks change), and it lives and grows. Now, if I put this post on Facebook, it has a short shelf life, and it only reaches 5.6% of my total followers (click here for more on the decline of organic reach and how to calculate your own organic reach) for a very limited amount of time—less than a week—unless I continue to pay Facebook.
If you're a business owner with a properly SEOd website, a single post, like this one, can cost $0 over time vs. paying $$/daily over time using Social Media.
This is especially important for businesses on a shoestring budget: invest in your own content and website because social media isn't enough to build your brand.
Own Your Followers: Email Marketing.
Social media is saturated with people and brands trying to sell you something. While you might wonder if email is overly saturated as well, remember that it's YOUR list that you've built. Unlike an audience Facebook has built for you, these are already your people. For this reason alone, Email marketing has an average of a $44 return for each dollar invested. It is a great way to move potential customers and current customers further down the pipeline on your website towards a conversion. To get the greatest return, you need a converting website and a way to capture email. Yes, social media can be part of this formula. You need a balance between the three to get a high ROI.
Social Media = Little Control Over Your Narrative.
Remember when you thought the internet was a free place (both in terms of $$ and speech)? Guess what, it's 100% not. Every day, comments, posts, and people are removed from social media. While you may think you have the ability to control the narrative of your posts, with one swift click from Silicon Valley, poof, you're gone, and so is the control over your narrative.
Remember the YouTube Ad scandal wherein YouTube had some ads running alongside jihadist and neo-Nazi content? Again, another reason you need to have more control over your narrative, where it's seen, and where it's placed. You cannot do this without investing in your own content and taking your foot of the social media gas when you feel like going full throttle.
A blog post alone won't increase traffic by large volumes. Realistically, most businesses hope to see a 10% increase in sales year over year. Jumpstarting that increase via paid search on social media or Google AdWords will allow you to take a chunk out of the market share, but you have to do it wisely. You have to own both your house and your land.