I brought it up during a few web/social media conversations down at The Morning Times referencing a friend who has started his own company and is already on Facebook but not familiar with blogging and wasn’t sure about making the investment in having someone build a website for him. Each time this topic came up, it seemed to raise more questions than answers, so I turned to a few friends who are communications experts across the country and fellow PRSA Counselors Academy members. Here are their answers:
Abbie Fink, HMA PR: Dana — interesting question. I say no, you don’t NEED a website to have a web presence but you should consider where and how your customers are going to interact with you on the web. Social media puts everyone and everything on the web. Smart businesses work to manage and control that content. Jason Baer wrote an interesting post about “hubs” that I think is quite relevant to this discussion.
Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group: It isn’t necessary to have a website to have a presence on the internet. Ashton Kutcher proves this with his twitter account @APlusK, now boasting 4.4 million followers (most of whom the FBI can’t even find). Now, that being said, there are very few @APlusk’s out there. He has found a unique way to interact with his audience. Outside of Kutcher, most typical organizations have a website and are able to use social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others to connect with unique audiences. Organizations that want to build credibility should have a website. Those who want to build authenticity should also leverage social media.
Lisa Gerber, Big Leap Creative: I think a website is an important piece of your web presence but not a necessity, and it certainly depends more on your profession. This may sound contrary to the idea of blogs, but my website gives me the ability to have more control and consistency over my message. It allows me a place to have my key messages and selling points and my latest professional achievements. My blog and my tweets, my blog commentaries are all a great way to interact and show my knowledge but on any given week, someone would learn something different about me on those outlets alone. In terms of converting prospective clients, I want them not only to be able to get a snapshot of my business from my static web pages, but also see my interaction.
Gini Dietrich, Arment Dietrich: My opinion on this is that companies do need a Web site. There are, what?, one percent of the U.S. population on the social networks? Let’s say a prospect goes to find you online and finds only the social media avenues you use. And that company has heard of social media, but still thinks it’s about what you had for lunch. Your credibility immediately is lessened, simply because you don’t have the one thing most people trust – a Web site. I do think Web sites, as they stand now, are going to die. They will be less static and more living and breathing.
I had a situation a few weeks ago where the prospect asked me why my Web site didn’t include our social networks (it was because we were in the middle of a redesign and hadn’t launched it yet), but my credibility was lessened, in his eyes, because the site we did have was static. Now, though, it integrates all of our networks, but it still is a site with a unique URL. Unless you are a high-profile celebrity, like Tom points out, I don’t think you can get away without having a site.
Bob Reed, Element-R: Great thoughts, everyone. I gave a social media presentation last week where I told participants that they should start out their exploration of social media with an anchor, which for most, will be their website. My audience were m&a pros. No one has a blog.
Conclusion: Well, there you have it! I think the answer is “it depends” with strong encouragement to consider objectives first and to perhaps think about things differently. As Gini said, by definition websites are changing. www.clairemontcommunications.com is one small example — it is both website and blog. Thanks fellow PRSA Counselors Academy members for weighing in on this topic. I’m looking forward to seeing you at the annual conference in May! –D