The popularity of Facebook is echoing through the entire internet ecosystem and changing the way we communicate with each other and brands. While Facebook is becoming a dominant relationship marketing tool for brands, it seems that instead of increasing traffic to the company website, signs are appearing that Facebook has started to absorb it. Marketers across the globe are wondering whether their brand’s owned websites will become less important. In the future, will users still visit company websites or will they only use Facebook and connected apps to engage with the content of brands?
For many US companies, particularly those with non-transactional websites, visitor figures are in decline, while their Facebook visitors are growing. This is the core of a study by US web analytics agency Webtrends.
These insights prompt important questions of how serious companies are about creating a strategy to engage their audiences through Facebook, and whether they are allocating the right amount of resources between website management and Facebook. It also suggests questions should be asked about the balance of media investments, whether they should be used to route visitors to the website as traditionally, or to Facebook and other social presences. This is the story this research tells:
1. Visits to the majority of corporate websites are in decline
Looking at the year-on-year change in visits to the sites of the 100 biggest companies in US, the majority are declining, although there are similar levels of growth in others:
2. Growth in Facebook occurs at the expense of corporate sites
Note that this study looks at Facebook only. Important social networks such as YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn are excluded.
3. For some brands Facebook dominate
You’ll probably know this, but this graphic makes the point forcefully:
In these cases, the dominance of Facebook is likely due to a deliberate strategy to focus investment and marketing resource into Facebook.
4. Retail and transactional sites are different
The report also looks at changes for major US retailers. Here both forms of presence are increasing:
Should my company only have a Facebook page?
My general answer to this is: no. The issue is that if you take the Facebook-only-route, you don’t own the channel. In many ways you are on somebody else’s platform, under somebody else’s rules and conditions. It is essential that you create and maintain a blog or website you control to a greater degree – your online home base, your headquarters, your hub. Your social media channels should be treated more like embassies where you can engage and learn from your customers and prospects where they’re hanging out. In building this dialogue, determine a target group (as always) and find a good sweet spot of your goals (ROI) and what your audience would want. Also, early on a detailed content strategy should be developed that is channel-specific.
As the importance of social media grows, I imagine that in the future the majority of non-transactional corporate websites will be relatively static, except for any connected blogs and areas of the site where content from the “social embassies” is aggregated and contextualised (which might actually become the most important parts of corporate sites).
Facebook is a great channel to engage with your fans, build your brand and drive traffic to your owned website or blog. Yet, it’s important not to get too caught up in the hype and as a result ignore all the other great online and multi-channel opportunities (check out 12 brilliant examples of multi-channel innovations). Take inspiration from the most effective and innovative businesses that are genuinely integrating channels as well as infusing social technologies and mindsets throughout the organisation.