No website

The menu of our local café enthusiastically gives the phone number, email and Facebook page on the front cover. No website.

Our local butchers had an event recently. “Photos are on our Facebook page.” Their website has become a neglected feature which basically serves to redirect the user to Facebook. Their world now happens in Facebook. All roads to that business lead inside.

A quick search elsewhere reveals this is not uncommon at all, and it’s hardly surprising. Facebook had undoubtedly made the barrier for publishing content much lower than ever before – connecting with customers is now a trivial task with instant feedback and gratification.

However, at the risk of sounding like an anti-social-network, Facebook bashing lunatic, I urge these businesses to consider two things. First, can people find the information they need if they don’t have a Facebook account? Second, if Facebook closes its doors or loses its appeal, how easy is it to pull all that content back out and place it somewhere else?

The first issue can be tested. Log out of Facebook and try visiting your own page. Can you see everything? Could a visitor contact you without needing an account? If not, you may be dissuading those customers who have no interest in signing up to Facebook – they’ll simply go elsewhere.

The second is rather more theoretical. Facebook is currently in good health and isn’t likely to be replaced any time soon. It does happen though – Google displaced Altavista. Netscape used to have the dominant browser. Myspace was a hugely popular website but is now largely a memory.

Business owners (like most people) will tend towards the easiest option. Facebook allows the humble user to become an instant publisher: photos, videos and messages are all easy to distribute; interaction with users becomes an incredibly straightforward task.

We could say Facebook has made publishing on the web easy – I think it’s rather more that the current alternatives are too weak, or that they don’t engage well enough with the customers. If we – the do-gooders genuinely believe that Facebook is an evil walled garden (do we, really?) then we ought to be working to lower the barriers for its competition rather than simply sounding the impending doom of all those who follow it.