Gini Dietrich

Death of the Corporate Web site?

By: Gini Dietrich | May 27, 2009 | 
24

Last night I had a mini debate on Twitter about the death of the corporate Web site.

What prompted my question, “Is the corporate Web site about to die?” was an article on Mashable about social media making corporate Web sites irrelevant.

I am here to tell you, the corporate Web site is about to die.

Do I think corporate Web site URLs are going to go away? No.

Do I think corporate Web sites are going to change and be more interactive and engaging? Yes.

In the offline world, we had the ability to write PR canned messages and push our brands to the masses without getting any feedback.  Our experts were reporters and influentials and we had to have relationships with a handful in order to affect how our messages were delivered.

With new media, the brand we’ve paid (in some cases millions of dollars) for doesn’t always equate what people think about us. People now have the ability to change behaviors as soon as they see something better, which creates less loyalty than in the offline world. In one of my favorite books, Groundswell, they say “Your customers have always had an idea of what your brand signifies; online they now have a forum to discuss it.” Today we have to have relationships with ALL of our customers.

So how does this relate to the death of the corporate Web site?  Your static, PR canned message Web site is dying.  Your new Web site must allow connection and engagement with your customers – the evangelists and the detractors. A great example of how this should look is Gary Vaynerchuk’s site.  It’s fluid, you can comment and connect, and you have multiple choices to engage with him.

During last night’s debate, I was challenged to shut off armentdietrich.com. Not yet, @stevecunningham! While our home page is static (for now), the innards are fluid, engaging, and allow people to connect with us. By the end of 2009, our entire site will be set for new technologies so we can focus on relationships with our current clients, prospects, and potential candidates. Mark my words.

Do you think the corporate Web site is taking its last breath?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • One of the things I love about you guys is your style. You’re not just another “PR firm”. You’re edgy, you’re unique, and you take chances. You’re not afraid to push the envelope, to go against the flow, to take a stance. Oddly enough, that’s rare these days. People are so afraid to stand up and shout.

    Keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing your site evolve as you do!

  • I don’t think they are necessarily dying; they’re just changing. A corporate Web site, in my opinion, is for the media and job hunters. Take Boeing as an example. If you Google “Boeing,” in your first couple of pages that show up (after the home to the corporate site) the career and media room pages are among the first. They have the highest page rank according to Google, and one can argue those are the most important to the site. Those two audiences will always (well, at least for a while) need these pages.

    My question to you: do you think corporate sites will turn into what Skittles is doing?

  • Gini – I completely agree. I would also add that these social technologies are just enablers. Which means that in order to have an engaging web presence today, you first need to have engaging people. Gary’s site works because of Gary.

    It reminds me of the old “how do you change corporate culture” question. If you want to change the culture (or have a more compelling online presence) you have to change the people.

  • It sounds like we all agree. What I talk about consistently internally and with our clients is that it’s about the relationships…and the technologies enable our ability to get things from one another instead of from corporations. With that thinking, how do we turn our own Web sites into another technology to connect and engage instead of providing static PR canned messages?

  • Not everyone will follow suit and make their corporate websites more enaging and interactive. Especially smaller businesses who are just now getting on the internet and don’t have the knowledge or resources to utilize Web 2.0. Maybe you live in a big city, but only 30% of Americans live in a large metropolis. Even in Phoenix, the 5th largest city in the U.S., many small business owners and even some large businesses that are based here have awful websites. I highly doubt they’ll be among those corporate websites you speak of.

  • Perri – I don’t know that I agree. I have a small business and it’s MUCH more cost efficient for us to use Web 2.0 tools and applications now than it was four years ago when we launched the business and our site.

    I’m thinking things happen, like what Del Jones does with his page on USA Today (see below)…

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2009-05-27-ceos-twitter-reporting-capitalism_N.htm

  • Gini – I agree with you on the cost effectiveness of web 2.0. In that sense, it’s actually a huge opportunity for small businesses. IF thy have an engaging person on the other end, of course.

  • I don’t think the corporate website will ever die because its a good point of reference for visitors (job seekers, potential clients, etc). I think the way corporate websites are built needs to be rethought and should be interactive and be geared to building relationships instead the “look at me-first” approach.

  • It’s hard to imagine the corporate website going away – to me that’s a bit like saying businesses will stop having physical addresses. I’m a huge fan of web 2.0 tools and I do believe social media is full of opportunity for small businesses. I enjoy the twitter dialog but I’ve been to Gini’s website more than once to look up a number or refer another company. Companies need the absolute address – it has lots of utility that customers need and because of that I don’t see it going away. I do see it evolving.

  • I think corporate websites as we know them must die. But everyone is acting like this is news. If you’ve been working with strong interactive thinkers/developers for any amount of time it should be no surprise that the web is, and has always been, about conversation. Corporate websites have extended their branded materials to the web and expected them to facilitate relationships with their customers. That doesn’t work. Suddenly everyone’s a-twitter about social media because, well, what do you know? We can engage one another in meaningful conversations that influence how we, and our communities, view the world, or brands, or each other, or, anything really. Years ago a website was considered ‘static’ if there was no flash animation on the homepage. Your website, Gini, actually lives on a platform that is entirely updateable by your staff, right? That is not static. You’re constantly responding to your audience by adjusting your content to address what they are *looking for*. And your content sounds like a human wrote it. Humans talking to humans. How novel. This is where traditional corporate websites need to start. Its about the *content* not about the site, necessarily. The content must be valuable and relevant and portable to push out to other channels, like this blog post, for instance. It’s a traffic driver–right back to the source. And now there is dialogue around it. Go figure! The new corporate website starts right here. It’s not dead, its just redefined, fluid, valuable, accessible, engaging and necessary. Excellent post, friend!

  • Gini,

    I agree with you and I would go one step further:

    In the next few years, users beahvior will quickly change from “surfing pages in a website” to “surfing streams of interconnected information.”

    It might look like it is the same thing, but it changes drastically how users experience the web and navigate through sites. With this behavioral shift, Home-Pages may lose all their importance. Traditional information architectures, that guide users through your site’s in an orderly fashion, will not be capable to predict and control the user’s navigation.

    So traditional websites (like most corporate sites) WILL die… They will will be replaced with something new, better suited for this different perspective and expectation.

    Now, if you ask me how this new website will look like, I’m not sure if I know the answer. There are only 2 things I know for sure:

    1. It will involve a more flexible information architecture where every page can stand alone when plucked out of some information stream and still lead the user other related information and to some call-to-action.

    2. It will be personal, based on an effort to connect to all users at once on a one-to-one basis.

    So, congratulations Gini! I think you are on to something.

    Luis

  • Kendall

    I do agree that the corporate website will continue to evolve just as it always has but I do think it may be a while before we see much of a change with the big boys. The reason is that in order to engage in conversation–which is certainly the right and common metaphor these days–you need to have someone on the other side of that conversation. While many companies are using social media in a “dabbling” sort of way, the jury is still out as to how effective many of them are (yet) at engaging their customer in a conversation. Recall also that many of the people driving the website are the same marketing people that have been raised to think and use “controlled” messaging to get out their story. Not exactly the way to start a conversation…

    This is particularly true of the new web 2.0+ services as companies are still not sure how each of these new media services even fit together. Heck, I would argue most prospective customers (unless you are marketing to the edgy crowd) are still even catching up with the new wave of social media and still rely on a fairly “static” website to get their info.

    In this regard, I expect small companies and entrepreneurs who have the agility (or a very soc media savvy customer base) will lead the way but I expect the corp website to last a while until that evolution (revolution?) in thinking can be fully realized. So yep, it is destined to change–eventually–but it may be a while….

  • I agree completely that corporate websites will die and will ultimately be replaced by interactive blogsites or other social media pages. The key is interactivity.

    Today, people do not want to just gather information from the corporate source. They want more than one perspective. They want other people’s insight. And, they desire to share information. Maybe it’s reading comments on the various blog posts. Or, it may be following a thread of comments. Or, it just might be the ability to connect with other people seeking out information on the same site.

    Websites do not provide these feature except to offer contact info where an email is sent and a response may be forthcoming in a day or two. Nothing irks me more than an automatic message stating,”we received your email and will contact you soon.” Websites, no matter how technologically advanced, will always come across as stale and static, especially after visiting the site more than once. The alternatives will be fresh and dynamic, and encourage multiple visits and in many cases, daily visits.

    Could you imagine visiting a website every day? Think about it. Pick out your favorite website and visit it every day for a week. Then do the same with a blogsite and you’ll realize a totally different, more engaging experience. I guess that’s it in a nutshell – Websites are not an experience, just information, whereas Blogsites (and social network pages), due to interactivity between and by many parties, can be new experiences every time they’re visited.

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  • A week before this article was posted, I actually pulled down my website and simultaneously secured a short url. I then directed my blog to the new url and did the same for the original website url. As the blog and website had much of the same information, I was hoping the interactive nature of the blog would be more popular, increase the number of clicks to various pages on the site, and increase frequency of readers returning to the site.

    In three short weeks, my blog activity has increased over 400%. Instead of only one or two current articles receiving the lion’s share of clicks, I’m finding nine or ten articles are now receiving attention, which means visitors are spending more time on the site. In addition, as I am also receiving more clicks on my services and special program pages, requests for more infomation about the same have increased dramatically. Subsequently, new business has increased significantly during the same three week period.

    As my business is focused specifcially on the franchise industry, and even more specifically on franchisors, the probability of a franchise organization searching for my company through an online search is minimal. Instead, I link my company through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn activity, targeted email campaigns directly to franchisors, and through online press releases. Only time will tell if I ultimately made the right decision. But, so far, so good!

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  • your post has interesting information
    I will add you to my blogroll so I can come back often.

  • henrylow

    Having been a part of the Online Universal Work Marketing team for 4 months now, I’m thankful for my fellow team members who have patiently shown me the ropes along the way and made me feel welcome

    http://www.onlineuniversalwork.com

  • Ginny, glad I saw your Facebook question about websites, it’s hard to start a conversation with a static website and even harder to maintain one. I definitely think the old “brochure” website is a liability in 2010 (as it was in 2009) considering that one or more of your competitors may be striking up a conversation with your starved clients. I need to punch up my videos a bit, is that your dog barking? So authentic and real, love it.

  • ginidietrich

    @hackmanj Yep..that was The Beast! He comes to work with me every day. 🙂

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