Rethinking the Role of Your B2B Website in the Social Business Landscape

Social Business

Photo: MKH Marketing

Back in the late nineties, the way you shared content online was through a website. At its most basic, a website was built using HTML. Developers and designers came along and added dynamic functionality to websites. Content management systems were born to help automate publishing content. After all, social media didn’t exist, so publishing content was a one-way street.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and the online landscape looks much different . . .

The rules have changed completely. In 2004, Facebook sprung to life as a social sharing site for college students but is now on the Fortune 500 list. In 2005, YouTube was born and democratized learning, marketing, and broadcasting through free video sharing and discovery. By 2006, Twitter emerged and eventually changed the lives of millions living in the Middle East through spurts of text 140 characters or less. Then, in 2007, the iPhone created a massive shift toward 24/7 Internet access at the touch of a finger. Now, in addition to pageviews, we measure Hashtags, ReTweets, Followers, Likes, Mentions and Pins.

And all along, blog technology quietly evolved to integrate our content, seamlessly incorporating social sharing. Microblogs like Tumblr, Medium, and State created opportunities for everyone to share ideas, opinions, and content without having specialized technology skills.

But most paradigm-shifting of all?

The revelation that brand messaging is no longer owned solely by brands. That large, expensive website sits statically collecting virtual dust as the social landscape lights-up with chatter about your brand. Good or bad, it is out of your direct control. The best you can do is participate. And your website isn’t likely where the action in happening.

That’s why you should be rethinking your B2B website role in the social business landscape.

Well, some argue that websites still occupy an important position online, at least for businesses, but I would argue otherwise for several reasons.

Fragmented Audience Attention

With social media, online viewers have a firehose of content literally at their fingertips through apps on their smart phones. And if your website isn’t an app, will users take the time to open a browser and type the URL or search terms or would they be more likely to find and interact with your brand through LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, where an established app already exists?

According to Informa, 93.5 percent of the world’s population has a mobile device, so making it easy for people to find your brand online might not be more than simply creating a website. And from a marketing perspective, B2B consumers make their way through 70 percent of the sales funnel before connecting with brands directly. What does that mean? Consumers are asking friends on social media, reading news about your brand, and articles on third party properties–not your website.

ROI – Does Your Website Deliver on your CMS investment?

In the 1990’s, enterprise content management systems were all the rage. A streamlined way to handle design standardization and content distribution sold the C-suite on the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to implement such a beast–and that doesn’t count the software licenses, support and training staff, hardware requirements (upgrades, maintenance, security, monitoring, administration), usability studies, customizations and integration with IT network security.

However, as Google flexes more power over what gets found on the Internet, it is important to reevaluate a large investment in a CMS. Can it realistically provide the anticipated ROI? You know, blogs are really just inexpensive CMS platforms with the added benefit of putting content at the forefront. In other words, you might get more SEO “bang-for-your-buck” with a thoughtfully implemented website hosted on a blog platform. Blog platforms, especially WordPress, natively support:

  • Social sharing integration

  • Content optimization tools

  • Authorship

  • Analytics tracking support

  • Mobile themes

  • Language translations

  • Various role-based permission levels

  • Rapid theme/design changes

  • Enormous developer community supporting and building unparalleled number and variety of robust third party plug-ins

Social Business

Social business tools like LinkedIn make connecting with sales leads more personal than a website could ever be. And, a website’s not where most people are going to start when they’re researching your brand.

Mobile and Wearable Tech

The Mobile Social Web

Photo: Jason A. Howie

According to Tomi Ahonen, the majority of the next billion Internet users won’t enjoy their first visit to the Internet on a PC, but with a mobile device. And according to Pew Research, 34 percent of American consumers mostly access the web from their phones. A Gartner study shows that worldwide PC shipments dropped 11 percent year-over-year in Q2 2013. Meanwhile, tablet sales worldwide are growing at an annual rate of 25% and could eventually comprise 60 percent of the U.S. online market, says Forrester Research. And what about Google Glass?

PC sales are withering. I’m not sure what this means for traditional websites except that mobile user online information-seeking behaviour is likely different – app-based rather that URL and browser-based. So, if your web content is designed for the PC and not the mobile web, you may, at some point, drop completely off the radar of the vast majority of the online world.

A website, once king of the Internet, now shares space with so much other sharable, engaging, up-to-the-minute content. Is a king-sized price tag for enterprise content management still a sound investment? Is website content still relevant? Who reads it? Are visitors doing what you expect on your site? Can your goals be achieved through cheaper, more engaging, technologically up-to-date means?

Put People (and content) First

Your CMS won’t generate award-winning content or delve into a LinkedIn conversation to position you as a thought leader, right? It is smart people who develop and drive your brand through online engagement that polished your brand. So, why not invest in your people instead of a behemoth tool that saps both budget and resources. Instead, spend the money to market great content through sponsored LinkedIn updates and Twitter sponsored updates of your company’s blog content. Prioritize the budget to create incredible visual and video content that polishes your brand, host all of it on an open-source  blog platform and promote it through social media. In other words, Invest in the people-side of the equation by minimizing infrastructure costs.

You need not eliminate your website. It can live out there on the blog platform for when your visitors want to learn more about your company and its services, find a job or contact a sales person. But your brand’s philosophy, voice, style and reputation must be nurtured through authentic content and genuine community engagement–something that social tools and blogging platforms deliver for free.

What are your thoughts? What unorthodox online B2B approaches have you developed to meet the needs of an increasingly mobile, social customer ecosystem?

About

Gina is an Content Marketing Manager for a large tech company and a TEDster. She's a mash-up of physics, entrepreneurship and industrial engineering and loves to write about the intersection of business, technology, and humanity. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing TEDx events and delving into quirky technology projects with her preteen son.