Should you have a Facebook page for your non-profit? Absolutely – as long as you know how to manage it properly, use it as an ongoing communication tool and know who the audience is that you are communicating with. It serves a very useful purpose.
But should you ONLY have a Facebook page instead of a more traditional website? My opinion is no.
Many people are on Facebook, see all its’ positive aspects, note that it’s ‘free’ and consequently argue the case that charities, smaller businesses and voluntary or community groups can manage with just a Facebook page to get online.
But I suggest that Facebook and a website are different things. Complimentary to each other, both useful (for different purposes), but not one to the exclusion of the other.
Some of my reasoning:
- Facebook is not under your control. It’s their tool, they structure it, manage it, design it and change it as they see fit. You don’t own or control your web presence via Facebook in the same way you can with your own website.
- You have no ‘brand’ control. Certainly you can adjust your profile, but it’s still a Facebook page mentioning you, rather than tying in with any other aspects of your organisational branding..
- Don’t forget that Facebook is not totally ‘free’ anyway. The tool is free (but so is WordPress for building a website). But you need to invest (potentially significant) amounts of staff or volunteer time in order to ‘feed the beast’ and keep the Facebook page alive and valuable to your visitors. If you’re using Facebook for that conversation then this is time you certainly need to invest. And, yes, building a website needs a different upfront and ongoing investment of time, but don’t get confused over the concept that Facebook is free.
- Facebook is a closed system. Not everyone is on Facebook. If your audience is there, then fine. And you can make sure your Facebook Page is public, but there are many people who won’t visit Facebook – you become invisible. Your website is open to all.
- In fact you might be totally invisible to many people. In public bodies and businesses large and small, Facebook (along with many other sites) may be blocked or hidden away behind that pesky firewall. Your website isn’t. So if you’re only on Facebook, you may well not exist (except until those employees get home or mobile away from that IT imposed firewall).
- Noise vs message. There’s a lot of noise and stuff going on in your visitors time lines. Is your message getting through to them at all or is it being swamped. Your website can keep that message clear, focused and as permanent as you want. Yes, you need to plan your messages well for your website, but at least it’s you controlling the message distribution, not Facebook.
- In Facebook you rely on your visitors continuing to be interested in you. Start slipping in your ‘news’ or your focus and they may lose interest in you. Very quickly your news disappears from their timeline and they start forgetting you… You still need to remain interesting on your website – keeping attention is not simple, but don’t make assumptions that your Facebook posting is being ‘seen’ either.
- Where in Facebook can you control your background information? Those downloadable documents, the forms you need visitors to complete, the information that promotes your organisation. On your website that’s easy – but where can you post it via Facebook.
- Search engine optimisation. Yes, Google might possibly find that information or content from your Facebook Page. But that’s highly ineffective and totally out of your control. Your website gives you the power over SEO (to some extent at least). It helps you get ‘found’.
- Reputation. Just like the mechanic with a faulty vehicle or the web designer with the ‘website under construction’. Just having a Facebook Page and no website ‘tells’ your audience something. What does your funder think of that? Do they think you’re more amateur and only interested in Social Media? Your Facebook Page better be pretty impressive to overcome that perception as to why you’ve chosen to not have a website.
I’m not saying building a website is easy or ‘better’. It’s simply that you must not ignore the issues and factors that surround that possible over assumption or over reliance on Facebook. Yes, use it – in fact embrace it if your audience is there and needs you to interact and communicate with them. But where’s the harm in complimenting it with a decent website? Think it through before you assume.