I know its a sounds crazy, but its a concept that is growing some legs.
In a recent article on bnet.com, David Rogers (no relation) spoke about how the U.S. State Department shut down their website, www.America.gov, created to "to provide cultural and policy content to the world." in favor of harnessing Social Media to advance its message.
The aim is to communicate in a more interactive way with today’s networked audiences around the world—like those blogging Egypt’s revolution from Tahrir Square or documenting Syrian unrest on YouTube. Further, the Wall Street Journal reported that Starbucks receives over ten times as much traffic to its Facebook page (19.4 million unique visitors each month) as to its corporate website (1.8 million). For Coca-Cola, the divergence is even starker: 22.5 million visitors on Facebook vs. just 270,000 to its website—over 80 times as much traffic.
So am I a believer? Not entirely. Yes, with all the apps, twitter feeds, etc. I rarely go to one's website initially but what these apps and tweets are doing is pulling me to the website. It's good ol' fashioned Multi-Channel Marketing. And the corporations listed above have a much different audience and vision that many Foundations, Associations or Publishers.
We recently signed up with an firm that would help optimize our website, etc. After going through the training, we realized it was no different than the tried and true Direct Marketing concepts that have been used for decades...Call's to Action, Source Coding, Lead Nuturing...it was only a different channel.
So in a time, when pennies are pinched, Not for Profit and For Profit Organizations have to be more agile than ever before, many are looking to dump the redundancy and cost of their full fledged website in favor of free social media sources. But before you do so, my brother from another mother, David Rogers, has come up with a few Pros and Cons of each approach.
Pros of Social Media:
1. Inherently interactive. That’s where the term “social” comes from. Unlike a static HTML website, designed to read and click, social media like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are designed around sharing, responding, and interacting.
2. Where people are spending time. With over 500 million active users on Facebook, most Web audiences are spending more time there than browsing organization's sites. Just be sure that’s true for your own demographic (e.g. Facebook is a nonstarter in Japan) and your own industry (most users still do not use Facebook for learning about b2b topics).
3. Easy to acquire. Clicking a “like” button on Facebook or “follow” button on Twitter is a lot easier than filling in the sign up form on a web page. So it’s no surprise that many companies find it easier to build a large following on social media platforms.
4. Virality. When your audience interacts with you on social media platforms, it is instantly visible to their own friends and contacts. This digital “word-of-mouth” can be one of the most powerful tools for reaching new audiences.
Benefits of Your Own Website
1. Control the design. Have you ever tried designing a page on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube? The experience is like trying to swim with one hand tied behind your back. Having your own website allows you complete control, which may be essential if you have a lot of content or options that you need to organize for different audiences.
2. Own the data. Social media platforms are owned by the companies that run them, and, as such, they are the only ones holding all the data on your members, customers and donors and your interactions with them. On your own website, you own all the data.
3. Targeting and personalization. Owning data and controlling design allow for much more targeted interaction with your constituents than is possible on social media platforms. If you know which emails a member in your database is clicking on, you can ensure her follow up emails, Web landing pages, and ecommerce experiences are much more suited to her particular interests.
4. Reach all your audience. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, or other services which might reach large segments of your customers, your own website is available to 100% of them. (That is, as long as your website has been optimized to work on a mobile phone.)
So unless you organization is so small that you lack in house resources, you most certainly need both Social Media and a tried and true website...even the State Department kept its main site!