Social Media plays a Pivotal Role in Redefining Your Website

Doug Allen, CIO, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
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Doug Allen, CIO, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

When you let Google auto-finish the query “the web is…”, the first suggestion that comes up is the oft-searched phrase “the web is dead.” Those of us involved with over-hauling or re-designing our next website are perhaps too deep into our projects to look up and see what’s going on. One of the trends is users consuming their content from media-specific specialized sites and apps (Spotify, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, SoundCloud, etc.) and thereby reducing their traffic on the web portion of the Internet. This trend informs what I like to call “flipping your website” by giving over to these external service providers and letting your website take an intentional backseat.

"The major social networks have all the tools that your developers need to integrate your external media and content back to the website"

Because websites can serve a wide variety of organizations and visitors, it is a gross generalization to say that the web is dead. It is not dramatic, however, to say that many websites have lost their relevance to their audience and that a new paradigm of visitor-service thinking is in order. One possible path to this goal is the concept of your website as a connector to your organization’s content that lives primarily in other places on the Internet.

The idea of a connector website means using external repositories for content storage and delivery, while linking to or embedding that content on the website. Many have done this with YouTube or Vimeo for videos, but not in a serious way and not in a way that extends to all forms of content. The casual method is to have some website videos that are hosted from YouTube because it was an easy way to get around the technical challenge of servicing video from your site. A “flipped” website has put a lot of thought and effort into their YouTube channel(s) as a top-tier, primary effort from the organization. High quality video production, spokespeople, organized videos, etc. The YouTube channel exists for video users and more people discover the organization because of YouTube than the website.

LinkedIn or Medium.com are much better places for your corporate blog to exist. Focus on writing high-quality content and publishing in those parts of the social sector where people go to consume good writing. Your podcast goes to SoundCloud or organization and you put a lot of effort into writing and producing captivating stories and other content that people have to subscribe to. The history of your company is detailed on Wikipedia. Images of your products and services are organized (and more im-portantly, shared with others) at Pinterest or Instagram.

There are still a lot of companies that need to redo their website so it’s responsive and will (finally) look good on mobile devices. They need to do this just to get up to 2010 standards. But don’t just think about responsiveness, some new colors and navigation improvements. You have to take this opportunity to flip the site – reorganize the web team around content crea¬tion that delights your customers over in those areas of the Internet where they spend their time.

This concept also helps with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your site. SEO is accomplished in three steps: 1 – knowing the topics (phrases and keywords) that people looking for you are using in search engines; 2 – making sure your website liberally and sensibly uses these phrases and keywords so the site even qualifies for a search result; and 3 – getting ranked high in the list of results because your “brand” is shared and “talked about” in other parts of the Internet. You cannot win at SEO any longer with just a website. Google wants their brand to be great and they really just want to give search visitors the best possible (relevant) results. When you begin to focus on these other content distribution channels – in their own way – your visibility skyrockets.

The major social networks have all the tools that your developers need to integrate your external media and content back to the website. SoundCloud, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, Yelp, Pinterest, Vimeo, all offer complete APIs or SDKs. Flickr has a long list of un-supported APIs. Medium is so far resisting the idea of an API, but you can use tools such as import.io to scrape and integrate.

Here’s the tough news- you may not be able to just refocus your web team to achieve these goals. You may have to blow up the team and create a different structure. The creation of compelling content demands skills outside of design and web programming. Are you using an external firm to design and program your site? You may need to instead hire that group of quality content creators and production companies for each of these external channels so that your brand and services are delivered with the care they deserve.

Take a look at Home Depot’s YouTube channel and Pinterest boards. You’ll find AskPat at SoundCloud, YouTube and Twitter before you stumble upon his website through a search engine. Clothier S.E.H. Kelly takes such beautiful photographs that of course you’ll see (and share) their outfits and accessories on Instagram and Pinterest – and that’s how many people are first introduced to them.

Your next website refresh means committing to the development of quality, compelling content for social networks first and foremost. Then you can use your website as a connector to all of your content and the great services and products you provide.

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