Social Media: Are Facebook Pages Replacing Websites?

Is it time to pull the plug and say farewell to your company website? The magazine AdAge has published some very worrying numbers concerning consumer behaviour and traffic between brands’ Facebook pages and brands’ official websites. It seems like websites are losing out to Facebook pages.

Looking at the chart below, we can see that very big brands gather millions of “likes”. For example Starbucks and Coca Cola have more than 10 millions of fans.

On the other hand, the traffic of the Coke U.S. website has decreased 40% in one year. Same story with the Oreo brand, which is the number 3 brand page on Facebook, with 8.7 million “likes” growing at a rate of 71 000 new fans each a day. The U.S. traffic of their website NabiscoWorld.com has decreased from 1.2 million in July 2009 to 321 000 in July 2010. Starbucks and its 12.7 facebook fans bring stable traffic to their website, yet taking in account their big international growth, should not the traffic be increasing instead?

What comes to the consumer behaviour, numbers do not get better. According to a new research by digital consultancy Beyond, 23% of consumers prefer receiving information from brands via Facebook, instead of a brand’s website (21%) or company blog (3%). This movement is encouraged by marketers who do not doubt anymore promoting their Facebook page instead of the official site. For example in France, certain brands such as Orangina and Sony sign their TV commercial with a “facebook.com/nameofthepromotion”. Other brands such and Ben&Jerry have announced they will simply stop emailing, using in the future Facebook newsfeed instead.

While Facebook is becoming the biggest relationship marketing tool for brands, it seems like that instead of increasing traffic to the company website, Facebook is actually absorbing it. Marketers across the globe are wondering whether their brand websites will disappear  and if there will still be a need for an official website in five years. Will the users still visit the company websites or will they only use Facebook and apps to check the news and offers?

“So is it time to turn off the web site?” asks Beyond’s MD EMEA Nick Rappolt.

No. The dependence between Facebook and websites will increase, but especially from a global point of view – there really is life beyond Facebook. Only promoting a product in one social platform decreases the possibilities to reach all the potential audience out there. Most of the world is still not on Facebook and having seen the rise and fall of various hot, “world changing” platforms it would not be the most brilliant idea to kill the only secure place brand has in the Internet – the official webpage.

From SEO perspective, using only Facebook Page would drop  search engine results considerably, pushing brand lower in ranking and decreasing amount of quality leads.

It also should not be forgotten that a marketer is still the master of his own website, controlling its structure, organization, design, content, SEO, marketing operations, customer data etc., while Facebook Page is defined…well by Facebook. Do brands really want to become fully dependent on Facebook and its rules, allowing it to control, restrict and have their say on the content, design and campaigns? I do not think so.

To stop the trend, start using Facebook to drive traffic to the official website. Create a Facebook competition which requires finding clues around your website, announce you will publish the competition winners in your official website, tell your fans about a special offer they can download from the website etc. It is also possible to integrate e-mail marketing with social media, increasing brand’s own customer database.

Facebook is just another way to promote an official website. More importance you give the platform, less power you have over your own campaigns. Do not let tail wag the dog.

Pauliina Jamsa

I am Pauliina Jamsa, a digitally disruptive marketing rock star with International business experience hard to beat - I have lived in 5 countries and speak 7 languages. Based in London, I am currently working as Global Senior Online Marketing Manager at Siemens. Remember these are my own opinions only. Thank you for checking out my blog, feel free to get in touch! Twitter: @pauliinajamsa LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/pauliinajamsa

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24 Responses

  1. Hi Pauliina,
    Congrats for this great post. I agree with you that Facebook is just another channel and corporate sites should not be left behind. The best usage of both tools is to integrate them. As you highlighted, a Facebook competition can be a clever idea to make your Facebook fans go to the webpage as well. And we’ve witnessed such campaigns.
    In addition, I want to add that I discovered your blog today thanks to Vasif Abbas and I’m really impressed. You’re already included in my Google Reader :)

    Best wishes,
    Petya
    @pgeorgieva

  2. Bill Manfull says:

    Great Post! I believe this concept should not be surprising to anyone as it is no different than separating image and promotional advertising across traditional media. Website=image, Facebook=promotional. Would someone like, follow and share a brand if the brand stop using social channels for promotional purposes? I would like to see the Facebook stats for two similar brands – one without promotional content and the other aggressively promoting with offers, etc.. Is it Brand Love or Deals that drive social media usage?

    • Thank you both! Exactly, I don’t think official websites are “out”. Remember when everyone talked about Second Life – where is it now? Look at once-so-powerful MySpace, with its French office closing already few years ago and now even German office is shutting down. Right now Facebook is a powerful social platform, but it is more than possible that another strong platform arrives and replaces it. And then of course, if you are targeting Russia or Asia, Facebook is barely used.

      I must say, I think Facebook is more a loyalization tool than offers tool. Of course Facebook is great for promotions to get people on board, but it definitely should not only be used for hard selling. Besides promotions, people usually “like” the product/company because they really “like” it. That means that they do not mind few offers, but they did not join because of it. They joined to talk with the brand and other people who like the brand…or because the brand offers something extra like live concerts, special information, events, chance to publish their photo with a new car etc.

      Website usually concentrates on presenting the products and company, but social tools give brand a voice. But yes you are right – official website is the official image of the brand and should not be “killed”.

  3. Great post..Facebook is the platform that help to engage and drive traffic to official site.many people use facebook to promote their brand and generate lot of traffic to website.

  4. Alex Lund says:

    Great Read! The biggest issue for me is depending on Facebook solely. Facebook wakes up one day and decides to change the layout of your page and functions and your brand ends up wasting time and revenue on a page that will no longer be as successful on replacing your website. Additionally. search is one of the main methods for consumers to find products and services so relying solely on Facebook means your brand will not be displayed on the search results and will kill all your SEO.

    • pauliinajamsa says:

      Thanks Alex! Actually, it might not kill the SEO but only worsen the ranking of the company. Probably because of the previously questionable ranking of Facebook Pages in search engines, the platform itself has recently concentrated on offering new opportunities for Page owners to improve their Pages SEO – while creating benefit for Facebook as well of course.

      It is possible to even SEO optimise your Facebook Page and reach beyond the people your fans are connected to and show your Facebook Page to Facebook’s entire userbase. I’ve written 10 tips on how to increase the exposure through the search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Msn (see below).

      http://internationaldigitalmarketing.com/2011/01/26/social-media-seo-top-10-tips-to-optimize-your-facebook-page/

      What is worrying me though is that now when searching for different brands in search engines, the Facebook Pages appear already quite close to the official websites. For example, in Google UK Oreo FB page ranks 4th, Coca cola’s FB page ranks 9th, Skittles FB page ranks 6th and Red bull’s FB page is 6th. It could mean that FB page might win soon the official websites also in search engine rankings (which will of course reduce traffic to the official page even more).

  5. Laura says:

    It’s great to read a post where the truth is told. Yeah, we should all be on Facebook, because that’s the way it is now, and it’s great to be able to exploit it as an advertising channel.
    But the great lesson (and what I’ve always believed in) to take away is to never neglect your website, as that is your first and most important “business card” online.
    Everything that is “sorrounding” your website ( by this I mean blogs, social networks etc.) are helpful in building an image, but that can go to pieces if Facebook or whatever social network you’re on, decide to close business. What will you be left with then? No customers contacts nor prospective visitors: where will they find you if you don’t have a website?
    Thanks for the post, it was refreshing.

  6. Vlad says:

    Not so long ago I read this neat study that suggests that Facebook pages have much lower conversion rate than say Twitter. So another reason why you shouldn’t solely rely on Facebook is that it doesn’t drive you ROI much.
    Great post Pauliina!

  7. Brian Wagner says:

    All through the history of marketing and specifically direct response marketing, marketers found the need to and value in embracing new media channels and response channels– such as including toll free #s to postage paid reply mail for order placement, then fax #s in the early 90’s for faxing of orders then the start of web sites and e-mail promotions followed by banner ads and search (SEO/SEM) to support their web sites. Social media is just another of those tools (enormously powerful tool at that) which marketers will need to embrace harnessing the power of “word-of-mouth”-> Social Media to enhance the overall user experience and engagment with a brand. There will of course be more tools coming in the not so far distant furture. This is all great stuff and smart marketers will test test test to see what works for their brands. Don’t abandon a channel completely unless your target audience clearly doesn’t use; funny how fax machines still have a place and have survived the onslaught of email and web communications.

  8. This is a great article and raises some interesting points. From my perspective I would say the following:

    Often brands integrate pages from their website within a FB fan page and so the brand will still need to have their own domain in order to display the info within their FB page. I think as time rolls on companies will see FB as just another means of communicating with their customers. Having pages that are optimised to display in FB (e.g. having all the content no more than 512px wide) will become the norm in the same way that brands will optimise their site to display on mobile platforms.

    I agree fully that placing all your eggs in the FB basket would be foolish. The web is littered with sites that were once “the next big thing” and eventually something new will come along that will take its place.

    Having said that it does allow smaller companies an opportunity to develop a microsite within FB rather than having a full blown site. I always feel that this would be beneficial to small local businesses. They can advertise their facebook fan page in store and then have a method to contact their customers withoput their customers coming to them.

    The recent development of being able to contact fans via the their own walls could lead to a new form of spamming with businesses hitting lots of fans with constant promotional messages. Though this would likely lead to people removing the fan status from the page.

    All in all we live in interesting times and the next five years should prove pivotal in forging the future of the web in the way we consume content (tablets), the way we interact with sites (HTML5) and with the threat of net neutrality leading to two tiered users, those with high speed access and those with out.

    Mike

  9. isaac says:

    Great article. I think that facebook and website will keep working hand in hand and always benefit mutually.

  10. Great article! While Facebook does offer companies and brands an opportunity to increase their reach, the website will remain the central point of a digital marketing strategy for some time to come. While some brands may be cannibalizing web traffic for some brands, integrating Facebook plugins into a website, such as the Social plugin, can actually increase website traffic, stickiness and conversions. Proper integration is key.

    Thomas Harpointner, CEO
    AIS Media, Inc. | http://www.aismedia.com
    “Your Digital Engagement Agency”

  11. Jason Rosoff says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I think you hit the nail on the head when you stated ” Do brands really want to become fully dependent on Facebook and its rules, allowing it to control, restrict and have their say on the content, design and campaigns? I do not think so.”

    Facebook is a very powerful too now, but I can’t see any major corporation giving up that much control. Right now it is best used as another marketing tool, and with Social Media changing and moving so quickly, I doubt anyone wants to put all their eggs in one basket.

  12. francisca says:

    You can’t ignore Facebook or the evolution of the net. It has created a revolution

    • pauliinajamsa says:

      Thanks!
      Yes, ignoring Facebook and mr. Zuckerberg will not make them go away (unfortunately 😉 ), so it is better to take advantage of the platform while it lasts.

  13. Leah Boltz says:

    Very interesting to hear the actual research behind this claim. Anyone what the stats are for service-based businesses? As a marketer for a professional services business, I’d be interested to see how Facebook usage is evolving.

  14. Thank you for your post. I read Social Media: Are Facebook Pages Replacing Websites? and thought the following:

    Facebook can serve as a marketing tool. It must be understood that different people and companies use it for different reasons- and at different times.

    If a business is to grow efficiently, it needs to pay attention to Facebook, industry trends and social media trends.

    The most successful companies use a multi-channel approach when it comes to marketing. I do not think it’s a good idea to rely solely on one medium for information, analysis or research. From an analytical perspective I want verification that the numbers are in fact, correct.

    From an implementation and execution perspective I want to know that the analysis will be there- holistically for my company.

    Nice Post!

    Johann Lohrmann

  15. John Laity says:

    Great article.

    It is interesting to look at the type of brands that seem to do well on Facebook and those that don’t.

    Coke, Lynx, Starbucks…All have HUGE brand real estate…Lets face it, you can place a Coke logo on a trash can and it’s success at engaging with us would be inconsequential when measured by the brands engagement elsewhere…

    You don’t seem to see IBM or Ford shouting about it…perhaps it is just “me too” stuff for them

    What I am not sure I still do NOT understand is what success on Facebook really means…

    I have 63 facebook friends…In youth culture this means I am unpopular.

    Yet over my life I have engaged with each them as individuals in some form or another. At least 5 of them are my closest friends who would loan me a Kidney.

    With FIVE friends I could trust my life too am I unpopular? Of course not, It means I am very very popular.

    This is now something I now have to explain to my son: 2 good friends are better than 17 acquaintances…Sad but he genuinely doesn’t know. (Thanks Facebook)

    It is these false perceptions of success that makes me doubt social media outlets.

    If 50 million people say they like Starbucks, does it tell me anything more than footfall and store revenues? Possibly…

    Does a Facebook engagement really mean the consumer likes our coffee, our brand or just the free stuff competition that made them Facebook/Tweet my brand?

    I am actually not a sceptic.

    I do believe in introducing products and brands to communities like Facebook.

    BUT, here is the thing…Facebook is basically an unedited interactive magazine, built of random content. So can it really provide structured and ordered data and feedback?

    One thing sticks in my mind…

    I am now bored of pokes on facebook and actually only check tweets once or twice a week…

    In other words both Facebook and Twitter have both failed to hold my attention. So are they really worth such status amongst Marketeers?

    The truth is that we all probably just want to be able to cash in on a bit of the action or worse not “miss the bus”.

  16. Gaby Mata says:

    I think that the companies need to understand the really purpose of every channel in the digital platforms. I agree with Paulina that Facebook must be used as a loyalization tool, as a platform to allow your customers talk between each other, even with the brand representatives in an informal way. The website is the heart of the company in the digital space, where the company has the absolute control of the brand, so this space may be used wisely. So, as Paulina mentions in her article Facebook is a good way to invite your customers to your website, it’s your presentation card. Once again, integration is the key and not only with the website, also with the other channels that the company has. It is a multiplier effect.

  17. TJ says:

    Great Post with some interesting statistics. Facebook, like everyone is saying is a great trending platform that cannot be ignored. Companies can use it, but not be reliant on it, I have two many clients that are in the mind set that just because they have a FB page with some cool graphics they will see an increase in sales right away, thats where the integration conversation comes in and we hit home all the points everyone is bringing up in their responses. I love FB, but I love it more when a client embraces all the technologies out their and really invests the time, energy and man power to integrate their marketing campaigns together.

  18. Wendi Cooper says:

    Facebook is not your company’s website, nor should it ever be – its content can’t compare to that of an brand’s official site or any official site.

    The FB “likes” will get old, something else will come along and replace it. Just watch. Human nature is to get bored. Those likes are there for a reason…why click on them? What good is it doing you? It only serves the brand, FB and I believe search.

    On a different note, FB is getting into the coupon play offering discounts on “websites”, from what I understand, as opposed to local store fronts. The coupon thing will become saturated – and consumers/people will get sick of weeding out their 1,000’s of emails because they are receiving deals they could care less about – plus – the coupon play is you have to buy the coupon first to get a discount. Kind of like the gift card. Pay first – and then let’s hope 40% of the people never redeem the gift card! Or leave $3.00 on it forever.

    When was the last time you had to buy a coupon to get a discount? The last time you opted into a Groupon or Living Social deal…wasn’t it.

  19. Sheryl Woods says:

    Great article Pauliine, thanks for posting! This conclusion is dead on. Facebook is merely another communication platform, albeit a robust one, it should only be a part of the overall message delivery strategy. By it’s very nature, internet marketing is dynamic and ever evolving, true marketing success today is going to come through an integrated marketing strategy that leverages all available appropriate platforms to a brand’s overall marketing strategy and target demographic. Businesses must have an online home-base if you will and the corporate website is it – from there you create bridges to and from other media channels.

  20. Great article, and the movement continues. Simply look at job boards right now, and you’ll see one of the most pervasive roles posted – is social media marketing manager. Top execs in the U.S. want their brand to have a facebook page, and more fans than the competition. What will be key in the next round is not over emphasizing one location, but rather keeping your brand relevant with its most loyal fans wherever they choose to hangout (online). And, keeping your “official” website as the defacto truth about your brand and what it stands for…

  21. Ask yourself this question: would you set up an office in a bar just because everyone goes there? You might go, have informal meetings, start conversations. But where (both as a business and a consumer) do you want to do the serious stuff?

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