A post-pandemic look at owning (virtual) space for businesses versus renting on social networks

Over 20 years ago, in 1997, the very first social media platform, SixDegrees.com, was launched. Most of us probably haven’t heard of it, and that’s not surprising since the platform only survived four years. Since then, there has been an increase in the number of social media platforms that have been launched: Friendster, MySpace, Foursquare, Classmates, Orkut, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest, WeChat, Vine, WhatsApp, Blogger , WordPress, LinkedIn, Youtube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, ClubHouse, the list goes on.

While many of these platforms still exist, some died slowly and some came to an abrupt end.

Take, for example, MySpace. From 2005 to 2008, Myspace was the world’s largest social networking site. In 2008, MySpace started losing its members to Facebook, and soon it was almost dead.

An image dated June 14, 2007 in NBC News. The accompanying story is about Obama using MySpace as part of his presidential campaign.

Remember the 6 second video sharing platform, Vine? It was acquired by Twitter in 2012 and in October 2016, Twitter decided to put Vine to rest. Vine’s many celebrities, who numbered thousands of fans and followers, had no choice but to come to terms with the fact that all of their hard work was wasted. Most recently, TikTok faced a brutal ban in India, a geographic area where it had amassed 200 million users. TikTok was one of 59 apps that the Indian government decided to ban, and overnight its users were left without an accessible profile.

The Indian government banned TikTok in June 2020, leaving 200 million TikTok users without an accessible profile.

While these platforms have seen an extreme eventuality, the others continue to undergo constant changes to monetize and / or improve user engagement. For example, when Snapchat stopped autoplay, marketers saw a drop in the number of views of their content. Facebook aggressively started removing music covers because they had yet to come up with their own versions of Content IDs like YouTube or a way to monetize them. And with a constant consolidation of platforms, like that of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp; end users and brands should adhere to new privacy policies and one-size-fits-all guidelines (not for everyone).

Such changes are evident across all platforms, but what does this mean for brands, including personal influencer brands? The end users of these platforms do not control their virtual presence; on the contrary, they are to a large extent at the mercy of these platforms. The evolving capacities of social media platforms impact the visibility of publications and reach and directly impact the livelihoods of those who depend on them.

The ups and downs of social media platforms are begging businesses to own a website. And the pandemic has only fueled multiple needs.

The need to own (and control) a virtual presence has been heightened by the pandemic. For companies that did not have an online presence, the bottlenecks put a big question mark on business continuity for entities around the world.

Weeks after the pandemic made its presence known, we could see domain sales increase. It soon became clear that logging in with your own website was no longer a good thing to have. It was now a crucial part of the business mix. In fact, 2020 was one of the strongest years in terms of sales for .Store domains and .Online domains; the two popular domain extensions among online sellers and small businesses. We saw .Store’s volume jump 48% in 2020 compared to 2019.

For small retailers, the biggest benefit of going online has been a huge 175% year-over-year online sales growth in the first weeks of April 2020 and over 425% year-over-year online sales growth in the 47th week of 2020, just before Black Friday.

Missed opportunities without a website

By completely neglecting websites, businesses are forced to constantly fight for attention on social media to stay relevant. Not only that, but they also spend a lot of time, money and energy beating the competition, building a loyal following and retaining them, all in the realm of social media platforms.

It’s no secret that the cost of marketing for an existing user is much less than the cost of trying to attract new customers. After all, loyal customers spend 67% more than new customers. The only way to build loyalty and engage with them one-on-one is to use a website that captures more than their social media ID.

It is not, however. Owning a website allows businesses to access intense customer behavior data through tracking tools like Google Analytics. This further fuels their business growth and strategic decisions.

The websites also offer the possibility of getting dedicated traffic through the search engines; building a bigger funnel of leads can far replace leads that can be attributed to social media. Those who sell online through a website will take advantage of SEO to generate much more demand for their business offering compared to their competition which is limited to social media. It is for this reason that the global SEO industry is expected to spend $ 46. 66 billion in 2020 at $ 50. 45 billion in 2021.

Follow the news of Google Shopping

Over the years, Google has tried to make itself more than a search engine for buyers. With the pandemic causing a shift in consumer behavior and e-commerce, the search giant has seized the momentum and opened up Google Shopping to a free product listing. In July 2020, Buy on Google also became commission-free.

In May 2021, Bill Ready, Google’s president of commerce and payments, announced its partnership with Shopify, which allows the platform’s 1.7 million merchants to showcase their products on Google Search, Shopping, image search and YouTube. At the beginning of June 2021, the integration of WooCommerce with Google Shopping was also live.

With the integrations mentioned above, online businesses can now showcase their products to buyers the same time they search for them on Google. This would not be possible if we only sold on Instagram or Facebook Marketplace. In a way, Google has reiterated the need for a website for online sellers.

According to an article on the Google blog, users buy from Google a billion times a day. While this is a staggering number, it is only expected to increase with Google’s focus on shopping functionality.

Image: shopping.google.com

So where does social media fit into the scheme of things?

Social media platforms are a boon to businesses when building social validation, maintaining online reputation, and promoting new campaigns and launches. Social media is a great extension of a company’s online personality and can do wonders for its overall virtual presence.

But companies cannot fully and solely rely on these platforms to build a lasting brand. For this, companies must create and own their website that they can control and grow with their business.

A version of this article originally appeared on YMS (www.yms.online)

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