Mike Michalowicz got me to thinking about the concept of not having to have a website to have a web presence when I read his book The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.
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
9 thoughts on “Website vs. Web Presence”
An additional perspective to question you raised, Dana. http://www.entrepreneur.com/ebusiness/expandingyouronlinepresence/article205808.html#
This is a great question. The metaphor I like is establishing embassies. Web site, Twitter account, YouTube and Flickr channels, they’re all versions of embassies. They build relationships in different ways, and they’re all applicable in various situations.
Great discussion! See, not exactly an easy question. I will continue to go back to “it depends” or for the more eloquent version of that, read Doug Davidoff’s comment above. Thanks for the comments!
I think you need both, but a website is essential for one big reason: control.
Even a simple blog can be a business or personal website that is under the direction of the site owner. Not so with any profiles on any social platforms; Google, Facebook, LinkedIn can make sweeping changes to how they do things, so your presence can be lost. Not to mention the chatter from other people.
Danny Brown’s been writing about making your website your social media hub, makes sense.
I think you are RIGHT on track, Gini. As a member of Gen Y and an active user of social media, I still believe in Web sites the most. Often times I read something from someone online in a twitter post or blog and then want to go look into more detail on the company Web site. I don’t think the people of my generation, especially since many not in the marketing/communications field, are going to find much confidence in a company that does not have a Web site.
While I find this topic of interest, it is is an example of where experts get themselves into trouble. I’ve always said the key to success in any market is to think like your customers and stop making your customers think like you. First it was online vs. offline; I hope that now it’s not going to be web site vs. web presence. These are designations or silos that experts use, not customers.
All customers want is, well, what they want, when they want it and how they want it; preferably without having to ask. A marketers job is to integrate into a customer’s life in a valueable manner. This means website, social media, direct, passive, etc. The winners of tomorrow will be the ones that are communication and distribution channel agnostic.
You need a place to park information where people can quickly find it, so by definition, that is a Web site. Doesn’t mean you need Flash or anything that needs to be fancy, just well presented.
Dana – I have one more thing to add to this. Gen Y will outnumber the Baby Boomers in the work force by the end of this year, but many of them are not yet decision makers. The decisions still lie with the Baby Boomers (and some Gen X) and they don’t use the social networks to find information about companies. They still trust Web sites. So, as big an advocate I am about social media, it’s still pertinent to have a site.
Dana — thanks for including me in this discussion. I’m curious to hear what others have to say. The online space is changing all the time, we have to keep pace with it.
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