Today someone said something which still has me reeling hours later: "Facebook will eventually replace websites." Was this person the first to ever have said it? Surely not. But it was the first time I've ever heard an actual person say it, and I'm telling you, it freaked me out that someone could honestly believe something so crazy to be true. I was taken aback at the time and didn't respond; now that I've had a few hours for it to sink in, let me say here what I should have said then: THAT IS THE WORST IDEA EVER.
Facebook may have 500 million users and be raking in the dollars, but lets be perfectly clear: while Facebook can certainly be useful as an outpost to your company's website, it could not and should not ever replace it. Thinking Facebook could take the place of a company's website is like saying your car is so great soon you can just live in it and get rid of your house. You might have a really, really nice car (now, notice I didn't say RV; that might be do-able) but it's a car, not a house.
How do you know I'm not just saying this because I hate Facebook? After all, I make no bones about my love/hate relationship with Facebook...so maybe I'm just biased and getting rid of your website in favor of a Facebook Page is, in actuality, a great idea. To prove that's not the case, here are five reasons why Facebook can't replace your organization's website:
- Facebook Pages have very limited functionality. Facebook Pages are Facebook's answer to business "websites" within Facebook. While they are customizable to some extent, they consist of a few basic elements: the "Wall" onto which you and, if you opt to allow it, your "likers," can post comments or share links, photos or videos; the "Info" tab, which allows you to add a very limited amount of content and only into pre-determined categories; and "Notes" which allows you to post longer pieces of content which you can format with a very rudimentary text editor. Say you want to post a link to a product in your online store, with several images. Sorry--when you post a link on Facebook, you can only attach one image. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Facebook is good for driving traffic to the place where your content is hosted; it is not the place to host the content.
- You have very little control over how your information is displayed on Facebook. You can add additional tabs to your Facebook Page, including custom-created ones; however, you are at Facebook's mercy about the way they're displayed, the format they support, the way each tab or application appears on the Page's navigation...well, actually you're just at Facebook's mercy entirely. And Facebook changes their mind and their policies and the look of their site constantly. You need to be able to control the experience your users have on your website and you absolutely can't do that on Facebook.
- Facebook looks out for themselves and doesn't care about businesses. Facebook's revenue model is largely comprised of two things: selling ads and selling users' information. It isn't about supporting businesses, other than those who are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook ads, and even then, the support goes as far as doing "favors" for those businesses, such as making sure their pages show up higher in Facebook search results or consolidating community pages. Your Facebook page just disappeared? The custom tab you paid a lot of money to have created not displaying properly? Good luck with that because Facebook doesn't offer support. Facebook doesn't exist to help your business succeed on the web; they exist to make THEIR business succeed on the web.
- Facebook's analytics are very limited. How do you determine whether or not your website is a success anyway? Numbers. Tracking how many people visited the site, how many visited each section of the site, how they found the site to begin with, what they bought while they were there, etc. Facebook's Insights is their answer to analytics, and it is weak, at best. You can add Google Analytics to your Facebook Page; however, it's kind of useless now that Facebook removed "Boxes" because you can no longer track Wall traffic. Oh, and you also can't track traffic to any other tabs. So, basically, there's no point in adding Google Analytics.
- Facebook may be popular today but it's still FACEBOOK. Facebook may be one of the top destinations on the Internet today, but will that always be the case? Remember back in the day when probably every house in the US had at least one of those AOL floppy disks? Remember those AOL millionaires? Where are they now? Just as surely as there was a dot com bubble...which ultimately burst....Facebook will not always be as hugely popular as it is today. And despite its huge popularity, don't forget that there are tons of businesses that still block Facebook and tons of people who would sooner cut off their hands then sign up for an account on Facebook. Is that really where you want your business to live?
- Trying to coax users into adding their location to their profiles
- Allowing developers to access users phone numbers and home addresses
- Adding "increased security measures"...which include you providing yet more personal information. For them to sell.