In recent years the need for social media has grown, and what was once something used to simply connect with friends and family, is now something that is seen as a fundamental part of many businesses.

Social media is now popularly used by brands to increase awareness, promote products and services, and create a personality around their business. 

Especially since the pandemic, many businesses have become reliant on using social media to sell themselves, and with the recent introduction of social commerce, the question circulates, is there any need for business websites anymore? 

People are now able to buy, find out information, and window shop through many brands’ social media accounts, so do websites have a future in this day and age?

The most recent roundtable, hosted by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and haysmacintyre, brings together a group of experts and entrepreneurs, who put their knowledge of social media, and brand representation to the test to discuss whether or not there is a future for websites in the day and age of social media. 

Chris Tipping, Founder of The DM Lab., started the conversation by discussing how websites are still a really important part of the customer journey, and how we could expect to see a shift in the way we distribute and digest social media content. “I think a paradigm shift will come in at some point and we might start to see more long-form social again, we’ve gone through this phase of quick rich media, and as generations change we start to understand media differently”, he went on to say “for me, websites still form a fundamental part of the multichannel process, websites are a massive attribution to conversions for us”

Adding to this Oli Hills, Founder of Tiktok Marketing Agency Nonsensical, talked about what customers are looking for these days when it comes to social media and websites. “You have to provide what your community wants in terms of how they connect with you, it’s important to be flexible and give your customer options”, he went on to say, “when it comes to the question of websites and social media, I think it’s dependent on the type of business it is”. “The likes of eCommerce where we see the rise in social shopping, where you’re making your transactions directly through TikTok or Instagram, reduces the need somewhat for a website”. However, he did agree that websites will always have a place. 

Peter Hovarth, Founder of SmartHireit, talent acquisition and recruitment agency, discussed how your approach can also be different when it comes to using different platforms, and compares B2B and B2C sales through social media, “Take LinkedIn for example, it is quite different to other platforms in terms of it being more professional, but you still have to put through the personality of a business and, keep reminding people of your website to gain attraction”.

Katherine George, Founder of digital marketing agency, Oh So Social, echoed Oli’s previous point by adding, “It’s about making your website smarter, and understanding that when people come to your website from different ways and different social channels, they are all going to interact and respond in different ways”, she added, “there’s always going to be the element that some people aren’t on social media, so you can’t overlook the importance of the website in your sales funnel”.

Rin Hamburgh, Founder of copywriting agency Rin Hamburgh & Co, added to this point by talking about a purchase she had made online. Though she originally came across the product through social media, when telling others about the product, she automatically directed them straight to the website. “Social is really great for getting people’s attention, especially for quick purchase e-commerce products, but it needs to work in partnership with a great website, especially when that’s where people are making their final purchase decision.”

Going on to discuss some of the things people may be getting wrong when using social media, Rudy Heywood, Founder of Famous Wolf, social media marketing and advertising agency, says, “Social is meant to be social. It’s meant to be a place where people can communicate with friends and family and post content on what they’re up to in their day-to-day lives, not to be sold to. I think businesses now try and sell too soon through social media”, he went on to say that businesses should look into building their own communities online, as it creates a far more authentic consumer experience. 

Brianna Harvey of Digital Flamingo, agreed by adding, “We need to be giving value on social media that leads to brand loyalty. I don’t believe that social media should be your only presence. It should be something that helps but doesn’t control your presence. Your website is your own real estate.”

“Social media is all-important. The website is important. It’s part of the life cycle of the customer, how they find you in the first place, or they build that relationship when they buy from you, when they buy from you again, how they recommend you and how they find you a second time. The important thing is the lifecycle of the customer. You need to look at every part of the journey and make sure they all work and that they all work together”, said Hannah Martin, Founder of Talented Ladies Club.

To conclude the conversation, all parties agreed that the ultimate factor in success for your businesses, whether it be on social media or through your website, is that your customer’s needs are of most importance. There will always be people who need your product or service that won’t be on social media, so the space for websites is still very much here. Although the way websites are used may change, and how often they’re used may even decrease, they will always still be a key factor in a successful customer journey. 

Natasha Frangos, Head of Corporate at haysmacintyre said, “The key learnings I took away are that the success of social media for a business is dependent on the sector and brands, and businesses shouldn’t be in “sell mode” when they create a campaign as that turns customers/consumers off and should instead focus on building connections/creating interest. There was consensus that websites are still really important as this is where customers turn to learn about the story of the brand, browse products, deepen knowledge and use to share with others or return for repeat business.”