Maintaining a company Website is a hassle. Wouldn't it be great if you could just chuck it and let somebody else do the work for you?
Is the corporate Website necessary? It's not a new question. Douglas Coupland asked it in his 2006 novel jPod: "Why do companies like Toblerone or Pepperidge Farm bother having Websites? As if people are going to say to themselves, 'Gee, I wish I knew more about Milano cookies. I know! I'll go to their site!' Just a thought."
Fast forward to 2012 and the question is even more relevant.
ReadWriteWeb's David Strom says brands can forget about their Websites -- mostly. You need a basic Website for customers who type your name into the browser bar. But you don't have to put much work into it.
The days of building community are happening outside of your own dot com. It used to be that you created brand awareness and a destination for your customers by having your own site. No longer. Now, there are plenty of others who will do it for you, and often they will do so without you having to pay them. Remember the phrase OPM? It used to mean other people's money. Today it means Other People's Marketing.
Strom describes how his wife builds her small interior design business by participating in forums on HGTV.com and Houzz.com.
It's also an issue for big brands, writes digital marketer Ciaran Norris at MarketingLand (whose article starts with that Coupland quote). Norris describes how he participated in a panel where the head of a local digital agency said he advised clients not to invest in Websites, but instead to concentrate on Facebook commerce and mobile. His reasoning? "Fish where the fish are."
But Facebook has its limitations. It's vast, and it's great at some things, but not so great at selling, which is why many retailers have closed or curtailed their Facebook stores, Norris writes.
A major problem with Facebook is that you don't own it. Facebook can -- and does -- change the rules of the game whenever it wants to. Facebook recently killed brand page templates as it shifted brand pages to the Timeline layout, giving brands no choice in the matter.
Also, social networks come and go. Four years ago, MySpace was huge, occupying 7 percent of all time online space in the US, Norris says. Now, not so much.
Replacing a corporate Website with Facebook is fine for small businesses, but it's not a good solution for big brands, writes Aaron Dun, VP of marketing and strategy for Percusson Software, which makes Website content management systems. "Most companies are not about to turn the keys to their brands over to someone else to manage in the social sphere. It’s just not going to happen."
Engagement on Facebook and other social networks and online communities needs to happen in addition to a Website, not in lieu of. "While you definitely want to have a highly dynamic site that creates opportunities for your customers and prospects to experience your brand, you also need to be actively involved in connecting with your community in the channels they frequent, around the topics that matter to them most," Dun says. Drive users back to your site to convert, or figure out how to convert them without visiting your site.
Having your own Website is particularly useful for business-to-business brands that can use it to host whitepapers, Webinars, and private, gated communities for business partners.
What do you think? Is the branded Website dead? Can brands just rely on Facebook and other online communities and social media for their Internet marketing?
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— Mitch Wagner , Editor in Chief, The CMO Site