With so many social networking sites and so many people on those sites, you might think that forgoing your own website is a good idea.
Social networking sites are tools, while your website is a house. You wouldn’t trade your house for a box of tools.
Here are seven reasons why you need your own website, no matter your organization, project, or business.
1. Home base
The key advantage to having your own website is that everything can exist in one place — blogs, releases, content pages, social networking page links, about details, contact information, and much more. Users get a fuller picture of what you are and what you do by looking through that depth of content.
A home base provides you with complete control over the content that you post on that site. You control the narrative and the design. No social networking site affordances such as a certain blue or 280-character limits will restrict you.
Having an established, professional-looking, and regularly updated website garners more credibility that using a Facebook page as your front door, particularly with so much fake content on social networking sites.
Social networking sites increasingly are closing off their platforms. This does not mean that they are prohibiting users from registering, but they are requiring users to sign in in order to see content.
Facebook allows visibility of some content before requesting prompting users to sign in or register. Even if you dismiss the sign-in box, the box pops up again as you scroll down the page.
Similar behaviors happen with Instagram and Pinterest. Both allow some scrolling through content, but eventually both sites require sign-in before viewing further content.
Not everyone can register or sign in, and not every might have access to these sites because of local laws, internet access, or device options. YouTube, for example, has been blocked by countries such as China, Venezuela, Brazil, Finland, and Germany at different times.
A home base means your content is available to everyone at all times.
Social networking sites run based on user personalization and algorithms.
Users personalize their profiles on social networking sites through their stated interests, their connections, their interaction history. Location and search history also play roles.
Thus, the content you see on these sites ideally reflects the materials you want to see. These sites also affirm those interests through repeated showings of similar content or even repeat showings of the same content. If you pin one cute black cat picture on Pinterest, the site soon will show you many more black cat pictures.
Algorithms also determine the content users see and when they see it — if they see it at all. Virality, paid promotion, and filters affect how the algorithms function. Long gone are the days of reverse chronological order (which is also an algorithm).
Ultimately these practices create filter bubbles, wherein the content shown reflects the person’s viewpoints. Little new information gets through to these well-constructed bubbles. They limit your site’s discoverability.
Having your own home base won’t break through these filter bubbles, but your site still can be discoverable through online searches and social networking post links.
Whether your website is ad-free depends on your service provider. Wix, an easy-to-use website development service, includes ads in its free tier but removes them from its paid tiers. These sites also might restrict storage, video hosting, and other capabilities.
To remove many of the restrictions, opt for a hosting service (I recommend Dreamhost) and using whatever content management system — such as WordPress or Joomla — that you wish. Another option is coding the site yourself.
The point here is that self-hosting or other hosting options offer the chance of no advertising to detract from your content and your message. Since they are mostly marketing platforms and not discovery platforms, most social networking sites will always have advertising. And some of those sites, notably Facebook, might use your content to market to your friends and other connections on those sites. In some cases, these sites also may use your content in ways you don’t support.
Websites have come a long way since the days of hand coding HTML and CSS. You can build a beautiful website without even creating a line of code thanks to tools that offer drag-and-drop capabilities, extensive widgets, and other customizations. As you develop your content, such as blog posts and image montages, these tools ensure they are presented well to your audience.