Marketing through social media is all the rage. And you know websites are important to business. But should you be tackling both for your business? If so, how do you do it so it makes sense? Read below for some tips on how to make both, or one, work for you.
Social Media and Websites
If you already have a website, social media should be part of your integrated marketing plan to help drive traffic to your website. If you’re only on social media, you should strongly consider creating a website to further your online marketing efforts.
Think of your website as the center of your online presence, the place where your customers go to get the full picture of your business’ identity and everything you have to offer. All other marketing — social media, advertising, email, etc. — should be driving customers to your website to engage, learn and hopefully buy.
If you’re confused as to what to do on social media versus your website, remember they should work to complement each other. It’s okay for your social media page to have some of the same content as your website. Integrate social media where it makes sense on your website to make the most effective use of your time and communications to customers.
Here are some tips:
- Before deciding which social media sites to integrate into your website, check them out to make sure this is where you will reach your customers. Most businesses start with a Facebook or Twitter account as they have the largest and broadest audiences.
- If you use social media for quick or weekly updates to your customers, try to also showcase or integrate those posts or feeds directly on your website to make it easier for customers to find and follow you.
- Blogs are an effective way to engage with customers on your website by sharing information and getting their feedback on offers, products and services. They also provide a great source of content to share from your social media accounts to gain more exposure to new customers.
- Strategically add social media icons on your website pages that link to your social media pages to help make it easier for people to connect with you. Most social media platforms provide step-by-step instructions on how to do this. For e-commerce businesses, integrate share buttons so your customers can share their purchases with their friends and followers. You can even sell directly from some social media platforms, like Facebook.
Social Media Without a Website
The most effective way to do business online is to have a website and social media presence that work together to spread your message and foster relationships with the broadest customer audience. But sometimes that isn’t realistic for a small business right off the bat. In that case, some small businesses getting online for the first time use a social media platform as a temporary stand-in for a website.
To still have a business Web address you can market, register a domain name  and have it point to your social media page  until you build a website. Seventy percent of consumers are more likely to visit a business’ Facebook page if they can get to it directly by typing in a Web address.1 This practice also makes it less likely that customers will come across your competitors if they have to search online to find your business.
There are lots of social media sites, so avoid trying to conquer them all at once. Simply start where your customers are, and focus on one or two. Remember to try to reserve accounts, or claim your branded profiles, on all sites you plan to leverage to avoid confusion, even if you don’t intend to start using them right away.
If you do engage on more than one social media site, try a management tool like Hootsuite to help save time when updating all of your social media messages and accounts.
Building a Website
Social media is meant to be a marketing tool, and many experts agree every small business needs a website. Given the ease of building a website these days, it’s possible for you to build a high-quality website to showcase your business, and to establish your brand in a form you can control. Seventy-seven percent of small businesses say websites are the most effective online marketing tool for creating awareness and strengthening customer relationships, more than any other online marketing tool.2
If cost is a concern, there are many free or low-cost website builders  that make it easy to create a website yourself. These tools are created for the non-technical user with easy-to-use templates so you can simply point-and-click your way to a professional-looking website. Costs for these range from $0 to $35/month and usually include customer support. Popular website builder tools include Moonfruit, Wix and Weebly, and many registrars who sell domain names also have affordable packages.
If time or management is a concern for you, having someone build your website doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. Just be realistic about your needs; start small and scale your website as your needs grow. Either way, this Building a Website Checklist  will help you focus in on all the critical steps for a successful website.
1. 2013 US Verisign Online Survey
Social Media Logos  Photo via Shutterstock