Rethinking “websites”; rule 1
Let’s set the record straight: “Websites” are 1999. Today’s website needs to be an experience: a social experience, a mobile experience, an interactive experience. So when you’re thinking about how to create an “awesome website,” you really should be thinking about how to create an experience that engages your audience — and maybe the way to do that is not through a website at all.
Here are some tips for creating the best possible interactive experience:
Start with strategy
To whom are you speaking? Is your market baby boomers? If it is, then you are probably going to want to have some type of physical site, as baby boomers like to dig for information. The site could be a landing page, a content site, or a Flash-driven experience. As long as it contains the information that they’re looking for, baby boomers will find it awesome.
On the flipside, if you’re targeting rising professionals in their 20s and 30s, you might be better off focusing your efforts on social sites like Facebook. There are a number of brands taking time in 2010 to bolster brand experiences on these networks because they’ve learned that their audience just isn’t digging for information. You can create an awesome brand site, but if your audience isn’t going to visit it, you’re wasting your time.
Continuing down in age: If your focus is Generation Y, your consumers are probably spending more time on their mobile devices than in front of a computer. Better have your WAP page or mobile applications ready for this audience. Over time, you’ll want to make sure that your interactive presence is cohesive. But point blank, start by strategically targeting the vehicle that your audience is most likely to use.
Make it social
Regardless of whether your target is baby boomers or young professionals, your consumers are probably engaged in some type of online community and will share information they like if you give them the right tools. Provide people with the ability to spread the word easily. Site add-ons like “Add This” give developers quick access to the tools that make it easy to share any content on your website.
With Facebook rolling out its own set of sharing tools recently, you can now easily integrate all of your content with Facebook in a way that allows you to see what your friends have “liked.” This has been incredibly successful in the retail industry for early adopters such as Levi’s. With this new technology, you can view individual Levi’s products to see not only the total number of people who have liked it, but your specific friends’ likes as well. This is also a great new way for brands to quickly see product popularity within a particular age group or region.
Create an integrated marketing network
While it is possible to catch a fish with a fishing pole, it is much easier to catch a school of fish with a large net. The same rule applies for your brand’s digital presence.
In the digital age, there are a number of platforms and networks on which people are searching for information. Make sure you are where your audience is and, more importantly, once you have them, make sure you keep them. Your blog should lead to your website, your website to your Facebook and Twitter, your Facebook and Twitter to your mobile application, and so on. The wider your net is cast, the more fish you are going to catch.
A great example of this is a recent campaign run by Cottonelle. Cottonelle utilized outdoor media to spread the word about a campaign that asked consumers, “Which way do you roll?” The campaign immediately drove to mobile marketing — consumers texted in their response — which then drove to the web and social media. Each channel was also marketed and available independently of the other channels. If accessed independently, they then drove to other channels respectively. The findings were used in a follow-up campaign that then explained that the majority of people roll their toilet paper roll “over the top.” By utilizing multiple touch points through an integrated network — rather than a website alone — Cottonelle was able to engage a much wider group of consumers through a more interesting, integrated, interactive experience.
Reward brand advocates
Once your audience is engaged and active, how do you keep them talking? An awesome website might only be viewed once, but an awesome experience will bring your brand to life.
You need to reward those users who show brand affinity by including them in the brand through exclusive content, offers, and other incentives that will keep them engaged and active. This content can be simple; recognition of your No. 1 fan on a social network will go a long way. If you have a new product, exclusive event, or any relevant news, let your advocates know first. This not only gives them the sense of community and identity with the brand but also gives them a reason to keep coming back.
Incentivize user-generated content
The definition of content has changed over the years, but the old saying of “content is king” still rings true. As your brand integrates its current communications and website strategy with social platforms, it is important that your fans are just as involved in creating content as your internal team.
User-generated content can be anything from fan suggestions and surveys to images, videos, and more. While this content will occur naturally as your fan base grows, it is important to not only provide the means of gathering this type of content but also, in some instances, reward those who participate through weekly or monthly competitions or giveaways to those who participate in brand discussions.
Guide the conversation
Whether you acknowledge it or not, people are talking about your brand. While most comments are probably neutral or positive, negative content is something that all brands will have to deal with at some point. It is important that these conversations are not only monitored and documented as a form of brand feedback, but also guided to allow not the brand, but its advocates, to describe your brand’s unique selling points.
During a campaign for Prince Tennis during the 2009 U.S. Open, a picture was posted on Facebook of an athlete with the particular racquet that was a focus of the promotion. The post highlighted the benefits of the racquet and how it improved the player’s performance. A fan of the brand commented on the post, pointing out that “players customize their racquets, so they’re not the ones that you get in stores.”
This feedback could be potentially damaging and cause others to reject product benefits. Enough comments could lead to additional unsolicited comments, which would create a larger community of nay-sayers. By carefully monitoring the post and realizing the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive, Prince responded with a challenge: “Most players do — what do you do to your racquet to give it the highest performance?” With one simple twist, a potentially harmful post was flipped to receive positive and beneficial messaging from Prince’s fans as numerous fans flooded the page with their best tips for racquet modification.
In conclusion, the new awesome “website” is really all about delivering a great interactive experience. Know your audiences. Be where they are and give them a way to tell people that they are advocates. Let your advocates openly talk about the brand, but make sure you are guiding the conversation.
Follow these simple rules, and you will create the most awesome interactive experience.
Frank O’Brien, imediaconnection.com