For years, good advertising campaigns were developed creatively by two people: the art director and the copywriter. Good campaigns nowadays still do. Ad agencies realised that the whole package needed to work together – the text informed the design, which carried the text.
Web site projects, however, don’t. Is that a good thing?
In my opinion, no.
Why do ad campaigns have a balance of design and words? Because it works. It is how the ad sector has developed materials for ages. And they keep doing it because it works.
But for some reason, web sites evolve with just a design influence. Yes, I know the responsibility of providing the content falls to the client and the designer plays the role of art directior, but I would argue that projects set up in this way really struggle break through because the client doesn’t know how to write effectively or communicate effectively with their audience.
If ad campaigns were set up like web sites, the art director would be relying on the client to come up with the copy, tagline or slogan. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Then why is the web any different?
Should I join you on Facebook or visit your web site or follow you on Twitter or connect with you on LinkedIn?
It’s intriguing that with the maturation of social media, organisations are now asking their audiences or customers to join them in multiple places online. Many companies promote their online presence by asking customers to like them on Facebook, visit their web site for more information, to follow them on Twitter or join their YouTube channel.
Then they’re disappointed if people don’t do all four.
The question I asked a client last week, in terms of how to structure an online presence, was to ask the simple question, ‘where should people connect with you on the web?’
Their answer was: ‘everywhere. We want people to join us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, our web site – everything ’.
Is that realistic? Also, it is worth it?
I don’t think it’s realistic. People are time-poor and don’t have spare time stashed away that they can spend communicating with you via four or five different platforms.
At this point of the discussion, the techies usually jump in and say ‘Don’t panic! We’ll link up your Twitter feed to populate your web site and link your blog to your Linkedin profile so it is automatically updated.’ Is that the right approach?
As with so many things when it comes to communication on the web, I don’t think a technical solution automatically fixes a communication problem.
The key behind the strategy of an integrated online presence is that you are using the channel to reach people who a) are in that channel anyway or b) like the style that that platform produces.
I’ve set up social media programs where the organisation has used Facebook as a research tool and Twitter to make announcements particularly to the media. If their customers don’t follow both, then that’s fine. The communication channels are playing their role.
I have prospective customers who we refer to this blog because it showcases my expertise in social media or web writing and I don’t then push them into joining our eNewsletter or follow me on Twitter. And that’s okay … I am still connecting with them.
Social media has enabled us to connect with people in a different way but on the downside it has also fragmented the overall communication with them online.
So where do you want people to connect with you on the web?
One of the things that has always fascinated me about web sites and social media is that people often will upload a better version of themselves than what they really are.
I have seen some profiles from friends and colleagues where the photo is stylized and I know of one particular woman who Photoshops ALL photos before they go online.
The persona they adopt, the language that they use and the stories they tell can give you a different impression of who they are as well.
I was talking about this with some friends and someone mentioned they were disappointed in what they’d seen on social media from their friends – not because it was offensive or incorrect, but because it wasn’t the real them. And the person made the statement ‘it’s a shame that they aren’t more real because who they are is what makes them’.
So what does this philosophical rant mean for corporate web sites?
I have recently worked on a couple of corporate web sites, where it was obvious in the briefing meeting that the client wanted to portray on the web a better version of themselves.
Now while I completely agree that you should always put your best foot forward when promoting yourself, one of the things with these companies was that their success was built on the type of people they were and the way they did business. What they wanted to put on their web site didn’t reflect that. As a result, it wasn’t going to engage with prospective customers in the same successful way they engaged with people in the real world.
Since then, I’ve taken on two projects where we are very much working towards adding personality to the site and being as real as possible – to show a company warts and all on the web but then to take the next step to showing how a company fixing its shortcomings. The web site is about people … not product.
Surveys are showing how people’s trust of web sites is falling simply because people don’t just believe what they read on the web any more. One way to get around that is to be real – to show what your customers look like, how you help them and to remove the marketing fluff which tries to show something that you obviously aren’t.
From lurkers to contributors …
The fourth and final key to social media is not just getting people to turn up in your social media space, it’s getting them involved.
How do you engage with people via social media? This is actually the hardest part of running any social media program. This isn’t like Kevin Costner in the field of dreams ‘if we build it they will come’. You need to work hard to a) bring people into the community but then work even harder to b) engage with them.
In a workshop yesterday, I was asked ‘how do you turn people from lurkers to contributors?’ She was having issues with many people interested in her social media presence, but very few actually contributing.
That’s quite normal. Research from a few years back found that around 70% of social media communities observe the contributions of others while not adding anything themselves. In short, they like to watch.
So how do you turn that 70% into contributors? Well, the first thing to realise is that some people won’t contribute … and that’s okay. They don’t want to participate proactively – and probably wouldn’t if you were holding a conversation around a board table in the real world. So expecting the whole 70% to start becoming posting machines isn’t feasible.
But you can chip away at the others. Some ideas for you:
- Ask questions. Too many corporate social media efforts are one-way message broadcast services. You can’t look at it this way if you want to be engaging with people. You have to talk WITH them, not AT them. So ask their opinions, ask questions and get them to respond to issues by asking them to … but keep it professional. Find out how they use your products or services, but be careful asking them which is their favourite day of the week or whether they scrunch or fold. They’ll disappear faster than you could imagine.
- Start the ball rolling for them. Sometimes people are reluctant to jump into a conversation (or even a social media space) because they don’t want to be the first one to talk. If that’s the case for you, you may want to set up a few people to be key contributors. Give them ideas if you need to.
- Find out why they don’t participate. Perhaps they don’t feel they know enough to contribute. If that’s the case, then show them that any contribution is welcome.
- Use polls or simple response competitions. Clicking on a radio button is actually a contribution.
These are just some ideas to hopefully spark further ones. Growing social media is not just about numbers … it’s about engagement.