A website is a way of communicating what you do to a wider audience. People, sometimes very random people, visit your site, see what you do, how you do it and who you do it with.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they stay around awhile and find out more about you. And sometimes if you’re really lucky they will contact you. They make up their mind quickly whether to pursue further reading about you and your business.
But, of course, your website says you are the best in your field, or the cheapest money can buy, or the longest lasting or whatever …. but so does your competitors!
So how do your customers differentiate between you and all your competitors? They take a look at your Social Capital – they ask their friends, colleagues, acquaintances and their family. We all know that our reputation matters but it is becoming increasingly important in the online, as well as the offline, worlds.
Online, your Social Capital equates to what Tara Hunt described in her book ‘The Whuffie Factor’ as the residual outcome, or the currency, of your reputation. I think that sums it up nicely – your ‘standing’ at the Social Capital Bank is a direct consequence of the effort you have put into your community. And the good part is that the more you ‘pay out’ ie the more input you give to your community, then the greater your bank balance.
It is this Social Capital that is becoming increasingly important in helping your customers make an informed decision about whether to buy a product or service from you. Personally, I am using search engines less to find information on the best widget to buy or the best company to get a service from – I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Social Bookmarking sites to dip into the collective wisdom of my trusted network. The experience is better as I get real reviews, in real time, by real people whom I TRUST.
Of course, WEBSITES ARE STILL REQUIRED – especially transactional sites because currently there really aren’t alternative digital platforms for the buying of selling of goods and services online. There are, however, moves on Facebook and others, to bring ecommerce and Social Media together and that is a VERY interesting space to be in
BUT, I think the emphasis may shift from your website being THE destination to direct all your customers to, to being more a destination that customers can find ways of connecting to you. This is nothing new – word of mouth and personal recommendation have, and always will be, the BEST way of securing new customers, it’s just that word of mouth is rapidly moving online.
I certainly hope that websites are still a valuable asset for at least a few more years but I recommend that, if nothing else, you keep one eye on the future and ensure that your website is built to be fully integrated with current (and future) Social Media platforms.
I’m an online exponent whose 15 years experience of the internet has seen me successfully define, develop, manage and implement projects for both the Private and Public sectors.
Passionate about how the digital world can help businesses succeed, I am the founder and Director of Netdesk.co.uk, a company dedicated to helping clients gain competitive advantage by enhancing your digital presence.
Connect with me:
twitter.com/mgeorgeson | facebook.com/mgeorgeson