Corporate Websites: Not Enough, but Not Irrellevant

Are corporate websites a thing of the past? I don’t think so.

But that’s the headline of a recent post by Robin Hamann of Headshift. Robin knows social media inside out. He used to be the BBC’s blogging guru (in fact, it was at one of his sessions that inspired me to start this blog up).

I think that he’s right on the money at the start of his post:

Increasingly, if someone wants to find out more about you or your brand they’ll seek out the  honest, authentic views being shared by their friends and others online rather than visiting a corporate propaganda site.

The only people who visit your website are people who already know about your ideas, products or service. What it doesn’t do is reach out to new audiences who don’t know about you.

Quite true – to attract new users to your site you either need excellent SEO or an active social media strategy.

In the current financial climate, it makes more sense than ever to scale back the effort put into creating a traditional, silo like web presence and start thinking about using the whole web as your canvas.

Well put. It’s arrogant to assume they’ll come to you – more effective to go where they are already, talking about what it is you do. You make widgets? Go to the world’s biggest widget blog/forum/discussion site, and get involved in the discussion there in an honest way. Users will respect you if you’re authentically engaged with them. Everyone likes being listened to – it’s a sign of respect.

But is your core website irellevant? I don’t think so. The examples Robin cites – a team of park rangers in Kenya and an environmental web site – both have great social media strategies. But they also have core sites with simple, recognizable URLs that lead users to a homepage.

True, these pages are quite different from the ‘silo’ pages of the 90’s – more than anything, they’re a center of gravity for the many strands of social interaction that these brands have spun off across the web.

Those hompeages would once have been the sum total of a company’s web presence – now they’re just the bit that ties it all together. But they’re there, and they have a crucial role in shaping the identity of a company, organisation or person.

Online, I’d say, an organisation needs to be seen and heard in all the right places – Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, or wherever the conversation is happening. More importantly, it needs to be paying attention in all these places. But every organisation also needs a place of its own.

I agree with the ethos of Robin’s post, but I wouldn’t count on the death of the corporate web site, just yet.

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