The role of Websites in the age of Social Media

Here we are, finally managed to drag our own website into the 21st Century. Spending so much time working on client sites means you tend to neglect your own online presence, but what role does a website have today when Facebook, Twitter, et al are so popular?

We’ve noticed four trends in particular with websites over the past couple of years…

1. Site Shrinkage

After years growing wildly, for the first time sites are being pruned back. Our own site is 40% smaller than its predecessor, and we’re not alone. The practice of putting in everything plus the kitchen sink, just in case on the off-chance someone would like to download that old pdf that you found on your PC, is thankfully on the wane. There are many apocryphal examples of glaring errors on sites never spotted simply because no one has ventured that far into a site or simply bothered to read past the first paragraph. The process has been helped by the advent of the second trend…

2. Video

Let’s face it most people are basically lazy, given the choice of reading information on a site or watching a short, engaging video most will opt for the latter. There are lots of stats circulating that show a site with a video on the home page is at least 500% more like to capture a visitor than a site without video.

The YouTube generation is growing and maturing so the trend is likely to continue.  We have our own sexy video on our home page and our video production company is growing like billy-o and incredibly busy at the moment.

3. Social Media

Social Media from Stuart Hirst

Much of the content that once resided on a company’s website, non-sensitive marketing stuff, can now be legitimately shipped off to sites like LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook. Not only does this simplify your own site and free-up space, used properly social networks will drive traffic back to your website and improve its SEO.

Of course it not just a simple matter of scattering all your information to the four corners of the Internet – it has to be done logically AND importantly you have to start using the social part of social media, in other words you have to open up a dialogue with your customers and clients.

4. Mobile

Although I have my laptop ‘tethered’ to my phone and despite the deteriorating eyesight that comes with being an old git, I too use the Internet on my mobile phone. And I’m not alone, by 2014 it is forecast that the majority of internet access will be via mobile devices. One of my clients, a national recruitment agency, recently mention that 30% of their website visitors were already accessing it on the move.  What this translates to is a pressing need to ensure your website is visible and useable on iPhones, iPads and Android devices – it doesn’t matter how good the site looks if a user struggles to access it, they’ll go elsewhere. I certainly do.


What does the future hold for the company website?

Now that is the $64000 question. Undoubtedly businesses that have been built around e-commerce and websites like Amazon will continue to thrive and we’ll probably go the same way as the supermarkets with four or five major players supplying over 80% of what we buy. For B2B the future is less certain, but I think they will continue to contract, ultimately perhaps just being one page with a series of videos and links to various social media resources, I suspect 90% of site visits rarely get beyond the home page even today.

This will no doubt come as a great relief for most businesses as they struggle to keep their site topical and worthy of a regular visit. The bad news is that social networks are even harder to keep up to. But more of that another time.