A guest post by Franz Keller of RSC Architects.
As a multiple-hat-wearing marketing director for a boutique commercial architecture firm, one of the many responsibilities I am tasked with is to make regular updates to our company website, as well as our social media outlets. I have also begun to keep an eye on our website stats, “follows,” and “likes” on our social media sites. The trends I’ve seen lately are interesting, if not a bit alarming. As our social media activity grows, our website traffic has remained relatively unchanged. So, I’ve begun to wonder: What’s the point of having both? Is social media going to be the death of the traditional website?
Our website, which was professionally designed, was rolled out just over two years ago. We spent an exorbitant amount of time and money creating a simple yet comprehensive site that would offer clients and prospects a glimpse into our portfolio and expertise. As the site was designed by a seasoned webmaster, not many people in our organization (myself included) would step up to make regular updates to the site out of fear of mucking up what someone else worked so hard to create. Therefore, we have retained said webmaster to make ongoing—usually quarterly—changes to our site. This typically involves project updates, news feeds, press releases, and any awards we may have won. The fee we pay is not outrageous, but it certainly adds up.
Jumping Into Social
As the proliferation of social media sites took hold, I approached the owner of our firm with the idea of creating some pages for our company. Not knowing much about social media sites other than the amount of time his kids were wasting on them, he rightfully had many questions: Will Facebook increase sales? Will we get new clients through LinkedIn? What the heck are we going to post on Twitter?
“Who cares?” I replied. “It doesn’t cost anything, and plus [insert competitor’s name] is doing it so we should,too.” And with that, we leapt feet first on the social media bandwagon—not really knowing where we were headed. I immediately created a corporate Facebook page, company LinkedIn page, and Twitter account. I implored my fellow employees to create LinkedIn pages, put social media links in their email signatures, and have their colleagues “like” us on Facebook. We even had our webmaster add Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook buttons to our website, for a fee, of course. In no time, we were a social media juggernaut.
Now, by design, the architecture industry is not one that would benefit from social media. Most firms aren’t offering coupons, launching new products, running specials on our services, or getting foot traffic through our doors. Yet a large portion of us use social media sites for other things, such as announcing new projects, welcoming new hires, and posting other relevant company or industry news. Similarly, this is why most of us created websites in the first place.
Depending on your level of web design acumen or if you employ an in-house webmaster, social media can be that everyman medium to getting info out into cyberspace instantly. On our end, we post professional photography of our projects, news and announcements, and if we’re going to attend an upcoming event. We even link our quarterly e-newsletter to our social media accounts. So, what the heck do we need a glossy and expensive website for anyway?
Why a Website Matters
Quite simply, the answers are: stability and familiarity. Think of the company website as a landline phone number and social media as a prepaid cell phone. Both will allow you to make a call, receive a call, and offer a number at which to contact you. But there is sense of trustworthiness, standing, and permanence to a landline phone number that you just don’t get by using a prepaid cell phone.
Social media can be viewed in the same way—anyone can use it and it doesn’t take a whole lot of expertise or credibility to set it up. In fact, it’s often difficult to judge if a company Facebook page is “official” or merely set up by an outside user or group. Furthermore, people are more apt to click through to an actual website in a search engine result (such as Google) than clicking through to a URL that is linked to a business page on Facebook or LinkedIn, or worse, tweeted on Twitter. Social media feeds quench our thirst for instant gratification and therefore, the information is fleeting. We receive a news update, and as quickly as it’s received, it’s forgotten.
A static website offers a permanent location where visitors can return time and time again and find the information they need, and not have to scroll through endless pages of status updates. When a person clicks the Twitter button on a webpage, the page URL is then tweeted in their Twitter account to all their followers. Some of their followers will read the tweet and few will actually click the link in it. The same thing happens on a Facebook page. You have to go to the info page to view the URL to the actual business website. Specific to our industry, while it’s nice to post project photos on our social media sites, nothing beats a portfolio of full-screen, easily-navigable, high resolution photos on your website.
While social media does in fact help to boost a company’s search engine optimization (SEO), nothing beats a properly coded website for SEO, and companies would be wise not to abandon efforts of raising SEO value through a business website over increasing your business presence in social media accounts. It is important to remember that social media was never meant to be used to push businesses—rather it is a way to stay in touch. As many of us still use social media solely as a way to stay in touch with family and friends, most people I’ve spoken with feel that it’s a bit unprofessional to push or oversell a business on social pages. It’s like getting a telemarketing call when you’re at home eating dinner.
Your company website should be the place where you push your business. Our company’s Internet marketing strategy—whether via social media, e-newsletters, or any other correspondence—has always been to drive people to our website. It does not work the other way around. Sure, we have links to our social media sites on our website, but we are in no way trying to push visitors away from our site. To promote your actual website over a Facebook or LinkedIn page drives traffic to your main website and will increase its popularity, and its SEO value.
To have a well-structured presence on the web, it’s important to treat your website and social media pages as you would if you had to manage two competitive and insecure employees. Allow them to coexist, nurture a working relationship between them, and try not to let one get more attention that the other. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each, utilize them accordingly, and don’t allow one to usurp the other. You will find that, working in tandem, social media and your old-fashioned website will lend credibility, professionalism and a sense of internet savvy to your company.