How many friends do you have? Okay, next question: how many would you recognize if you ran into them at the grocery store? Social networking websites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter have not only added new words to our vocabulary, but they have made it easy to collect other individuals, bands, organizations, and even companies. These pages of lists can link you to endless other profiles, raising your quantity of network connections.
When it comes to your business though, is the quality of interactions strong enough on these sites? If you have a well-styled page, and you are gaining easy exposure, why bother paying for a private website? While a great MySpace profile never hurts, there are several reasons to invest in your own professional website, even if you are a one-person institution. Settling for a social networking site as your sole Internet presence severely limits you in several ways:
Limited design options-- Sure you can 'pimp' your page with any number of wallpaper patterns, but none of them convey any real design or personality. On the other hand, custom graphics and truly representative art work stand out in a client's mind. While a picture is worth 1,000 words, you need to ask yourself what those words are saying.
Forgettable-- Because social networking sites are meant to generate numbers, many of your contacts will have hundreds, if not thousands, of friends or groups. Your superior business is relegated to just another tiny picture on one of many pages. It is the equivalent of hoping someone notices your business card, when he is carrying around 500 others in his wallet.
Their commercials; not yours-- If your crucial information is going to be surrounded by advertisements, don't you at least want them to promote your goods or services? When sponsors foot the bill for a website, they determine what to advertise, how much space to take, and where they will place the ads.
Hosting/security issues-- Do you know your favorite social networking website's credentials when it comes to hosting? Likewise, how secure is posted information? Trusting a third party to manage your networking safely can be scary. After all, it's one thing to lose downloaded photos of your vacation. It is another matter entirely to lose pertinent information related to your business.
Unprofessional image-- Finally, no matter how well you present yourself in text and photos, you simply will not be taken as seriously on a social networking website as you will with your own website. Think about it. You send out a notice about a promotion you are holding, and it appears as a comment between one person's report on what he had for lunch, and another person's link to YouTube footage of exploding pop cans. Instead, make the investment that will reap professional and financial rewards for your business.
Websites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter can be great sources of reconnecting with lost friends, meeting new people, or just having fun online. They serve these purposes far better than actual networking (despite their claims), and there is nothing wrong with that. When you want to take your business to the next level, however, consider the difference your own domain could mean. Chances are, the 'friends' you attract will notice you more.