Your commerce site should not just be social media

No matter how many people you think have Facebook, some potential customers don’t

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Photo credit: Greg Bulla/Unsplash

ntrepreneurs are increasingly making their official website their social media accounts. Click on Yelp, and notice some “professional” websites redirect to Facebook pages. For some business owners, this idea makes sense. After all, why pay monthly or annual renewal rates for official websites when social media accounts are free?

From a marketing standpoint, Facebook is one of those social media sites that one can assume everyone is on — with 1.6 million daily users worldwide and 2.4 million monthly users worldwide. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram have their respective social media audiences, too.

So why not go where the customers are? Here are six reasons it’s a bad idea to depend on social media as your company’s official website.

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You risk losing customers who are not on the social media platform. Reaching 189 million people in the United States is a massive amount of people, and that’s how many are daily users of Facebook alone. But there are almost 330 million people in the United States, which means business owners can miss out on a little under half the population who are not actively on your company’s FB account. (Worldwide that population number balloons up to more than 7.6 billion — far exceeding the 1.6 million mentioned above, give or take users who are under the age of 18 and cannot purchase e-commerce anyway.)

The messaging system is sketchy. The last thing a business owner should want to do is make contacting them a problem. A potential consumer who is not on a particular social media platform such as Facebook more than likely will not want to download Facebook Messenger just to contact your organization. While a business phone number can work its way around the communication process, unless your company has regular staff fielding calls, checking voicemails and responding in a timely manner, driving everyone from social media to a phone number (especially if it’s a mobile number) could result in just as many unreturned calls. With an official email address and “Contact Us” link, it’s much easier to respond in the order in which a company was contacted — as opposed to trying to juggle social media messages, text messages and social media comments. (Should your company want to do all of the above, save yourself the stress and hire a Social Media Manager.)

Company credibility is lacking without an official email address. There’s a reason some consumers will look up companies on the Better Business Bureau, Yelp and Google Reviews. Part of the reason is to see what other consumers are saying about the company. The other part is to make sure the company is legitimate. Without an official website, a (reasonably) professional email address and/or a company phone number, consumers can grow increasingly concerned that your company can just pack up and disappear. It doesn’t take much effort to delete a social media account — or create a new one when things go sour — now does it?

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Photo credit: Alexander Schimmeck/Unsplash

E-commerce security is questionable with social media. For older users (who usually have the money to purchase products), not knowing where their money ends up is a major deal-breaker. As convenient as mobile apps like Venmo and Google Wallet are to pay via social media platforms, there’s a reason why PayPal Business, Zelle and other traceable monetary outlets will probably never lose business. If consumers purchase something, they want to be able to track it.

Zelle alone has 837 financial partners working with them, easily making it one of the simplest payment systems for credit union and bank account holders. And unlike PayPal Business, there is no frustrating fee of 2.9 percent interest fee plus $0.30 to constantly calculate for each “Service” payment. Can you still use Zelle as a payment platform on a social media site? Yes. A consumer would just need an email address or phone number to send payment, too. But again, without an official website and specifically with a far-too-casual company email address, it’s too easy to be mistaken as a scammer. More often than not, domain-based email addresses come with official websites.

Advertisements and marketing promotional content can too often get buried. For consumers who are not regularly checking your social media account, announcements and temporary sale prices can too often get buried in their social media feed. In addition to official website homepage announcements, e-blasts and newsletters can usually fix this problem. If your audience doesn’t include more than 2,000 contacts or 10,000 monthly email sends, free platforms like MailChimp are fine, too. But then are you worried about consumers seeing your personal email address at the bottom of the newsletter? In an online world, especially with Twitter detectives who can find out where someone works faster than their real name, privacy is a wee bit lacking already. If this is a major concern of yours, consider a P.O. box or a coworking space to use for company mail.

You risk users feeling like they cannot return/exchange your product. Is your company a work-from-home office or mobile work environment? Maybe you don’t want to give out your private mailing address on an official website. This makes sense — sorta. But again, imagine how a consumer would feel to know that your company is asking for their personal billing and mailing address to send them a product but they cannot know any info about your company.

In a corporate retail world or the world of Corporate America, clearly this is a common and one-sided relationship. But guess what else happens in both of these worlds? Consumers can physically walk right up to a Customer Service desk to discuss any problems with products. Or, they can drop the product off at Service Centers and shipping stations. Or, they can reach out to an official website, which should already have a return/exchange policy (and Terms of Use). There is some traceable way for customers to understand how to reach out should your product not meet reasonable business standards. In addition to having an official email address and website, there should be a traceable mailing address to meet professional standards and to help consumers understand that your company has nothing to hide.

Are you still banking on using social media as your only company contact site? While the decision is yours, just know that you may be losing more money by doing less to make customers feel comfortable doing business with you.

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Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

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