There is much talk of how websites are moving away from being brochure sites, designed to communicate at the target audience, towards them being web applications for engaging with the audience. This is the natural logic which follows on from the interactive power of web 2.0, but perhaps the pendulum has swung too far.
Throughout the years companies have needed marketing collateral to position their brand to their best advantage, this includes brochureware, presentation folders, inserts, boilerplates on press releases, the website etc. and there is no reason why this should no longer be the case. Organisations need a strategically defined brand which acts as the fundamental backbone for all marketing and communication.
The website might be a manifestation of the brand because it contains the corporate messaging and the logos, but it is also a tool which the organisation can use to tell the audience where it thinks it is and what is important to the company. While the brand is a collection of experiences, we cannot expect our audiences to divine our purpose simply from their exposure to our employees, and as such, carefully written brochureware is a critical tool in the brand management arsenal. We also need to tell people what it is we think we are and why we think we are better and what better opportunity than through our marketing collateral?
At the same time, with the power of the modern interactive web and the advent of the knowledge worker, businesses are no longer about the buildings, logos and balance sheets etc. They are being perceived as a collection of individuals who provide services and ensure that operational requirements are met, whether they are legal financial, technical etc. As such, we expect to speak to people and feel justifiably aggrieved when we are forced to talk to a call centre operator or run up against obstinate individuals who hide behind company policies. It is at the touch points of an organisation that we experience the brand, whether through the sales process, service in fixing a problem, collection on payment or delivery on service.
Unfortunately with the world becoming obsessed with web 2.0 and using social media to engage with audiences, we see a proliferation of unnecessary social media tools on so many websites. It’s as though people are adding Facebook and Twitter links for social media’s sake, without thinking about their strategic objectives; blogs stand sparsely populated, links are broken and wikis left unattended. Why do I want to become a “Fan” of some arbitrary photography shop on Facebook? What is the point of being a “Fan”, all I get is some self-serving drivel, or worse still a price list, from someone who is married to his business. There are no interesting conversations or people to meet, the owner merely has access to Facebook and thinks that web advertising is free.
The choice of the social media format that you select for your website is dependent of your organisational strategy, the types of employees, what your brand stands for, the depths of relationships that you need to form, and the investment that you are prepared to make, both financially and in terms of time and your business environment. There are a multitude of permutations, here are three examples.
- Let’s say you are a night club and audience interaction will lead to more clubbers on a Friday night, then you do want your audience using the website as an interactive application for networking with each other and you. Your website could be developed as the point of engagement and the audience equipped with a range of social media tools such as blogs, posts, wiki’s along with the usual eMail addresses and telephone numbers with which to communicate or engage with you. They should be able to be a fan and post interesting comments about what happened last week from your site to Facebook.
- On the other hand, if you are a conservative bank which trades on its proud legacy of serving clients for one hundred and fifty years, you probably want to manage your engagement with the public in a more measured way, so your website would be a collateral site with certain mechanisms in place such as avatars and IM to manage communication and your online reputation. In this instance, you do not want every employee to have their own social profile as a representative of the organisation, although you most certainly want your executive to have a pretty robust digital footprint. Your website should be a piece of organisational collateral which everyone recognises as such, enhanced by some direct communication tools and the necessary individuals who make up the executive should build up their individual profiles using other social media tools such as Linked In, Facebook, industry forums etc.
- If you are a Management Consultancy, an Executive Head-Hunter or a company that trades on the IP of the individuals who work there then the website could be a hybrid where it becomes a repository for both the organisational collateral and the collective intellect and thought leadership within the organisation. Depending on what the user is looking for, he can choose to “find about us” XYZ Corporation, or he can “find out about me” Bryan Mole, Head of Performance Management Solutions at XYZ Corporation. The potential employee or client has the choice of how he manages the relationship by, for example, taking the conversations into cyberspace on Linked In, becoming part of the Bryan Mole’s network, or following him on Twitter.
Social media may well have changed our ability to communicate with our environment and the way we do business, but fundamentally, the rules of engagement and marketing have stayed the same; relationship management and brand building are still all about delivering on the organisational objectives and contributing to the bottom line and as such, the planning of our web presence requires an investment in strategic thought.
About Digital Bridges
Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.
Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.
Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.
To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on email@example.com.