Will social media replace the website?
With the rise and rise of social media as a means to engage with customers, the question “will social media replace the website?” is one I know is at the back of many a business mind. This is especially the case with those who think that just having a presence on the web is like owning a megaphone which, if they shout through loud enough, will capture the attention of their target audience.
I’ve had people tell me that they don’t need a website because they’ve got a Facebook page. Or, their “web developer” is building them a website on Facebook. Unless their target audience is confined to Facebook users this isn’t a very good idea; believe it or not there are a lot of people who aren’t on Facebook!
A website is far more than just an outmoded vehicle hanging around like a blimp hoping to catch the attention of anyone who happens to come across it in Search. With the widespread practice of establishing a blog within the site root, i.e. in the same place on the server as the website, the duo of blog and website can work together for the benefit of users and search engines. Blog and website can coexist, but have quite different “voices” with the blog being more conversational in tone whilst the website provides the place for business fact and call to action.
Thus the website is becoming less passive blimp and more active engager; with help from integrated social media sharing buttons working to spread the word. “Hello, come and see” on Twitter might provide the beckoning finger to a blog post with the tone of “this could be useful information for you” or “let me tell a story that will help you understand better why…”
It’s challenging to sell while not appearing to sell, but this is how business is being conducted more and more these days. Advocacy is fast replacing broadcasting as the means to build a customer base that’s buying into more than just the short-term. These days many of us want to read how a product or service was experienced by others.
As individuals we’re all used to reading reviews and comparisons when we’re looking for a new home appliance, or mobile phone. The same goes for people. When was the last time you checked out someones profile on LinkedIn? If you’re not on LinkedIn, wouldn’t you want to read testimonials about a provider of a service, professional or domestic?
Many businesses are finding it challenging to accept that the days of telling people something is good for them, will change their life, save them money, make them thin etc are well and truly numbered. “Self recommendation is no recommendation”. Advocacy is “where it’s at”.
So, where does the website fit into the scenario? I believe it works best when used as part of a 3 part plan.
Firstly, you need to create an audience using a mixture of social media channels. Say “hello”, interact with others on the channels and allow your personality to show through your tweets/posts/updates.
Secondly, use your blog to share your thoughts on topical subjects and demonstrate willingness to help through sharing of useful information. Build both engagement and credibility. Develop a place where people want to return for more, rather like a good coffee shop. Having said “hello”, it’s more about getting to know people a little better, much as you might do over a cup of coffee.
Thirdly, develop your website as a tool which will reinforce the messages you put out on social media channels and through your blog posts. It needs to be well organised, offer easy navigation to information about what you have to offer, together with that all important call to action on the home page.
Will social media replace the website? No. However, websites have evolved from being fairly passive on the web to actively engaging users through help from social media channels and a blog. Borrowing words from a famous song “the times they are a changing”.