The need for a finely tuned, graphically pleasing, consistently updated, user-friendly website is a must if you’re going to be taken seriously as a business (or cause) today and found by potential customers (or supporters).
It is hard to argue with this logic. After all, advances in digital media have made it so every company can now tell their own stories, their own way on their own websites in a dazzling display of owned-media marketing prowess.
Yet, maybe we ought to consider what happens when all the information about you and your company is readily available and this level of transparency is the new standard. Perhaps it does pay to withhold a few details.
Playing Hard To Get On The Internet
I came across this tidbit in The New York Times this morning that points to a company that doesn’t need online buzz, thanks to its superior offline network.
Since leaving Facebook in 2010, Brandee Barker has become perhaps the most sought-after image consultant in the start-up world, first on her own and, since March, as part of the boutique firm Pramana Collective, which also employs former heads of public relations from Twitter and Skype. (The group has so much cachet that it does not yet have a website.)
This strikes me as the reinvention of the speakeasy model. When everyone knows your name, your location, your hours and so on, your place of business loses a degree of exclusivity. Maybe exclusivity makes you sick to your stomach and maybe it’s a horrible idea for your business (as it would be for any retailer). Be that as it may, from a brand perspective, a little mystery can go a long way.
It’s the Platform, Baby. You Can’t Touch That.
Now, let’s look at the question of how badly your company needs a website from another angle entirely. We’re moving away from a focus on building out YourName.com sites in favor of free out-of-the-box solutions offered by several social platforms.
The reality is, coding a website is difficult. It takes training and hundreds of hours of practice just to get up to speed; whereas, a platform for sharing content like Facebook, Medium or Tumblr is relatively easy to learn. These platforms also have the built-in advantage of traffic. If the fish are swimming in social seas, why not cast your net there?
For small businesses in particular, it’s important to weigh the costs of site development against the future gains. A kick ass website is a plus for sure, but it may not be the smartest investment for every small business. If you’re a soup cart in downtown Portland that benefits greatly from foot traffic and word-of-mouth advertising (thanks to your superior product and service), the need for a website is negated, particularly when the same results might be achieved via wise use of Facebook or other social platforms.
Dot Dot Dot
There is, of course, a long list of reasons why you do indeed want to lease a top level domain name every year and host a living breathing site on the world wide web. For one, there’s the question of who owns your content. When you publish to your own site, you do, but that’s not true when you post to Facebook. For this reason alone, it is advisable to maintain your own site and think of it as the official company archive.
Meanwhile, all your daily activity in social media is fast and furious. It’s of the moment, but like the day’s headlines it’s also fleeting. A great day in shared media or even in earned media is a definite boost, but it’s not long lasting. Tomorrow is a new day and every new day in brand publishing means you’re back staring at the blank page again.
Without question, it can be a daunting task to weave a daily narrative that is at once informative, engaging and a true service to your readers. To do this well, it’s likely you’ll need the help of one or more professional writers. Thankfully, I know a few.