Social Media vs Website. Why Facebook shouldn't replace your dotcom

As a leading digital agency here in Dubai, we’re increasingly being asked to help our clients decide between facebook and their website. Here in the Middle East, with the huge popularity and reach of facebook, brand managers and marketers are often convinced they need to move their “online communications” to social media. They ask us to build a facebook page, an youtube channel and a regular twitter feed. “Forget the old website – it’s traditional” we hear. Huh?
Ye, social media is a powerful tool for consumer dialog and for building online reach for a business, but it does not really substitute a corporate website.It’s like the news on tv or radio. Sure it’s a one way communication, and it’s more fun to talk about the news, to share the highlights of a game over a beer, or discuss an event at the office (social networks), but you still need the news.
With a website that you own, you control the communications – the why, when, how, what and more. You can gather data, send emails, add sections, choose design formats, choose build platforms, what you say and the web design. With social or earned media, it’s WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get.
Your website gives you the power of inbound marketing. Most social media platforms offer very limited or no data – although facebook is trying to change that now. In contrast, website analytic tools(easy one is Google Analytics) can provide a bank of marketing data and insights on your communications. Analytics allow you, as a brand manager, to improve your online marketing and, ultimately, grow your business.
On any social media platform you have absolutely no control of your content in any way. Your message becomes their message. They can believe it, change it, share it, control it even. Thousands of dollars worth of campaigns have been waylaid because they have ben burnt in social media. And, often because the reason people turned against the campaign oir the brand had nothing to do with marketing at all.
A website is the grand central of your online marketing initiative. In fact, with an ever increasing digitally savvy society, it is the hub of ALL your marketing efforts – from tv, radio and print, down to your business card. It is the one single destination (which you can totally control) to which you drive your target audience, your business partners, your stakeholders and your customers to. Yes, today it’s important to be on facebook, to have video content that’s sharable, to tweet. But you still need a grand central, a hub – and that should be a rock solid website. Your dotcom.
Also published on the Innovations_Digital blog page...

5 Ways Social Media is changing Brand communications

The Arab Spring, the rapid growth of several social mediums across the region, and brands quickly recognizing and respecting these changes – are all together contributing to a change in the communications paradigm in the region. The one-way "shouting" model is rapidly giving way to brand-consumer communicating, dialog, experience, exchange and authentication. This is good for the Middle East, particularly when the masses are learning to believe in alternatives to status quo, believe in change and in challenge. As a digital agency in Dubai and with clients across the region, we are watching as some of the trends are re-shaping the way brands are behaving and communicating.
1. Brands are no longer the singular source of brand message. This is something brands are quick to learn here in the Middle East, because, thanks to the Arab Spring, we all learnt that the newsroom, or the palace or the government, is no longer the source of news. Similarly, brands are now recognizing that consumers – the people on the street, and in front of their PCs or with mobile in hand – are the new source of the brand message. As a brand, it's no longer just yours, it's theirs. The people are shaping the original message, re-editing it, re-writing the script, adding "likes" or just plain rejecting what they don't like.
2. The speed at which a message spreads has changed drastically. A brand's message can make or break in minutes. With the power of viral, and the awesomeness of social media, and the intense desire of the consumer to take immediate action and control – the speed at which a brand's reputation or a particular message about it can be affected is in seconds, not days or a campaign burst of months. A social campaign is measured in minutes, not months.
3. Every consumer has access. Every customer has control. Social media, the rapid influx of broadband, internet on mobile – all these are changing the concept of influencers and brand message drivers. Even a year ago we used to talk about "sneezers" and key influencers" online. Today anybody with a keyboard, a mouse, an iPad or a phone is an influencer. Anybody can initiate perception change. And everybody can empower it. We've seen this in our region in the political climate over and over – in Cairo, in Tunis, and we're now seeing it increasingly in Syria.
4. The way our target audiences react to brand messages or any message is changing. Which means there's a pattern shift in message absorption, in message interpretation and acceptance. A brand campaign about sugared cola or a hyper-energy drink is suddenly being turned on its head because consumers are questioning the damage it does. Suddenly, now in the Middle East, what is accepted as a brand message is now defined by the consumer and not the client-agency partnership alone. It's the audience, the consumer that is validating the message, viralizing it, amplifying it or burying it. Power to the audience.
5. Finally, the impact of social media can be felt both at a brand's marketing set up and at brand-agency levels. This is a new genre, powered by a new breed, a new generation, who are having to make the rules as they go along. The audience is defining what's hot, and what's not, and the mediums, the agencies, the brands are all just adjusting and adapting. Ongoing changes at facebook, google, youtube, twitter, pinterest and foursquare are all indicators of change driven by the consumer. It's changing the way marketing departments are staffed and powered, the way agencies hire (and fire), the way client-agency remuneration is agreed on, the way brands are planning their marketing calendars, and how slow, steady and stagnant is making way for the now and the instant.
At Innovations_Digital, a specialized digital agency in Dubai, we work closely with our client's brands to stay in touch with today's trends and to help our clients stay ahead of the curve.