There is little doubt left about online presence being an essential, if not the main tool of growing a business or a personal brand. At the same time, the battle between websites and social media is ongoing. Social media offers a safe refuge to the often impractical and impatient people of the arts: you can display your work with minimal effort, impulsively, with as much passion as goes into making it. But there’s a catch – a few, actually. While social media is a great tool for showcasing your work and having a direct dialogue with your audience, it shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for a full-scale online presence of a website. The two should complement each other, like a house you own to live in, and an office you rent to work. Here is what you should remember about the tricky world of social media.

1. Data ownership

Have you ever read small print on any of these emerging windows where you click “I accept”? Probably not. We hate to break it to you, but if you are using such platforms as Facebook or Instagram, your content is far from safe. Back in 2015 a photographer called Richard Prince made it all the way to New York’s Frieze Art Fair with what was literally screenshots of other people’s Instagram posts, and even sold a few of them. How? According to Instagram’s own Terms of Use, you own your photos and videos. But buried in Instagram’s privacy policy is an otherwise unnoticeable line: “Once you have shared User Content or made it public, that User Content may be re-shared by others”. Instagram basically says that it can sell your photos and grant permission on your behalf. Richard Prince didn’t think that far ahead, but there was a way for him to legally license the photos from the social network, if he wanted to.

2. Existence uncertainty

If the possibility of your recent artwork (or a selfie!) being used on milk cartons didn’t scare you, here is our next question. When was the last time you heard of Bebo, Friendster, Yahoo! Buzz and Vine? Once upon a time these were successful social platforms, but they are long gone, with all their content. It’s like building a house on land you don’t own – how can you ever be sure it won’t get demolished? As long as you are only on social media, your two most valuable assets, portfolio and established audience, are at a constant risk of vanishing with yet another big corporation.

3. Search results dominance

Due to the amount of sharing and activity on social media pages, they are good for web searches. However, websites have the upper hand in internet searches. A website will be higher in the search results than a social media page due to relevance. A website also has the opportunity to appear in related searches and climb up the search lists if the owner invests in SEO.

4. Web analytics

A website simply gets you better understanding of how your marketing efforts work. With tools like Google analytics and an emailing list, you can have a much deeper insight into your target audience. Likes and shares are often very hard to correlate with conversion rates, especially in the clutter of information that social platforms are.

5. Brand image control

On a social media platform, a business is at the mercy of that format, with limited tools to customize the customer experience on their page. Every aspect of a website is built to reflect the identity of the business, its brand, philosophy, products, logo. With social media, a brand must represent itself under the giant umbrella of whatever social media platform it is using.

6. Professionalism

A website simply makes an individual or a business look more professional. If you’re aiming to work with other brands to get sponsorship, you will need a website – for your potential sponsors to have one place of reference to get reliable information from, and for you to use as additional ad space. A website also lets you have a professional looking email address – on a very subconscious level it’s still something you are judged by.

 

CONCLUSION: In the age of globalization, having an online presence means having a separate space on the internet that anyone interested in an individual or a business can reach. Social media is a great marketing platform, but it is merely a tool. To put it simply, social media may be the mouth of a business, but the website is still the brain. Taking into consideration all of the above, plus the ever-changing social media policies, uncertainty around their existence and simple temporary failure, it seems worth to invest some time and money in a website. Go make yours now.