At the height of the dot com boom in the 1990s, every other business, small or big invested a fortune in developing and maintaining their own corporate website. Millions was spent in experimenting and taming this alien animal and trying to milk it as much as possible. Then came the dot com bust, which made it loose its sheen but still the corporate sites, remained dominant as an important part of the corporate image building program.
But now suddenly the situation seems to be rapidly changing with the emergence of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. Among these Facebook, the social network behemoth is increasingly claiming greater control over consumers with 25 million users in India, bulk of whom are in the 15-35 years age bracket. Brands now more often have started using “Find us at www.facebook.com/brand” in their brand campaigns, rather than mentioning the URLs of their corporate website. Some statistics below further clarify the point.
Starbucks, in one month, had 1.8 million website visitors vs. 21.1 million likes on Facebook. It was 270,000 visitors vs. 20.5 million likes for Coca-Cola. For Oreo, 290,000 vs. 10.1 million. Companies are also increasingly questioning the need to have separate corporate sites when the bulk of interest and traffic from customers goes directly to their Facebook pages.
German car maker Volkswagen has even gone ahead and dropped the corporate website URL from its recent set of television ads and promoted a new Facebook URL:www.facebook.com/vw. The Facebook site starts with a product overview page with links to Facebook group pages for each of the individual cars where visitors can become “fans” of the cars.
On the flip side, one advantage of using your own branded URL is that the Web is universal – anyone can go to your homepage. However, with Facebook, users will need to be members in order to fully participate in your Page. But again with 1/4th of our country and 600 million users across the world are already on Facebook, making it clearly the biggest platform consumer outreach.
There are so many things brands can do on Facebook such as contests, promotions, games, freebies being given away, that entice their consumers directly, while corporate sites on the other hand remained static and unattractive and instead of being a go-to website, it now merely acts as a landing page or a brochure page or a reference page for their Facebook page.
In India, while many companies have Facebook sites, they are still trying to quantify the value of social media, and they are not abandoning their corporate websites. Yet, with consumers willingly paying for apps, in part because they deliver content customised for a mobile device, the Gartner Group predicts that, within four years, 50 per cent of online sales will be via a social presence and mobile apps. So while the goals for all web properties of brand and businesses are clear – expand reach, build brand loyalty, capture sales – the “how” is not yet so clear.
If you have an answer to this “How” with relation to an Indian brand, please share..