Past and Present
Think back to as recent as five years ago. At that time, when you wanted more information on a particular company, what was the first thing you did? You probably went directly to the website. Traditionally, a website has been a company’s storefront, communicating a great deal about both you (as owner, director or manager) and your business. It directs visitors – who include prospects, clients, and partners – in forming a first opinion of your brand.
Fast forward to today. In the same situation, what would you now do? Head to the company website? Or turn to the enterprise’s social media profiles like Facebook or LinkedIn? Where do you look to find the information you feel you need to accurately evaluate the company? Which source has a bigger impact on you?
The Social Search Phenomenon
In today’s digital, borderless world, social media has become engrained in people’s personal and professional lives. From a customer point of view, social media can be far more informative than a company website, providing not only information that the company is actively pushing but also marketplace reviews, critiques and validations. Customers have also transitioned from “consumers” of information to active “generators,” playing an increasingly important role in the creation of content. Brands are interacting with end users at a much higher rate, engaging meaningful conversations. Likewise, consumers want to be heard. One-way flow of information has lost its appeal.
Take Facebook, as an example. On this platform, inquisitive customers are able to post questions, consult other users and clients, and engage directly with a company in a much more transparent way than via an anonymous “Contact Us” form. From comments left on an enterprise Facebook wall to the number of LIKES and recommendations, there are multiple indicators on a social media platform like Facebook to help the public determine a company’s credibility. The rate of response is also a key indication of how well an organization is able to process user feedback.
In today’s buyer journey, social media is a legitimate reference. Company social media pages communicate customer concerns and, subsequently, client service quality. This is why crisis management and social media policies are so important for organizations using this channel of communication. As most companies know, PR problems will arise. And when they do – especially on social media platforms – the most important thing is to handle the crisis well, following pre-set guidelines. The immediate accessibility of social media means that your response will be scrutinized by the public.
Social media can also be a great way to source ideas from your user base or clientele! Crowdsourcing and online polling are two methods that companies use to solicit ideas from the public in direct relation to their services or products. In addition to collecting field data, this also breaks barriers between companies and prospects, and opens engagement.
So, are company websites going the way of the dinosaurs? The answer is: not really. Social media should be considered an extension of your website, almost like a channel partner that acts as an arm of your Marketing, Sales and/or Client Services teams.
That said, companies’ social media success really depends on their digital strategies and the ability to manage a presence across multiple platforms, generating traffic to and from the corporate website instead of cannibalizing it.
And remember: it’s not necessary to be everywhere. Go where your clients are. Allocate resources to starting conversations with your target audience on the platforms they like and use.
Don’t try to be everything (or everywhere) to everyone!