“Everybody’s on Facebook. I can just run my online campaign through my Facebook Page.”

We’ve heard that idea before. But as online strategies go, it’s not a good one.

Social media is important for political campaigns in creating an online presence and building support. However, a social networking profile is not a substitute for a real home on the web. Social media does not provide the features that a campaign website provides. For example, websites convert better for important tasks such as email signups and accepting online donations.

If that’s not enough, here are a few other reasons why Facebook alone should not be hub of your online campaign:

Not everyone is on Facebook

Believe it or not, there are people who do not use Facebook, and there are others who refuse to use Facebook due to privacy concerns. If you operate your campaign entirely within Facebook, then you are placing your campaign behind a wall. If someone comes to your page and wants to interact, they will need a Facebook account to do so. If it’s a potential donor you turned away, that can cost you money. If it’s a potential supporter, that could cost you a vote.

Facebook is a ‘pay to play’ platform

These days, a regular post may only reach 2-3% of your followers. Because of the Facebook post algorithm, most of your fans won’t see any of your posts  after they ‘Like’ your page. If your campaign page has a 1000 fans, perhaps 30 of them will see your update. That is, unless you pay to promote your post. In that case, your update will reach many more people. Of course, if you want to reach more people the next time you post, you will need to pay again … and again … and again.

For many campaigns, this can eat up a lot of advertising dollars. For those with limited budgets, it’s best to promote only important news, specific fundraising posts, and get-out-the-vote reminders before Election Day.

If you want to keep large numbers of people up to date on campaign news, maintaining an email list or SMS (texting) program can provide a much greater reach at a lower cost.

You don’t control the platform

Your Facebook page ultimately operates under the terms and conditions of Facebook.  If the rules on Facebook change, you’ll have no choice but to accept those changes. If someone reports your page, post or even your advertising for ‘bad behavior’, valid or not, there is little you can do if Facebook takes action. You don’t own your space on Facebook. What Facebook gives, Facebook can take away if it decides that you have broken its terms of service.

Here’s another thing – Facebook runs ads alongside your Page. If your opponent targets the right people, you could have your opponent’s ads showing up on your Page!

Knowing that, do you really want to base your online campaign on a platform that you do not control?

Now don’t take all this the wrong way. Facebook is a great tool for politicians and campaigns to gather new supporters and reach target audiences. By having both a website and a Facebook Page, both can show up in search rankings. Filling the search results with listings that you largely control is a smart strategy for online reputation management. Integrating social media into your website and posting items from your site to social media is the best approach to online campaigning.

But relying on a single social network profile for exposure is dangerous.

In the end, you should have control over your medium and your message. That starts with having your own domain name and campaign website.