Facebook is Huge, but Not SMBs’ Only Choice

Facebook's latest earnings -- more than $2 billion in the second quarter -- show that it's a dominant player in online advertising. The size and scale of Facebook make the channel a natural destination for advertisers of all sizes and, indeed, Facebook is actively courting SMBs who may not already advertise online.

It’s great that online advertising is getting easier for SMBs. But SMB owners should know that Facebook isn't the only way to reach consumers and it shouldn't be where 100 percent of SMBs’ marketing budgets go.

SMBs don’t need to abandon social marketing, but they do need to balance their approach and use the open web ecosystem to reach consumers. Websites, landing pages, programmatic display advertising and mobile display ads are among the best tools SMBs can use to acquire new customers, raise awareness with existing customers and drive conversions.

Great websites can still separate SMBs from their competitors, whether those are small local businesses or Fortune 500 companies. Websites serve as their brands’ homes on the internet, operating as both welcome mats to new customers and familiar storefronts to loyal, returning patrons.

All of the other components of an open web strategy should tie back, in some way, to SMBs’ websites. Programmatic advertising, on both the desktop and mobile, leverages data and behavioral signals to identify consumers who are likely to have an interest in brands and serve them ads. If these consumers are interested in offers or brand messages, they need places to go for more information. Even if they don’t click the ads they see initially and instead do searches later, the most likely end destinations are the SMBs’ websites.

SMBs can also adapt their sites to fit seasonal offers and ad messages by building customized landing pages for consumers who arrive after clicking ads. Websites absolutely must be mobile-friendly now as well, especially as consumers continue to rely on mobile for purchase research.

Facebook advocates might say that the social network offers all of these services. While that’s true, SMB brands have to surrender some independence. Using Pages forces brands to conform to Facebook’s rules and conventions. On their websites, brands can be themselves, showcasing creative and messaging that set them apart from others. And while the platform’s self-serve products make it appealing to business owners who want an easy, do-it-yourself (DIY) way to advertising online, not every SMB has time to go the DIY route.

All of the components that go into an open-web strategy may sound like a great deal more work for SMB owners when compared to DIY social media advertising tools, but the work doesn’t have to fall on SMBs’ shoulders. There are partners out there who can provide all of these services to small businesses at once, building websites and advertising plans that all tie together, with the same creative and messaging across all media.

Really, that’s what SMBs want – one-stop shops where they can explain their objectives and then have partners take care of the creative, ad planning and website development. Companies that are already serving these businesses, such as local media companies, telco operators, office supply retailers and others, should think about adding all of these services so that they can better help their SMB customers compete online.