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It’s all about the social they say. Yet, whilst social is key in SEO and just modern business interactions it is vital you remember the basics and have those in place first.

More and more small businesses are turning to Facebook as the host for the bulk if not all of their content but while there is merit in spreading your message via the world’s largest social network – 1.15 billion active users per month is not to be sniffed at – limiting your output to just those users is very short sighted. Here’s why:

Not everybody is on Facebook

I know it may be difficult to believe if your daily routine is one of likes, tracking timelines and posting photographs, but a large percentage of your potential audience certainly don’t use Facebook as much or as intuitively as you, and a big number won’t be on there or will refuse to use the network. Can you really afford to ignore that potential custom?

You are giving your best content to Facebook

The analogy of feudal farming is often used for the relationship that Facebook has with its users. Ever read those terms and conditions of use? Facebook acquire rights in everything posted on their systems. It’s a self-fulfilling circle too: The more content you give them for free the more valuable Facebook becomes. So you do the work, they get the benefit through exposure, SEO and the advertising they can sell on the back of it. The phrase share-cropping has been used both to describe the phenomena in terms of farming and now also online content.

Facebook has all the control

Just like those medieval farming landlords, Facebook holds all the cards too. It’s actually very easy to violate Facebook’s terms and conditions, which means if they want to they can kick you off as no notice. With no access to that customer base you built up, no access to all of your content and no way of letting people know, your business dies in an instant. It needn’t be kicking you off either. Facebook – like other networks – are regularly tweaking their terms and conditions to eek a little bit more. What if Facebook decided to suddenly start charing a fee for you posting all that content. Yes there would probably be uproar and bad PR for the social network giant, but it might not stop them and where would that leave you?

Facebook doesn’t know who you are

So whilst the Facebook content model is akin to the landlord and tenant relationship in the real world, it’s different because despite all the personalisation, big data and targeting, Facebook as your landlord doesn’t really know you. It knows what you have done, but it can’t understand the social impact of other factors that regularly impinge on business. It’s not fair to really say it doesn’t care, but in reality what you do on a day to day basis as an individual has little or no relevance to their larger business model. It’s not like you can have a quiet pint or coffee with them if you are in a bit of a tight hole, there isn’t that flexibility in the relationship you have.

Facebook may not be around for ever

Of course, with that sort of usership it is difficult to consider such a fall from grace, but what about MySpace? What about Nokia in the mobile world and possibly now Blackberry too. Things do change and if you have put all your eggs in a single basket, you could risk losing them all or at least ending up with some damaged goods that leaves you behind the competition.

You need to spread the risk and stay in control

Nobody is saying ignore Facebook or social. Each and every channel could be relevant to your marketing mix and helping spread and build your business, but it needs to be a mix and you need to have a section of that that you truly control. So make sure that even if your focus is social, that your customers have a hub website to come back to. To find you, whatever the weather. Something reliable that can even be just a single page that is a signpost to everything else you are doing elsewhere. With 123-reg that could even be a free InstantSite starter package that comes packaged with your domain purchase, or shared web hosting for less than the cost of a decent meal out for two.

Yes, Facebook is free but as with everything free, there are certain restrictions and even more potential restrictions which actually offer a threat to your business success. It’s not fair to say that it’s only Facebook who offer this threat either. Google is in another power-seat and shows its ability to stay in control every few months with a new search algorithm that we all jump and change our strategy for. There’s eBay too. Many small businesses begin as back-bedroom start-up selling via the online auction system, but again far too many rely to heavily on it – often as its only sales channel. EBay could realistically push its prices up overnight and hundreds of thousands of small businesses would be powerless to do anything but absorb the costs or push them on to their customers.

By investing a little into your own website presence away from just social you can proactively protect your business, build some assets and give your credibility a boost to any potential new customers.

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