Recently, while presenting to a prospective client (fingers crossed!) this question came on the table several times, and this morning I saw a couple of tweets along the same lines, promptng me to commit some thoughts to an early AM blog post (yes, before coffee, so don’t complain about grumpiness).
This to me seems a case of pendulum swinging too much to the other extreme: after months if not years of denial, now some companies may be considering to dump their traditional websites in favor of an articulated system of pages & sub-pages on FB.
Not so, IMHO.
The fact we may accept that the web has ALSO a social nature does not take away the existence of “other” natures: there will always be a transactional nature, for buying and selling goods and services, or an informational one, giving access to data. Among these other natures, these is and will continue to be, an institutional nature, allowing brands to self-represent themselves fully inclusive of all the aspirational elements of their brand promise.
Actually, I believe that this multiple representation is in the best interest of consumers, which can gauge the sincerity of a brand promise by seeing it in action, but at the same time may understand that a certain practical behaviour is the intentional result of a long term design.
Let’s now assume that the ongoing social interaction with consumers on social networks may reveal that they are interested in a certain aspect of my product, for example its sustainability; the correct reaction may then be to beef up the sustainability section of my main website, mirroring consumer interests.
This flexibility need may or may not possible on the main website (often based on technology not really designed to accommodate it). Practicality dictates then that in many cases a third, more ephemeral layer is needed: linked to a campaign or to a specific focus, single- or multiple- product, brand owned or simply “sponsored by”, this layer may serve also as a lead collector or other tactical purpose.
The brands who manage the transition to a social web more effectively are therefore not those that stick everything on a single asset, but those who manage to keep coherence across multiple domains and multiple interactions: another case of the solution not being in the tools, but in the strategy.