I'll drop a bomb.
Your website is becoming less important every year. What was once considered the holy grail of your online presence is diminishing in its importance year by year. I will go out on the proverbial limb and say that in five years, it will be an ancillary piece that will have only specific core functions. I would never say that it will disappear completely as there are still a few things you will always need it for. Let's dig into the reasons you will always need a great website first.
It is the only place on the web you actually own. Facebook, YouTube, Google+...all of these online platforms are owned by someone else. Their playground, their rules. Changes are made at their discretion. Your website on the other hand is an online entity that is branded specifically to your business. It is set up and functions exactly how you want it and remains so until you decide to change it.
I also believe e-commerce will remain on your website for many years to come. With privacy and security an issue on social platforms, people simply don't trust most purchases via a social shopping cart. We should know. Out of the many shopping carts we have installed on Facebook, not one has garnered many transactions. In fact, compared to a websites shopping cart, the social shopping cart produces less than 1% of what a website based shopping cart does.
Your website will also remain the place for facts and figures that would be a hindrance on a social platform. For example, while Ford motor company has a great social presence, nowhere on YouTube can I get the miles per gallon or other specifications about a car that I need. That would bog down user experience.
I also believe it will also remain important to have a professionally designed and optimized website. Since it is the only place branded for your business, hiring a professional who can give you the best face is well worth it. SEO in my opinion is going away, but most good web designers have stayed with the times and understand the newer algorithms to get you found for when people make that search. There will always be a segment of society that will never participate on a social network.
So why do I say websites are becoming ancillary? People spend so much time on social platforms in discovery mode. Think about the trends: The news finds us. Our friends recommend products and services which appear in our home feeds. We hear about a restaurant in almost real time when someone posts up on their social profile. Foursquare tells you where your friends are. Pictures are posted up everywhere and tagged for a location. Information has shifted from people actively searching to information finding us. Even television commercials have shifted to include their Facebook, Twitter or YouTube assets in place of websites.
While Facebook search currently lacks the robust algorithms to pinpoint a businesses page, the rumor has it that this is a product they will be diligently improving over the next year. When this happens, you will see an even more drastic shift in consumer search.
Word of mouth is always going to be the most powerful form of advertising and marketing. Social platforms are becoming the go to place for this online. It is word of mouth on steroids. Smart marketers monitor the social platforms for the keywords and phrases that relate to their business to see what people say. And while discussion boards are a great place to monitor, often times these are "planned" posts by consumers. On social platforms they are typically in conversational mode and post off the cuff in real time. Social platforms will become the place where a buying decision is made. What friend says about a product or service far outweighs what a company says about themselves. This happens continually, every second on the social platforms.
We look to the youth often times to seek out and discover fundamental shifts in the next generation's use of technology and communication which invariably leads to creating ways in which to market to this new generation of consumers. When I see my teens and their friends and the way the seek information out, it relies heavily on the seemingly minutia of simple posts to Facebook, or a late night tweet. What their friends say about a new pair of jeans on Facebook resonates throughout their tremendous number of friends. While the average Facebook user has 230 friends or so, when broken down demographically, the youth under 25 typically average closer to 750 friends. Whether you think these are actual friends or not, they still hold mass audiences at their disposal. What Alyssa or Allison say about your product can reach thousands viral. In minutes.
They are also relying less and less on searching Google for a website. I continually see Generation Y search Google, but they will use the word "Facebook" or "YouTube" as one of the keywords when searching. While they used to search "Gap jeans" they now search "Facebook Gap jeans".
Your website will always have a place. However, if you continue to rely on this for your online presence without adding the social networks to support it, be prepared to lose market share.
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