As more brands strive towards creating a social marketing footprint with official presences in leading online communities like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, some marketers are beginning to question whether corporate sites have lost their relevance. The question has been debated several times in recent months, “Should we be putting the corporate site on the endangered species list, or is there still some life in this marketing vehicle?”
As with every situation in social marketing, let’s take a step back and view it through the lens of the company’s objectives for having the Web site in the first place. If a company is using a site for e-commerce, or is monetizing the site using ad dollars, then retaining the Web site as the mothership is still critical for capturing leads and eyeballs.
Industries like automotive and electronics require extensive content to help consumers make purchasing decisions and, for better or worse, community sites typically provide only snack- size pieces of information to engage users, making these environments less ideal for text heavy or in-depth content. If you’re a brand where consumers use your site primarily for nutrition/product information and coupons or deals (like many CPG manufacturers or even QSRs), you may want to consider letting your social networking presence be your gateway to consumer engagement.
Regardless of the marketer’s social hub, digital strategies are strengthened by integrating social marketing extensions within official Web sites and even within offline marketing tactics. Placing a call to action on a brand’s home page or within a TV commercial that says “Follow us on Twitter” or “Become a Fan on Facebook” is a simple yet powerful way to bring your other marketing programs and social platforms together.
And, if you’re building a microsite to support an upcoming promotion, let consumers know about it within your online and/or offline footprint. Integrating the social experience within your other marketing channels, instead of placing them into silos, will enable your customer base to have a consistent brand experience wherever they may be looking for you.
Nonetheless, the primary “con” (and it’s a biggie) to using a non-corporate online community as the central online hub is that the brand doesn’t have direct control over this space. What if the platform goes belly up or users begin leaving en masse? What if the platform begins charging large fees for brands to retain their presence on the site? What if the site crashes for a lengthy period of time?
All of these things can (and it some cases have) happened to online communities. Regardless of how and where brands want their consumers to engage, retaining a platform that is controlled by the brand is an important safeguard that never goes out of vogue.