There are two schools of thought when it comes to marketing brands online and the presence they need.
- Build a website that houses everything - all of your text, images, audio and video - in one, centralized, location.
- Use the existing platforms and build your presence within their community (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc...).
Both have merit, and you can also do a little bit of both. For example you can house all of your branded content in your own website, and use the existing online communities to set-up outposts (as Chris Brogan calls them) - a specific Facebook Fan Page or a YouTube Channel - to further promote what you're about with strong links back to your mothership (or website). You can also use a Facebook Page as your home base and direct people to a microsite for more information or to gather more data from them than Facebook might allow based on their terms of service. Personally, I advocate for owning your own space, building it and nurturing it and using those other/existing platforms to promote or extend the brand. Brands should own their content, community and type of conversation and not be beholden to the terms of service or whims of someone else.
It's a personal choice, but it's all going to change again soon.
Those big, lumbering websites with all of that functionality, flash and content could very well disappear into a mist of mobile before we all know it. Today, companies have big corporate websites and only a fraction of them have mobile sites, iPhone applications or even make it easy for a consumer to navigate through their content from a mobile device. For the majority of brands that are even engaging at the mobile level, it's of significantly smaller scale and proportion when compared to what their pumping into their Web efforts. Look around at the mobile adoption that people have. Whether it's iPhone, BlackBerry, Nexus One, Palm Pre or even the basic web browser on their cell phone, it's happening more and more and the growth is alarming.
Marketers are not going to be prepared for this shift... and this shift is now.
There are too many brands who feel like they waited too long before they really embraced the Digital Marketing opportunities that were there for them when the Internet became more commercial. Some feel like they still have not really mastered the channel. And, while all of this is going on, it's not hard to imagine a world in the not-to-distant future where the website is all but an after-thought. Where the first brand interaction happens on the screen in your hand. Where that first brand interaction seamlessly lets you accomplish all (and maybe even more) of your goals without ever really needing to go to a full-on web browser. That kind of world might dictate an even smaller web presence - a secondary place where it simply compliments or augments the mobile platform. Imagine a day and age where your website is simply a standard/checklist item to have (like being listed in the phone directory, having business cards or an address on the door of your physical location), but not because it is even a fraction of the brand experience anymore.
It's not a lofty science fiction thought... it makes perfect sense.
It's nice to think that you'll deal with that world when it arrives, but it might already be here. How many times have you been frustrated when you could not find the directions, location or store hours of a retailer while looking for them on your mobile? How many times have you fired open your iPhone only to laugh at how non-existent some big brand's experience is on that platform. This is the same kind of conduct we saw in the early days of the Internet. The difference is that things are moving faster. We have the infrastructure to support it and companies that are doing this well (see Amazon's iPhone app) are benefitting, while laying the groundwork and framework for what "online" will mean.
Marketers, businesses and entrepreneurs: this isn't something that's coming in the next decade. It's practically here and the opportunity is now.