Last week my colleague, Mike Manuel, brought up the subject of On-Domain vs. Off Domain strategies for social media (and really for all online comms). It got me thinking of something Jakob Nielsen said back in 2000 with the release of Designing Web Usability. I’m paraphrasing, but basically the line is:
Web users spend the majority of their time online NOT on your web site.
From a usability standpoint the convention was, don’t do anything too ‘out’ there. If you break too far from the standards that users are familiar with, then you might confuse them. This applied to things like navigation and search-box locations on the page, link highlighting, information design, etc.
Now, let’s apply this to social media strategies. With more users turning to each other for information via the multitude of services out there (Facebook, Twitter, etc) then the statement is also true for comms. Web users spend the majority of their time online NOT on your web site.
The graphic above illustrates the various tools available online and how an organization’s web presence sits in the middle, disconnected in many ways. Sure, there are ways to integrate the traditional corporate web site with social networks and other platforms, but that’s not always easy.
While it’s important to reach beyond the traditional web presence, I think it’s still important to have that ‘home’. There are a number of reasons, but I want to focus on two that are related to relationships.
1. I Need to See Stability: While my impression of a brand may be influenced by how savvy they are with social media, I still want to see that they have a home base. I want to see their web site, is it professional or some fly-by-night operation. Think about this in real-world relationship terms. You meet a great guy/girl and you’ve been dating for a few weeks. Each time you say, “Let’s go to your place” they change the subject. It dawns on you that you’ve never seen their home….and you don’t even know if they have one. That doesn’t exactly instill confidence in your relationship.
2. You Need a Home: How would you like to live out of a suitcase for a year, moving from location to location? If your ‘home’ online consisted of presences only on social networks, you might feel a bit disconnected. There’s the term ‘spreading yourself too thin’. It’s also impossible to be everywhere at once. If you focus all your efforts on Facebook, then you’re ignoring the MySpace crowd, or anybody else for that matter. Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but there are people that are not on Facebook.
As Mike argued, it’s important to find that balance between communication strategies on your site, as well as off your site. The goal is to integrate the strategies and give folks a reason to come to your site. After all, your ‘friends’ just might want to come to your house every so often.