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Is Social Media Killing the Website?

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A guest post by Franz Keller of RSC Architects.

As a multiple-hat-wearing marketing director for a boutique commercial architecture firm, one of the many responsibilities I am tasked with is to make regular updates to our company website, as well as our social media outlets. I have also begun to keep an eye on our website stats, “follows,” and “likes” on our social media sites. The trends I’ve seen lately are interesting, if not a bit alarming. As our social media activity grows, our website traffic has remained relatively unchanged. So, I’ve begun to wonder: What’s the point of having both? Is social media going to be the death of the traditional website?


Our website, which was professionally designed, was rolled out just over two years ago. We spent an exorbitant amount of time and money creating a simple yet comprehensive site that would offer clients and prospects a glimpse into our portfolio and expertise. As the site was designed by a seasoned webmaster, not many people in our organization (myself included) would step up to make regular updates to the site out of fear of mucking up what someone else worked so hard to create. Therefore, we have retained said webmaster to make ongoing---usually quarterly---changes to our site. This typically involves project updates, news feeds, press releases, and any awards we may have won. The fee we pay is not outrageous, but it certainly adds up.

Jumping Into Social


As the proliferation of social media sites took hold, I approached the owner of our firm with the idea of creating some pages for our company. Not knowing much about social media sites other than the amount of time his kids were wasting on them, he rightfully had many questions: Will Facebook increase sales? Will we get new clients through LinkedIn? What the heck are we going to post on Twitter?

“Who cares?” I replied. “It doesn’t cost anything, and plus [insert competitor’s name] is doing it so we should,too.” And with that, we leapt feet first on the social media bandwagon---not really knowing where we were headed. I immediately created a corporate Facebook page, company LinkedIn page, and Twitter account. I implored my fellow employees to create LinkedIn pages, put social media links in their email signatures, and have their colleagues “like” us on Facebook. We even had our webmaster add Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook buttons to our website, for a fee, of course. In no time, we were a social media juggernaut.

Now, by design, the architecture industry is not one that would benefit from social media. Most firms aren’t offering coupons, launching new products, running specials on our services, or getting foot traffic through our doors. Yet a large portion of us use social media sites for other things, such as announcing new projects, welcoming new hires, and posting other relevant company or industry news. Similarly, this is why most of us created websites in the first place.

Depending on your level of web design acumen or if you employ an in-house webmaster, social media can be that everyman medium to getting info out into cyberspace instantly. On our end, we post professional photography of our projects, news and announcements, and if we’re going to attend an upcoming event. We even link our quarterly e-newsletter to our social media accounts. So, what the heck do we need a glossy and expensive website for anyway?

Why a Website Matters


Quite simply, the answers are: stability and familiarity. Think of the company website as a landline phone number and social media as a prepaid cell phone. Both will allow you to make a call, receive a call, and offer a number at which to contact you. But there is sense of trustworthiness, standing, and permanence to a landline phone number that you just don’t get by using a prepaid cell phone.

Social media can be viewed in the same way---anyone can use it and it doesn’t take a whole lot of expertise or credibility to set it up. In fact, it’s often difficult to judge if a company Facebook page is “official” or merely set up by an outside user or group. Furthermore, people are more apt to click through to an actual website in a search engine result (such as Google) than clicking through to a URL that is linked to a business page on Facebook or LinkedIn, or worse, tweeted on Twitter. Social media feeds quench our thirst for instant gratification and therefore, the information is fleeting. We receive a news update, and as quickly as it’s received, it’s forgotten.

A static website offers a permanent location where visitors can return time and time again and find the information they need, and not have to scroll through endless pages of status updates. When a person clicks the Twitter button on a webpage, the page URL is then tweeted in their Twitter account to all their followers. Some of their followers will read the tweet and few will actually click the link in it. The same thing happens on a Facebook page. You have to go to the info page to view the URL to the actual business website. Specific to our industry, while it’s nice to post project photos on our social media sites, nothing beats a portfolio of full-screen, easily-navigable, high resolution photos on your website.

While social media does in fact help to boost a company’s search engine optimization (SEO), nothing beats a properly coded website for SEO, and companies would be wise not to abandon efforts of raising SEO value through a business website over increasing your business presence in social media accounts. It is important to remember that social media was never meant to be used to push businesses---rather it is a way to stay in touch. As many of us still use social media solely as a way to stay in touch with family and friends, most people I’ve spoken with feel that it’s a bit unprofessional to push or oversell a business on social pages. It’s like getting a telemarketing call when you’re at home eating dinner.

Your company website should be the place where you push your business. Our company’s Internet marketing strategy---whether via social media, e-newsletters, or any other correspondence---has always been to drive people to our website. It does not work the other way around. Sure, we have links to our social media sites on our website, but we are in no way trying to push visitors away from our site. To promote your actual website over a Facebook or LinkedIn page drives traffic to your main website and will increase its popularity, and its SEO value.

To have a well-structured presence on the web, it’s important to treat your website and social media pages as you would if you had to manage two competitive and insecure employees. Allow them to coexist, nurture a working relationship between them, and try not to let one get more attention that the other. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each, utilize them accordingly, and don’t allow one to usurp the other. You will find that, working in tandem, social media and your old-fashioned website will lend credibility, professionalism and a sense of internet savvy to your company.

Franz Keller is Marketing Director at RSC Architects.


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  • by Yvette Tue Jan 31, 2012 via blog

    This is such a relevant, timely, and well-written article.

    The restaurant down the street from me opened a couple of months ago. I had no idea they had opened their doors until I saw cars in their parking lot on a Saturday night. For months I wondered when they were going to open their doors and since they had no website I had to visit their facebook page. Even on their page they had no real information. A facebook fan page is very limiting and who wants to scroll through a bunch of noise just to get to the meat and potatoes?

    A month ago we decided to eat at this restaurant one night and the waitress commented that they were expanding their menu so last week I decided to look for their website to see if I could get a glimpse of the new menu. Five months since opening night and they still have no website. And their facebook page is till as empty as ever. I guess they count on the fact that this is a small town (slim restaurant pickings) and because they are so close to the highway that they will attract customers.

    Here it is, January 2012, and it boggles my mind how most businesses still have no website.

  • by pat Tue Jan 31, 2012 via blog

    Great article and something we've been contemplating as well. However, I am surprised that you need to retain your webmaster to make ongoing changes to your website when most people are building CMS websites that make it crazy simple for marketing directors like yourself or your staff to make the changes yourselves! We also think you'll never be able to do without a website and you should be using your social media to link to your site to get richer content, sign up for ongoing newsletters, communities, etc. Just a thought!

    Pat McCrossan

  • by Jeannine Clontz Tue Jan 31, 2012 via blog

    While this is a great article, I think I look at social media in a much different way. While an architectural firm might be a little more difficult for the reasons mentioned, social media is a great way to introduce new products and have a much more direct connection to your clientele to offer more immediate customer service and gain insights on how you can better serve them.

    Social media should be utilized to transition people back to your static or blog-based (Word Press is my favorite) website for more information and details than you offer on social media. You may find that using a platform such as WordPress as your website (instead of the static site) offers you even more opportunities for SEO and cost cutting options to website updates. You would most likely be in a position to do most of your website updates yourself (and more often if cost has been a determining factor), and minimize your expenses.

    Because WordPress is what's called 'open source' the search engines look much more favorably at their pages and the fact that you are able to get 'comments' adds an extra layer of inbound links to not only your blog page, but your webiste pages too (if you have a WordPress website connection).

    I have both, a WordPress and a static website, with a Facebook fan page for each. I promote my blog postings on all of my social media, with a link back to my blog page, which then links back to my static or WordPress website(s). All this allows me to go deeper into my SEO, as well as, offer my clientele and prospects an opportunity to get information, resources, as well as connect with me to do business, on several levels, and at whatever pace, or comfort level they prefer.

    It's simply several of the mediums I utilize in my overall marketing program, and I believe that having all these options is what continues to increase my website (static and WordPress based) traffic each and every month.

    While I don't look individually to social media to provide me with business, I do get pretty good results from LinkedIn, as do many of my clients.

    Understanding that social media is a part of an overall marketing and customer service plan, and not the ONLY opttion to utilize because of it's low to no cost, will provide you with an increased ability to utilize this medium to its potential, whether you're looking to introduce new products and services, have an easy and direct way for customers to interact with you for information, resources and service, or just staying top-of-mind and establishing your expertise with your target market (even your architectual prospects), social media, in conjunction with a static or blog-based website are key to having a fully rounded presence on the Internet. :) I do not believe social media will be the death of the website!

  • by Roohi Moolla Tue Jan 31, 2012 via blog

    Franz - Good article on why Social Media isn't a replacement for a website. I've worked with a lot of small businesses that have asked this question more and more lately, some of whom even turn first to Facebook as a quick attempt at establishing an online presence without thinking about the consequences. While this may work in the short term, there are plenty of reasons why relying solely on social networks to establish your "brand" just isn't a good strategy - some of which you've outlined above. I wrote a blog post on 4 compelling reasons why a business should still have a website last April: http://www.socialbiznow.com/2011/04/top-4-compelling-reasons-for-a-website-... - hope you find it interesting.

    Thanks for a good reminder :-)
    Roohi.

  • by Amy Tue Jan 31, 2012 via blog

    Given the choice between visiting a business' Facebook or Twitter profile or their website, I'll choose the website every time. Not only because the website provides more of the information I'm looking for, but also because a lot of companies don't do social media well -- I get to a page and it's empty or hasn't been updated in months, so I end up at the website anyway.

    For many marketers (especially inbound marketers) the website is and should be the hub of all activity. All your blog posts are published there, as are all whitepapers and all the information about your products and services. Social media, though great, is limiting, and cannot take the place of a well-done website.

  • by Mark Simchock Tue Jan 31, 2012 via blog

    Please pardon my tone but I bumped my head falling off my chair. As a result, I'm confused and a bit anrgy from the pain this article has caused me.

    I have to ask:

    Why isn't your site build with a CMS (content management system)?

    In a world where WordPress, Drupal and ExpressionEngine are as ubiquitous as air, a static website and a webmaster - does anyone still really use that term? - might as well be horseback. Is there a cost associated with developing a site with a CMS? Yup. Just the same there's a cost associated with NOT having a site with fresh content. Frequency of visits is a function of new content to be consumed. Quarterly? Really? In 2012?

    That said, I'm sure the IPO'ing Zuckerberg and & Co are overwhelmed with joy knowing that so many SMBs: don't have a CMS enabled site; believe that social media is "free"; and wake up every day thinking that Facebook is all they need. Gawd, someone please slay all three of these myths already.

    Let me cut to the chase...

    I agree with Franz 125% that when done properly a website is still a very important component of a brand's identity. Unfortunately, starting without a CMS is going down Not Done Properly Road and ending up loving where it leads...Facebookville.

    I'd like to add, I'm not so sure anyone is going to be inspired when said tool (i.e., website) is equated to a landline phone. Didn't those go out with webmasters? I digress :)

  • by JJG3 Tue Jan 31, 2012 via blog

    I have to agree with what Mr. Simchock mentions in his reply. Any website that is not staying up to date with the times and in this case CMS, should get with it and quick! Having said that, social media is not killing anything. Any legitimate business should still have a dedicated website so that the consumer is able to interact and get to know who they are doing business with. Social media websites our offering yet another valuable tool to marketers.

    How you use that tool is of course the beauty of it. People forget that all this social media is a new art form and even the most successful companies with unlimited resources are still trying to figure it out. Social media sites like Facebook, have given marketers what some may see as an advantage. Marketers no longer need to fully understand the consumer because the consumer has given them everything they need. Simply visit any of one of your friend's Facebook walls and you will learn everything and anything about that person.

    Now, don't get me wrong. I think Facebook and other social media sites have their pros and cons. Facebook for example broadened the friend concept and everyone you kind of know is now a "friend". What Facebook has done is allow you to build so many artificial relationships. Those friends that really are your friends have been brushed aside. I think we're all guilty of this new phenomenon, yet we continue to be fascinated by this virtual reality.

    Companies and especially marketers have taken notice to this. Those that can successfully master the art of providing quality content to the consumer and show they have the consumer's best interest at heart, will see substantial gains from social media. Franz Keller mentions something that I found quite intriguing, “Who cares?” I replied. “It doesn’t cost anything, and plus [insert competitor’s name] is doing it so we should, too." This is exactly my point. Knowing the power of the social media tool is absolutely critical to the success of a company in this technology driven economy. The costs are far more than you will ever understand.

    The ability to reach the target customer and how you reach them through social media can make or break an organization. Facebook is a personal experience and one that many consumers spend countless amount of hours on each day. It is still necessary for a company to build a marketing strategy and implement those strategies through the use of social media tools.

    Understanding the "costs" of building a relationship with the consumer on social media sites is by far one of the most powerful marketing tools we have ever come across.

    I for one am excited to be a part of this transition.

  • by Ruben Reyes Tue Jan 31, 2012 via blog

    I think you got it very wrong. Your website should be at the core of your online presence.

    It seems that you are currently are unable to easily post updates to your site, whether they are new projects, case studies, events, blog postongs or just interesting links.

    If you had a website that allows you to easily publish new content then social media becomes new channels by which you can attract new visitors to your site. Actually, you can automate the process: whenever something new is published in your site it is automatically sent to Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

    For rest of the time you are not publishing anything new on your site then you can continue posting on your social media channels to engage clientes, keep "top of mind", etc.

  • by Kuldip Singh Wed Feb 1, 2012 via blog

    CMS is great- no arguments about it.
    However ours is a static website, simply because to post a high quality blog,consistently is not easy. Blogging for blogging's sake is a huge drain on time resources for a small company.
    We are however, contemplating providing curated links.
    Could we have your views on this, please.
    Thank you.

  • by Paula Dauncey Wed Feb 1, 2012 via blog

    I also baulked a bit at the lack of content management statement and 3 months?! ....But agree completely with the overall drive of the article.

    Yes, social media has changed things completely and for some of my clients, in the public transport sector for instance, it is a crucial tool for communicating with customers. But essentially, it is simply part of the mix. The website is the backbone for their digital marketing strategy and everything else feeds in and out of it.

    It's all good and the fact that we have so many more options for digital comms with customers is something to celebrate. Love this sector.

  • by Sasha Jones Wed Feb 1, 2012 via blog

    Social Media is feeding the Website and and vice versa as sense of internet savvy to business

  • by Ciaran - Meetingsbooker.com Thu Feb 2, 2012 via blog

    some areas of social media can improve SEO, Google measure the about of Google+ your site recieves and also according to a lot of experts they have increased the importance of social media activity in relation to site SEO. But who knows!

    i think SEO needs to be first followed by social media...

  • by Tonya Kraan Thu Feb 2, 2012 via blog

    Great post. I am so tired of hearing "social media experts" say that websites will soon be obsolete. True marketing experts know this is not the case for all the reasons you point out.

    Plus - how many large organizations still block social media sites so employees can't access them....

  • by Franz Keller Thu Feb 2, 2012 via blog

    Thank you everyone for reading the article and for your comments. Some great points made.

    To those of you who "bumped your head" because of my neglect in mentioning CMS, I tend to think that you didn't read the entire article and merely got hung up on the first couple of paragraphs. The point of the article was not about making updates to our site, but rather how a traditional website and social media outlets can, and should, coexist as part of a digital marketing strategy. Furthermore, I was trying to approach the increasing trend of businesses forgoing the traditional website and just operating a Facebook page, which I believe is unwise (someone mentioned a local restaurant -- a great example and something I've seen quite a bit of myself).

    Anyway, FWIW, we are in the process of implementing a CMS module. But when our site was initially designed less than 3 years ago, that feature was left out. Cost could have been a reason, so too could have been need. Not really sure. While it may seem odd and archaic to you, in the architecture industry where projects can take YEARS to finish, making quarterly updates may be excessive for some firms...there sometimes isn't much to report on. It's just the nature of our business. Sorry we're not a hip little new media company that lives and dies by the web...we're just the people that design their trendy little offices :)

    I would be open to any CMS suggestions after checking out our website.

    Thanks again,
    Franz

  • by NJ Lester Thu Feb 2, 2012 via blog

    Franz: You got close to the real question... it's not if social media will replace web sites (web sites are here to stay, for good and for evil), it's how social media is/are changing web sites... in content, size, tone and style.

    The large, expensive, monolithic web site that so many companies pay big bucks for is becoming anachronistic because of SM. These big sites are tiresome -- like calling a company and being forced to press 1 for women's clothes, 2 for men's, 3 for children's, etc., when I want to go directly to 'sportswear'.

    The personalization you feel on SM -- or at least the single-minded nature of a Facebook page -- is refreshing, easy to navigate and delivers the singular information most of us want. No need for fancy navigation, web site flat plans -- the things that coders and agencies love because they're big ticket.

    The fact the web sites are now being done on WordPress is testament to the changing nature of sites. Soon, the corporate web site will reside in the Cloud and smaller two or three page SM sites will point to the exact information a consumer wants -- without all the corporate statements and garbage that make web sites fat and unattractive.

    The tone of web sites is changing, too (we'll, if you're smart). Less corporate stuff: "We're the world leader in customer care" and crap like that. Good SM sites do not use corporate speak or legal speak, as web sites do. And that's a good thing.

    So the question about killing web sites is not the issue -- and it allows people to respond with the knee jerk 'of course not' answer. But we're already seeing that web sites now look, feel and sound very different because of the directness of SM.

    And by the way, you CMS lovers can't be marketers because if you were you couldn't live with text that can't be kerned, minimal leading control, headlines that can't have a drop shadow because it takes too many commands. Franz, ask yourself, how hard is it to use a text editor to add copy/change copy on a traditional html page? Dead easy and the look of your site isn't in the hands of someone who is not a designer or a graphic artist... someone willing and eager to sacrifice design and style for the sake of clean code. As an architectural firm the design of your site, not its code, should be paramount.

  • by KenRaderInteriors Wed Feb 15, 2012 via blog

    I appreciate your candor on the subject of Social Media. Our website went live On January 1,2012. My webmaster is my brother and we worked on it for 3 months.
    The use of social media to update, post projects, pictures and specials has certainly taken us a long way. We have not made it quick or easy for us to update our site at will. But this will come I am sure. We are kinda learning as we go.
    Use of the social media that you mentioned and others is indeed time consuming. With Blogging, emails, writing ezine articles it has been a challenge.
    Thank you for the encouragement we found in your article. We are just working our way up the SEO ladder.
    Ken

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