Pretty frequently now, I have been getting this question from friends: “Do I really need a company web site?” Of course, I have been hearing this musing for at least 10 years in Devil’s advocacy conversations. But recently it has become almost a meme. I hear it mostly from people not in the heart of running digital strategy or operations, but I’ve heard it from friends at several other companies, who find running a web site complicated and expensive and wonder if they really need their site or if they could just do it exclusively via other avenues such as Facebook pages. The answer I usually give them is: “Yes, you do; and no, probably not.” And then I add: “But you’d better be thinking about broadening your mix and strategy.”
To back up for a moment, the argument against web sites is usually phrased as in this recent article in ReadWriteWeb, which argues that community building and content happen most effectively outside of the confines of a company web site – where it can be more easily shared and discovered. Fair point, and there’s no better example than the viral nature of YouTube discovery and YouTube sharing via Facebook, twitter and other mechanisms.
There’s strong reason to look hard at your digital mix: Social and especially mobile footprints are growing meteorically. Last year, smart phones exceeded PC sales, and BusinessInsider CEO Henry Blodget recently pointed out that in a few short years PC sales will be absolutely dwarfed by smart phones purchases.
At Cisco, we see similar trends. As shown in this chart below, tablet visitors are growing at 341%, mobile visitors 91%, and social reach is at 55% growth. annually (and all probably more in the last month, and my friends in B2C see even more meteoric mobile growth). Whereas last year our general web site visit growth around 2-5% depending on what month range you look at. And we’re very conservative in these numbers (for social reach, we don’t even count individuals like Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior who has 1.4 million followers on twitter today).
But look more closely. Looking at traffic size, you will see that the web is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. The core Cisco web sites get 240 million visits per year (around 72 million annual visitors), each one an opportunity to provide support, training and (yes) marketing to people who have sought us out and are engaged with Cisco. Furthermore, notice that the content on the web site draws in more than 70 million referrals from Google and other search engines. Referrals in from social media (mostly Facebook) are a much smaller number (even considering in the activity of “friends of friends.”) Even considering that visitors from social media are more engaged and register and interact more, it’s an impressive picture.
Furthermore, the web sites provide a place to interact in a long-term relationship: We can personalize your experience based on interest and behavior, can provide transactional one-stop service to, say, Partners via vehicles such as My Cisco Workspace, and (to talk marketing for a moment) can personalize offers and collect leads from new potential customers. And, the same technologies, services and processes that support these things on a web site support them on mobile devices including apps.
So, what’s the reality? You need to ensure your strategy aggressively embraces the social and mobile worlds; and, you need a company web site, too. You need to think of your digital footprint is an ecosystem where everything works together. It would be just as ludicrous to have no social presence as it would to have no web site and decide to ignore your visitors on tablets and smart phones. That fact is, all of these digital mechanisms work together to reach and interact with your customers.
Next time: Why I hope you are planning your web, social and mobile technology strategies together.