Social Media Vs Web Design: Where To Put Your Money
Don’t get me wrong, as someone who has a background in marketing, I think it is imperative that most companies have both a website and an active social media platform working in conjunction with each other. However, from a pragmatic point of view, many companies must decide whether to invest their online time and resources more into a large-scaled website with many bells and whistles or a well-attended social media front that engages their target audience on a daily basis. This article will explore which of these two online marketing methods is best for your company.
One of the key differences between a website and a social media strategy is that social media is proactive where a website is reactive. To put it another way, on a website, it is up to the reader to find the site, take in the information provided and respond to it. This requires a correspondence via email or phone between a potential client and business. A social media platform, however, can allow you to contact your audience and prompt them to respond to you in many different ways. Social media tears down that wall between the client and your business and allows the online equivalent of walking through the front doors of the main office.
Please keep in mind that before you read any further, I am not inferring that one platform can supplement the other, I am merely helping identify where one should spend their time and resources developing more. To help identify where to send your attention you should ask a few questions about your audience:
Where is your audience?
Is your audience on Facebook? Twitter? What about Pinterest? Assess how your audience uses the internet and where they spend their time. A great majority of Americans uses Facebook, however using the site as a source of knowledge is different than communicating with loved ones. Finding out where your audience is will help you gauge where you should focus the majority of your time. It’s a waste of time and resources to create and maintain a Google + account if none of your target market uses it, so why bother? Use surveys and focus groups to find out how your target audience spends their time on the internet and where they devote their eyeballs. Begin using your social media platforms and see who is listening by asking questions and conversing with your fans. As more people start to join the chat begin posting more frequently on those platforms and increase the amount of time and resources you give to that medium.
How do you want to interact with your audience?
Your online communication strategy should reflect how you communicate with your clients in real life. Assess your company and how it currently communicates with their audience. Do have a brick and mortar storefront? Are you known for your customer service? Do your clients want or need consistent contact with your company? You may want to consider translating those forms of communications into your social media/website strategy. A very social company, like a small restaurant or boutique may consider using social media to host interactive contests that shows off its loyal fan base and provide incentive to repeat customers.
A few ideas are:
– A photo submission contest that shows customers using your products in a fun or unique way.
Encourage your customers to create a commercial or viral video that can be used to show off how awesome your business is
– Use geolocation platforms like foursquare to encourage checkins and reward those who check-in often.
A business more concerned with keeping in contact with their clients and close followers while keeping the distance a website can provide may want to consider something along the likes of these ideas:
– Send an email newsletter and posting their press releases on their website to keep them in the loop of your company’s news and latest events.
– Keep a well-kept press section that archives your press releases and news articles for journalists bloggers and close followers.
– If you sell products to consumers, sell small batches of a selected product at a discount on certain days for a very short period of time.
How does your audience want to interact with you?
Are you effectively meeting the communication needs of your customers? Do they want more feedback from your company? Less? Your online strategy is a great way to balance your communication practices and provide either more open or direct avenues to communicate with your target market. Consider using your online platforms as a resource to handle operations that could be handled outside of the storefront such as: job applications, gift registration, and bill payment/processing. After determining how your audience would like to communicate with your company you can decide where to provide your services. A great development team can help make your website perform just about any task you need it to and many social networking sites (like Facebook) are opening up their web site’s code to allow for more apps to be developed so similar functions may be performed on their social media platforms as well. The internet can mimic (or even replace) services that your business offers in-house, but think of the many different ways your company could interact only the internet can provide.
Consider these ways to interact with your audience and how they want to communicate with your business both inside and outside the store:
– Create a mobile app to assist with shoppers while in and out of your establishment; think of the app like a personal shopper that shows new styles, sale items, and suggests products catered to their tastes. Companies like http://www.5thfinger.com/ can help your company create an mobile solutions for your consumers to engage with that will heighten engagement and provide new levels of customer service.
– Use a hashtag chat on Twitter connects customers to your name and each other as a means for sharing their experiences with your brand and also allows you to chime in when necessary and monitor your customers sentiment.
While both a social media campaign and a great web design are necessary for most companies to have a successful online presence, there is no magic recipe for success; the balance of how much of each is something each company must determine on their own. Neither a website or social media is cheaper than the other, great web design costs more upfront, however requires little to no maintenance (minus content changes and general correspondence with your customers) and should be updated every 1-2 years. Social media generally requires hiring on another employee or using an out-of-house service to manage all of your conversations, promotions and feeds across several channels. Using the parameters above with some critical thinking about your communication strategy, you should be able to customize a strategy to fit your business model.
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