Recently I was asked during a video chat if I felt that my company website was an important part of the Ember promotional strategy, and where it fits in with our social media strategy. My answer was a sort of shoot-from-the-hip response but an honest one and also something that made me reflect on that response long after the broadcast. Long enough that I am now sitting here days later and blogging about it.
The answer I gave was that my website has become more of a contact portal than a promotional tool. In the past, your website was the first place people went to find out about you and your business. If I was interested in Coke in 2005 I went to coca-cola.com. And when I say “interested” I mean that I was curious about the brand, the culture, the latest news, products, etc., beyond just wanting a can of soda. Today, if I’m looking for that kind of content I am more likely to first go to twitter.com/cocacola or facebook.com/CocaCola or maybe instagram.com/CocaCola.
This trend isn’t unique to big brands. I regularly advise people to go to instagram.com/emberstudio to see the most up-to-date work samples coming out of this studio. I post to Instagram regularly, sometimes daily when there are lots of new and interesting projects in the works. And as far as people finding Ember on their own, most of our new leads and contacts come through places other than emberstudio.com. Instagram and Dribbble are by far the most productive lead tool today for Ember. We receive frequent requests for information and estimates, and our last 3 new active clients came to Ember through Dribbble.
I just went on to a new client meeting yesterday, the same day that this new client found me on Dribbble and also the same day that my most successful Dribbble “shot” (Dribbdble-speak for “post”) to date was uploaded.
The “Right Now” Effect
None of that is a coincidence. This all happens because of the shift in how people use the web and how we seek out brands and businesses we are interested in. And, more importantly, what information we are seeking drives which avenues we go down to connect with a brand. Going back to the Coke example, if I just need to know their mailing address or how to reach customer support, I might go directly to their website. And even in that case, I would still be tempted to seek out support or an answer to a question on Twitter as well. But if I want to know more about what is going on right now at Coca-Cola, what new products are out now, what events they are going to be at or where they are today, this very minute, nothing is better than social media for that information.
Likewise, for my business, yours, and most others, social media is rapidly replacing our websites as the primary means of contact (especially initial contact) by which our audiences connect with us. More than ever, the value of our social media efforts is increasing while the value and usefulness of our websites is decreasing.
Websites Matter. Just Less.
Websites are still critical components of any marketing strategy. While some folks have talked about social media replacing the traditional website for years now, we’re not there yet and probably never will be. I really don’t believe that websites will ever become completely devoid of value in favor of an online presence that is exclusively social and done through third-party products like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
However the scales of value and usefulness may continue to tip in favor of social media, and the need to make your brand available and active through social platforms will become increasingly important. This isn’t a bad thing, either. I welcome the shift in value away from my website and towards social media. Social tools are built to be easy to use and fast to post to, so being able to lean towards social platforms more than my own website actually saves me time. I can get more information, new work samples, and updates posted to Instagram and Twitter faster and more frequently than I can do the same on my own site. And my website isn’t built for that kind of daily content creation, nor are most business websites. Social media tools are built for exactly that. The whole idea of social media is to be able to quickly and easily share information with a large audience, and interact with that audience.
I still regularly hear from businesses who say that they are not on social media and some have no desire or intention to change that. Some are completely opposed to the idea of testing the social waters at all. I say that businesses who shun all forms of social media do so at their own peril. Like it or not, we are in the age of social media and not just for posting vacation photos on our facebook pages. Those who embrace the power and potential of using social platforms as a first point of contact for new and existing clients/customers will benefit greatly as these platforms gain more traction every day. This isn’t a guess at the future of web marketing. This is how things are right now, this very minute.