We all know Facebook is huge -- more than 800 million active users huge, in fact. Social activity is seeping into many facets of today's business, but it remains to be seen if Facebook's dynamic pages have the power to impact (or even replace) the role of traditional business websites.
Businesses have and will continue to turn to Facebook for online marketing, but is it a good idea to leave the traditional dot-com website behind?
In large enterprises, it may be an easy question to answer. Most websites at bigger companies are a complex beast where integration between back-end databases and systemsÂoften proprietary or legacyÂand your website is crucial. Here, Facebook alone clearly just doesn't cut it.
Where Facebook can potentially work as a stand-alone Web presence is with the small businesses and entrepreneurs of the world.
A study of small businesses and social media by Network Solutions showed that small businesses that use social media were rather optimistic about seeing a pay-off with social activity. In its "State of Small Business Report," Network Solutions report that nine percent of small businesses plan to eliminate their traditional website due to social media.
Granted, nine percent is not a staggering number, but when you consider that the United States alone is home to more than 27 million small businesses, it's apparent that some do see value in using Facebook as a primary Web presence.
Why Facebook is an alternative to traditional websites
As with most free online services-such Gmail or WordPress-Facebook is attractive to small business owners because it's quick, easy and free. Since coding and HTML skills are not required, you can create a decent Facebook Page for your business in minutes without needing IT staff or tech support to get it done.
Proponents of Web marketing and commerce services like would like you to believe that all small businesses need a website, but in truth not all do. Take a local family-run landscaping business, for example. Having a website isn't likely to bring herds of new customers, so this kind of business could use Facebook to build a local online community of fans and use important demographic information.
According to Facebook, there is really no "typical" small business on the social networking site. In an email with CIO.com, a Facebook said, "We've seen all types of small businesses use Facebook, such as restaurants, coffee shops, retail stores, online cosmetics retailers, sports equipment and music stores."
So, for some small businesses using Facebook instead of building a website makes sense: It's an easy way to make your phone number and address available to Internet users and reach out to customers. Being free, it is especially attractive to cash-strapped businesses that need an online presence.
Why Facebook can't replace most websites
Diane Buzzeo, CEO and founder of Ability Commerce, an ecommerce software provider, says she thinks that Facebook and websites will continue to merge, but she doesn't believe that social media will ever replace ecommerce and search engines.
Right now, ecommerce on Facebook (or F-commerce if you like buzzwords) is a lightweight offering that doesn't provide a true ecommerce experience for the customer.