Website audiences have become more sophisticated, more social and more mobile. Greater familiarity with the web and broader exposure to sites and experiences have made consumers more savvy and demanding. Websites must fight harder for the attention of their visitors. A great share of that attention has moved to social destinations such as Facebook or Twitter and on to mobile devices led by the iPhone and Android. As a result, some say the brand website is now obsolete.
They are dead wrong.
Brands that cede traffic and ownership of a destination and audience relationship to Facebook or any social site are short sighted and are hampering their own reach and influence.
The website remains a brand’s most valuable and important Internet real estate. It will continue to be the destination best capable of driving business success because it is built exclusively as an experience tailored to a brand and its customers.
However, the continued effectiveness of those websites depends on their evolution. Websites themselves, and the way brands use them, must change. Successful websites will embrace social media, be dynamic, and extend to the mobile platform. Below are three important goals for the future of the website:
Rather than abandoning the brand website in favor of social media destinations, brands must integrate their online activity to create a holistic experience for customers. To achieve this goal, websites must have native social integration with large social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter in two ways. First, they must include social login integration that enables authentication with and publishing to those social destinations. This creates a more relevant, personalized and ultimately engaging experience for the user with greater viral reach for the brand.
Second, website content must be integrated with official social accounts and channels. This includes coordination of content publication between the website and those channels and the creation of content that will draw users back to the website. Despite their popularity, Facebook and Twitter should be considered more utility than destination; targeted engagement best succeeds on destination websites.
As noted earlier, web-savvy consumers are more demanding of the brands they interact with online. Becoming a Facebook fan is a simple, effortless choice, but what value does that activity really deliver to the consumer or the brand? Websites must adopt the same social functions and tone demanded by their audiences to engage them successfully. This can include anything from creating feedback areas and forums to creating full-blown customer communities around the brand.
At the same time, site owners must become more involved as participants on their own websites. The most important factor separating successful sites from poor ones is the active and direct involvement of the business or brand team. This is critical to encourage participation, curate and highlight content and make a website more dynamic, engaging and active.
There is no denying the growth and opportunity of the mobile platform for brands. Websites must offer consistent content and experiences on any device. Yet, many mobile websites are simply a watered-down version of the existing site with less content and fewer features. Today’s consumers expect an equivalent experience. Site owners must invest in the technology that will allow them to optimize the content and functionality of their mobile sites with their existing website.
Audiences are changing the way they use the web and developing more demanding expectations. As a result, websites face increasingly fierce competition for attention while brands are also challenged to make their presence felt on major social media sites.
This seeming conflict of interest does not mean the end of websites or even the loss of their value, but it does mark a shift in what they are and how they are used now and in the future.
Editor's Note: Follow all of our experts views on Web Engagement, including: