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Four Reasons to Jettison the Traditional Website and Go Social

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I have spent a lot of time working in the small-business space—from starting my own endeavors to working with other entrepreneurs to start theirs—and one of the most valuable lessons I've learned is that you have to stay lean. To do so, you need to observe what the big guys are doing.

You can't afford to do everything they do—you're on a shoestring budget (and even if you're not, you should pretend you are), but that's precisely why you watch them. The big guys are doing all that they are doing because they have the resources to test multiple tactics and measure the results before committing to the ones that gets the best results.

So when you see that the big guys are doing X, most likely they're doing so because they've tested and retested X, and it makes dollars and cents.

That brings me to a new trend worth watching. Everywhere around me now, I see companies dispensing with the traditional website in favor of integrating the most popular social networks right into the website and communicating with customers in real time via tweets and Facebook posts. Big players like Skittles and Coca-Cola have completely bought into social, as have savvy small mom-and-pop shops.

Here are four reasons that brands are opting for social sites—and why you might want to follow their lead.


1. It's fresh

You scour the Web every day to update your Facebook page with interesting news and industry info. When you turn your website into a social destination, that content you've worked so hard to collect becomes multipurpose: It keeps your current fans in the know and lets anyone who lands on your website get the most up-to-date information rather than static Web copy that hasn't been changed since the company started. We know you worked hard on that mission statement, but is that really what customers want to see when they search for you? Probably not.

Going social is an easy way to keep things fresh and your customers coming back.

2. It's automatic

Think about the time required to research the latest website platforms, features, and best-practices for building a website—it could take months to settle on the best platform alone.

Though we turn up our noses at the "forced" updates from Facebook, the alternative—manually updating our own sites to comply with new standards and consumer trends—is much more costly and time-consuming in comparison. You don't have to code to update to new Facebook layouts. The migration is handled on the back end. All you have to do is pop in some cool cover art and you're done.

As much as we dislike the many facelifts our favorite social networks undergo, the fact is that we also get plenty of tutorials in taking advantage of those changes to enhance our customer experience, which, in turn, saves us time and builds our brand.

3. It's familiar

US consumers spend, on average, more than 11 hours per month interacting on Facebook, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey reports that Facebook is consumers' preferred channel for sharing content online after email.

If all your customers are accustomed to a particular environment, doesn't it make sense to design your own web environment to be close to and complementary to that environment? If they can feel like they're on Facebook when they're on your website—or, better yet, actually be on Facebook while on your site—their Web experience will be seamless. And that's precisely what you want.

4. It's affordable

Creating a business presence on any social network is free; all it costs is the time to get it up and running. Compared with the cost of building a website from scratch, plus maintaining it, establishing a business presence on a social network is ultra affordable.

So even if you are not inclined to create a social website just because the bigger guys are doing it, do it because it'll save you money—now and over time.

* * *

Big companies don't just adopt new practices on a whim. They are building socially optimized websites because doing so decreases lead-generation costs and increases reach and ROI. They're also employing video, which increases conversion upwards of 20%. Why should the big guys have all the fun?


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Christian Briggs is the CEO of Cinsay, the shareable, shoppable video e-commerce platform that debuted at Demo Spring 2012. Follow him on Twitter: @cinsay.

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  • by Tim Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    This is a great strategy for Coke and Skittles, but not AT ALL practical for B2B...social is a communication channel, yes, but to jettison the traditional website in favor of social....nnot such a good idea. IMHO.

  • by Curtis Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    The title is a little misleading (but a good attention grabber!) The suggesting is not to jettison the website altogether, but rather integrate social into your main website. This I can agree with, and there are different levels of integration possible. This certainly has benefits, but it does not remove the need for a website. If anything, it may make the process of research the latest website platforms, features, and best-practices for building a website a little more complicated as one now has to add social integration into your website feature mix.

    Integrating social into web is definitely the direction people are moving in, and it does have many benefits. I'm not sure it makes things less complex, however.

  • by Steve Lubahn Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    I agree with Tim, your website still needs to be a central point for all your online marketing, especially for B2B companies, but also a point where you can send all the people who interact with you on social media for B2C as well.

    With a website, you can further measure and validate the impact of each social media channel, especially with latest Google Analytics Social Media reporting, and Assisted Conversions reporting if you set up Goals and conversions.

  • by Amy Vernon Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    I absolutely disagree. While I agree with individual points here, the fact of the matter is, you're putting all your content on sites you don't own. You need to own your own content. There are ways to incorporate social into your own site, but to abandon owning your own "home" on the web is a huge error, IMHO.

    There are solutions, such as Overblog (full disclosure, they recently became a client), which allows you to create a destination page that incorporates original content and your social stream, so you can pull back from having to post as much on your blog. Several other aggregators are starting to move in this direction, as well.

  • by Andy Crestodina Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    Hmm. Not sure if I agree. Coke and Skittles are not very similar to most businesses. For them, the web isn't about getting traffic and converting visitors into leads or customers. All the transactions happen offline. I agree with the other commenters...

    This approach makes sense for very few business. 99% of us need great websites. As they say "Don't build on rented land!"

  • by Jordan Way Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    Interesting article, Christian. I'm curious, as the CEO of Cinsay, did you spend your valuable time writing this yourself?

    You say "Creating a business presence on any social network is free; all it costs is the time to get it up and running." But time is more precious than gold. So, creating a business presence on any social network is not free.

    The platform may be free, but it is very expensive when you consider the time that marketing professionals (or CEOs) must devote to successfully implement and maintain a social media presence. In fact, the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report states "The majority of marketers (59%) are spending 6 hours or more each week on social media, and a third (33%) invest 11 or more hours weekly”. Presumably, you're saying that social media is a wise use of time for marketers compared to other activities. This may be true if the ROI is high enough to justify the lost productivity in other areas; however, there is a cost. And your time is the only commodity on earth that can never be replenished.

    Social media IS worth investing in, however, marketers will save a TON of time and probably get better RESULTS outsourcing this function to an expert who specializes in social media marketing.

  • by Robert Gilmour Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    Don't agree, certainly not for the hotel industry whih i represent. The jury is still way way out on social media for hotels, there is little or no evidence of commercial success so it would be utter folly to abandon the trad approach in favour of what you are suggesting.

  • by Ann Swanson Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    Yes, I have to disagree as well. Your web site is - for all but a few of the most innovative purposes e.g. Guy Kawasaki having only a FB page when he launched a book a few years ago - essential. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it does have to be neat, clear, and up to date. That is no harder than a FB page - esp for a small business.

  • by Rachel Agheyisi Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    I have to disagree with the tossing the website idea. Amy Vernon's comment is spot on. In my not-so-humble-opinion, whatever content-sharing tactic you adopt, you must maintain ownership of your original content -- it is a vital business resource after all (even those that we give away with no registration strings attached).

  • by Robert Gilmour Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    Rachel I totally agree with this

  • by Rich Meyer Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    This article is stupidity at it's height. I could quote stats about how people seek out banded websites and how conversion is higher for branded websites than social media but everyone probably knows that. I mean just look inside your fridge and tell me how of those brands you want to have a social relationship with ?

  • by Sue Surdam Thu Sep 13, 2012 via web

    Investing in a social media presence certainly isn't free. It takes time and dedication for the small business owner to build up a fan base. Your posts on most social networks only reach the fans that are on line when you happen to post and even all of those fans/followers may not see them.

    Contrast that with a well written informative post on your website, that is actually indexed in search engines and draws people to your brand on your site. Hmm...that seems like a great return on investment for that "expensive website."

  • by Kari-Lynn O'Neil Fri Sep 14, 2012 via mobile

    Actually, you are mistaken. The big companies- both b2b and b2c are converting to "social web." there is a need for a foundation (web function) to provide the target audience with the core information, branding,etc. Within the build is a custom social solution to engage audiences, create loyalty and solve specific issues for that company. Some community apps are closed (a financial institute may have a member only area for small businesses to network, ask questions and get free advice from the bank's experts.) social isn't just the free open social platforms the public uses. These can be successful if the right ones are launched for your business and managed properly, but the first step is knowing what you want to achieve. Next- who you want to reach and how and where to engage them so you can build a relationship where they trust you and get the answers they need to become a customer. I haven't seen "content sucking" to open social achieve that, but I've seen people profit from peddling it.

  • by Nick Stamoulis Fri Sep 14, 2012 via web

    While having a social presence is important, I would never recommend that a business completely forgo their website in favor of a social profile for one very simple reason--you do not own your social profiles. At any minute Facebook could delete your account and then where would you be? You don't have complete control over how your brand is presented or how your construct your message on a social site because it's not your site to do with as you please.

  • by Stephan Hovnanian Sat Sep 15, 2012 via web

    I agree with Amy Vernon, and also the point Curtis made about the headline being a bit misleading. The comments are more insightful than the piece itself. This is disappointing that an article so off-base made it onto MarketingProfs. I'm sorry to have to say that publicly.

  • by Allen Weiss Sat Sep 15, 2012 via web

    Hey Stephan..we publish various viewpoints and, like you said, the comments are very insightful. My sense is this makes sense for many web sites whose customers are buying offline and the purpose of the web is for communication only. However, if you are selling something (especially digital goods), you're going to need a web site (now that FB disallows using IFRAMES on their site). So, like a number of marketing issues, this is a complex issue that requires discussion.

  • by Stephan Hovnanian Sat Sep 15, 2012 via mobile

    Thank you for the reply, Allen. I understand your POV and if that's truly the case with this article, then you need to qualify this somehow, whether it be through the intro or a requirement of the posts. Regardless, I don't feel this article meets the high standard expected by your audience.

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