Friday, October 16, 2009

Company Websites Now 'Old Fashioned'

It was only recently that the last holdouts started realizing that every company needed a website to remain or become successful in the 21st century. It did not matter if you were the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or owned and operated a small shop, you needed to have your brand, your message online.

But the world did not wait for everyone to catch up before moving on. Yes, every company still needs to be on the Internet. But what defines an effective online presence has changed drastically over the past several years -- even over the past several months.

Gone are the days when a brochure-like website is enough to gain customers' attention. Even a site regularly updated by the company looks static through the eyes of today's consumers. They want to interact with the company and with each other. Social communications has given "the people" the control. They want their voices heard and often refuse to do business with those not offering that interaction. Now, commerce is driven by the shoppers rather than the merchants.

In order to avoid being left behind and missing out on the opportunities and advantages that can be gained through effective communications, one needs to understand social communications.

First, company websites are old fashioned, particularly if they are being used on their own. You should no longer expect clients to come to you. Rather, you need to go to them. Where are they? They are connecting on Facebook, conversing on Twitter, watching videos on YouTube, networking on LinkedIn.

They don't only want you to come to them, they expect it. And if you won't, there are plenty of other companies that will.

If you come to them and they like what you have to offer, they will tell their friends. And there is no disputing that the most powerful form of marketing is word-of-mouth, even when it is digital. That's what you get with social networking and its viral nature. If you craft it correctly, your message will carry on and on with no additional effort.

Social media gives people who have little money for advertising the chance to engage with others and promote their business. A recent article in the New York Times concluded, “For many mom-and-pop shops with no ad budget, Twitter has become their sole means of marketing."

Alas, simply being on the social networks is not nearly enough. You need to have a solid presence, customized to your brand and directed at your current and potential customers. Your pages and profiles need to stand out while also fitting in. Much like when you designed that old fashioned website, a company needs to have pages, boxes and tabs that deliver your messages.

We are not far from the day when every forward-looking company has its own Facebook page complete with a custom URL and pages. When every company is "tweeting." That is already on its way. Of course, there will be those who hold out, putting off building their own presence until they are once again building something that their competitors have already been leveraging to better do business.

By Joseph R. Chenelly, President of Social Communications

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