2010 Web Strategy

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Newspapers aren’t going to disappear any time soon, but the traditional website is. The traditional website – essentially a digitized version of your offline brochure, catalog or similar printed piece – is quickly becoming outdated and ineffective. And this has everything to do with the changes we’re seeing in online user mentality. For the past few years, users have gradually moved from a “find” mentality to a “use” mentality.

social-media-people.JPGEmpowered by social media tools, Internet users are now more interested in using your content than ever before. You’re limiting your potential online success if you do not allow people to easily share, use, engage with and become part of your content. The key to enabling people to share is to offer them your content in small, targeted chunks. People are less likely to share your entire website, but much more likely to share a link to a specific piece of your content. Think about it, you wouldn’t suggest to a friend to simply go to the theatre, you’d more likely suggest a particular movie playing at that theatre. It’s the same on the web, so give people that option and make it as simple for them as possible.

It’s important to remember though that you would only suggest a good movie, in other words, content is still king. So no change there – without amazing, valuable content, nobody will care and nothing will happen. What has changed is the ideal location where this content should live. Because of the shift in user mentality, it’s important to realize that people are less likely to come looking for you. Therefore it no longer make much sense to keep all your content on your own site. Move your content away from your website, to places where the conversations are already taking place. Your website will merely function as a hub — like a Google Reader, just pulling in all your different feeds and collecting them all in one place – showing everything you do and where you do it.

So where should you move your content to? The trick is to come up with the content first. Don’t try to fit your content to a channel, but rather pick the channel based on your content. If all you want to share are short updates, use Twitter. If you need to physically show people how to do something use videos on YouTube. De-centralizing your network in this way will spread your reach. The days were most of your referring traffic came from Google are (almost) over. Because trampoline is actively engaged in social media, over half of our referred traffic now comes from social media sites (mostly Facebook and Twitter). We’ve seen even bigger shifts with some of our clients.

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So, if you’re not part of the social web yet, you should really get on board in 2010. You want to be part of people’s “social streams”, engage with them in continuous interaction and become part of their every day lives. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is, but the rewards can be enormous, too. In this day and age, only truly unique and renewing ads make a lasting impact, the rest we barely even see, let alone remember. But social media allows you to share things instantly with people who already care about your brand. This means you don’t have to actively advertise to them, because they are already more likely to listen and spread the word for you if they like what you have to say. It’s an old concept called word-of-mouth advertising, except this time it’s on steroids. And word-of-mouth advertising has remained as the only “advertising” that pokes right through our anti-advertising shield every single time.

It’s crucial you understand that these networks often form an integral part of people’s lives. Traditional advertising doesn’t work on these networks because that’s not what people are there for. Social media users tend to ignore direct advertising. Social media networks are about building and maintaining personal connections, relationships and trust, not advertising. It allows you to become immersed in the conversation that is already taking place about your product or service. You get to approach it from a unique inside angle that allows you to learn about trends, address issues directly, network, prospect new clients, and offer existing customers incentives, coupons and other useful information to keep them interested in your brand.

Social media is a lot of things, but a common misconception is that it’s cheap and takes little time. Keep in mind that in order to receive you need to give. You need to provide some of your content and/or products for free (that’s right, free) and encourage users to use and share those. Also, if you want to be heard, you need to learn how to listen first — always talk with your audience, not at them. You have to show they are interacting with another human and not a corporation — be real, and do not SPAM or advertise. If you want to make the most out of your participation you need to go in with a plan and you need to be patient, it can take months to build any type of following. But in the end it all boils down to content — high quality and frequency. If you’re serious about getting involved in social media you should create a position or better yet, hire a professional copywriter who understands social media.

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