The Role of Social Media and Your Website
Now that 2013 is off and running, it may be time to revisit an important question. What role should Social Media have for the company website? How do we connect our social, our web, and our content all together into a meaningful and connected experience that deliver on the marketing goals?
I recently had an email exchange with Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter following a briefing. He shared his still-relevant-though-now-pretty-dated slides from 2010 predicting a social/web integration road-map and asked for my take on where things stand today. This got me thinking. In 2013, what should we expect to achieve by integrating social into our web sites? Here is the gist of my reply—though further edited upon reflection.
I think the type of company really does matter. Your goals for engagement will be massively different if you are Coke, or Trader Joe's, or The Gap, or Percussion Software. Beyond the obvious company size differential, their marketing goals are going to be wildly different. Without putting words in the mouths of these brands, you could imagine that Coca Cola is about driving engagement and connecting with each successive generation; Trader Joe's is about extending the brand vibe and getting you to a store to buy; Gap is about experiencing the brand and making a purchase; and Percussion, well, simply discovering that we can solve your web content management challenge and getting you to raise your hand that you are interested so I can sell you some software. (Interestingly, Trader Joe's STILL does not appear to have much in the way of social interaction on their homepage aside from a somewhat hidden AddThis widget.)
I also think the thing that has changed the most since 2010 is the expectations for consumers. I really have no interest in engaging with Trader Joe's socially on THEIR site, I am not likely to comment on the site, I am not likely to engage with social media there either. I WOULD however engage on FB by liking and following, and even potentially commenting on my experience. (Though unfortunately, today people seem to more often to take to social media to complain, rather than praise.)
Someday these experiences will be all munged into one, but the brands that are best at engagement actually work really hard to connect with you where you already are. And that engagement is so natural, so seamless, that it’s a connected part of my social efforts and I don’t have any qualms about it. Of course, I am on the wrong side of 40 so perhaps the new wave of digital natives think differently, but I would expect that the trend will continue getting starker—meaning they have even LESS interest in going to your website, but I will leave that for the sociologists to research.
In today's environment then, we as marketers need to create such a seamless experience across all of our points of interaction that it works together flawlessly. Think of Twitter and your other short form social channels as your appetizer, your long form engagement tools like your blog, Facebook, and Slide-share, etc as your entree, and your website(s) as your dessert (where all of the “good sweet stuff is), paired with a sublime wine that represents your message, and enjoyed in a beautiful surrounding that represents your brand experience. When all of those things are working in perfect harmony, you have a fantastic meal that you want to post to your food blog, check in on Four Square, Instagram a picture of the food, brag on Facebook and comment at Yelp about your meal etc. But when even ONE of those Is out of sync, it can really ruin the whole experience-no matter how good the rest of the experience was.
In my opinion, to understand how best to integrate your social and web initiatives you must first define that harmony for your business, and then strive to produce that harmony daily.
What do you think? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.