Voices from the Community: Corporate Websites ARE Irrelevant

I still believe that Corporate Websites are Irrelevant (read this first) and will even weave that into my presentation today in front of some of the top Social media practitioners at the SMC Workshop today.

I see that I’m not the only one that thinks that websites need to evolve and grow up, here’s some other thoughts I’m seeing from the community. How did I find this? By using (there are 22 incoming links to this post) Technorati to see who’s linking to my post, when people link to me, I read what they write, it’s their way of ‘pinging’ me hello.

Here’s some others that believe that corporate websites are irrelevant:

Cameron Olthuis, San Diego, USA
I really like Cameron Olthuis ‘s work, he’s a web strategy consultant in San Diego (look me up when you come to the bay area), he writes:

“Great point! You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn’t sick of that. This is precisely the reason that consumers don’t use corporate websites to research products. They’re only getting one side of the story, the marketing speak. What we really want to hear is both sides of the story. We want to hear the real story from consumers who have hands on experience with the product so we can truly find out what the product is really like. The endless amounts of user generated product review sites and blogs are testament to this.”

He also goes on to suggest that corporations will never fully adapt and evolve, they’ve a challenge:

“While I agree that it would be great to have the non-biased product reviews on the corporate site, I don’t think that quite solves the problem. That’s because we don’t and can’t trust the corporations to be truly transparent. To think that a company will allow unfiltered negative reviews along side their products is absurd. That’s why third party social review sites are here to stay.

Instead I think these corporations would be better severed to be active on the social review and other social media sites. They should be interacting with the consumers to recognize their faults, improve their products, right their wrongs, and build consumer trust in the process. As Jeremiah points out, this can also be done on community sites that are setup by these companies, like Dell’s IdeaStorm. “

Be sure to read the comments in his post, you’ll notice that the Dell webteam interacting, in my opinion, they’re one of the most progressive web teams in 2007.

Peter Bihr, Berlin, Germany

Peter Bihr agrees and writes in his post, that it’s really about trust:

“I agree, but I’d go one step further: The main point companies should use their websites for isn’t any kind of direct in-your-face marketing or branding, but simply: Extra services. Support. Feedback. Helpdesk-ish stuff.

Apart from looking at a product’s features and price (as J. points out: after the decision has been made), I want to go to a website to get first-hand info, background, and help. Something not working? Why do we have to dig through the dephts of bulletin boards, forums, blogs? How come I usually don’t even bother looking at the company website but go straight to the web to find the solution, the hack, the background info that will make their product work for me?

That, I think, will be the central aspect of the future company website. This is where companies can regain our trust. And maybe even our attention. Companies: If you open up and really tell us what’s good and bad about your products, we’ll drop by one of these days. Maybe we’ll stay to play with you.”

Raghu, the Random Blogger

The Random blogger puts facts and figures into the conversation, he notes that there are just a few companies out there that have figured out they need to use the new tools to stay relevant:

” 1. Irrespective of how well you have integrated your web site to attract your community it is very probable that they would have other avenues as well. So as a corporate I think it is very important to appreciate this and ensure that the right integration (via feeds for example) is brought into your community site as well.
2. As communities start contributing it is very important for the corporate to realize that it no longer ‘controls’ the flow of information in the traditional manner. This means that companies have to very closely monitor the discussions and probably take back the right indicators – given the nature of discussions it is very possible that firms might even extract some strategy inputs … examples could be
* where should it move next on the supply chain
* with which companies should it make partnerships / merger acquisition targets
* product roadmap decisions
3. Most of the benefit now seems to be in integration of the corporate-community interaction into the primary company site. Once this integration happens, from its perspective this integrated web site becomes a platform for the interaction on which it has to relinquish control. This I believe would be the most difficult step for firms, but I think it would become mandatory for firms to realize this for extracting further benefits.”

“The fact that only ~8% of the Fortune 1000 companies have some form of a corporate blog clearly indicates to the fact that there is no dirth of companies who think that ‘community’ based thinking is not absolutely necessary for success.”

Be sure to read the rest of his post as he offers additional advice on how to achieve these things.

Sterline Hagar Added June 13th

“Still, corporations go to great lengths to improve their static website analytics, principally by tweaking their key words and invoking other search engine optimizations. But even if more visitors find these websites, they are not coming there first… they’re coming after they have sourced information everyplace but. After they’ve decided you might have something to offer, based primarily on peer comment and other sources, they come to your static website to get the party line on pricing, availability, services and so forth. Generally this is information that can be trusted because, after all, the price is the price. As for the rest of the promotional one-sided presentation on most corporate web sites — it’s a waste of time and money. It’s not highly credible.”

Zaskoda, Added June 13th
Zaskoda agrees, but suggests I should add some quantitiative analysis. Zaskoda, keep track of next time you buy a product by visiting that corporate site only.

“The basic point of the original article is that consumers don’t need to concern themselves with the company line as authentic product information is available from real (virtually) people. I must say, Jeremiah does support his notions with singular incidents instead of larger scale statistics. Still I think he has important and relevant things to say. For example:”

Shel Israel: 5 Reasons why Jeremiah is wrong about websites Added June 13th
This is pretty funny, Shel lists some reasons, of course in jest.

1 Environmental purposes.
2 Historic Value.
3 To see opportunities you missed.
4 To lower unemployment
5 To eliminate differentiation.

Jörg Weisner added June 13th
He’s done me the greatest service by translating it to German

“Über Shel Israel, Coautor des gemeinsam mit Robert Scoble geschriebenen Buches “naked conversations”, bin ich auf Jeremiah Owyang aufmerksam geworden. Jeremiah hat einen sehr interessanten Beitrag über die zukünftige Entwicklung von traditionellen Unternehmens-Websites geschrieben.”

Mary Schmidt added June 13th

“My take: It is if it’s not producing results. (And, you know what you want the results to be.) Otherwise, no matter how pretty or expensive, it’s just a big shiny ego toy. “

Vario Creative added June 14th

This is one of the best analysis I’ve seen, he even adds some suggestions to make it more relevant.

“But I am probably splitting hairs here. I agree, to a degree with Jeremiah’s ideas. Here’s how I’d aim to provide relevance for the corporate website:

* Every page as it’s own homepage, designed as a point of entry which makes it easy to identify who you are and what you do.
* Easy to find *brief* product information pages, with the ability to get more indepth information on deeper drill down.
* Customer support community, which also offers the ability for non-customers to discourse with existing customers. This would be similar to the way the vBulletin.com site has a pre-sales forum where potential users can ask questions not only of the staff, but of the customer base as well.
* News that goes beyond press releases – find everything written about your product and make it available on your product pages. Think of it as a reading room, or “In the Press.”
* Provide open discourse from your knowledge matter experts – blogging, case studies, etc. The perception still at most companies is that their information is a proprietary resource. By allowing them to speak on issues in your industry, you create customer good will, and become the go to voice in your industry. Think of Robert Scoble at Microsoft – if they can do it, you can.
* Consider giving a semi-authoritative voice to authorities within the customer base. Possibly allow customers to blog under the corporate auspices.
* Think about the Ombudsman model at newspapers – have someone who’s job it is to represent the customers internally, and make their position highly visible on the site.
* No more hand shakes, no more group hugs – watch the stock photos, if you can’t find an image that helps to get your message across, it’s time to look at your message.

Mike noticed that there’s similarities between corporate sites and political sites

“Jeremiah Owyang, has some interesting things to say about web marketing and the irrelevance of corporate sites. Much of what he is saying could be applied to political websites. Unless you understand, incorporate and adapt to what is happening everywhere else on the web the chances are that your website, whether it’s a faux ‘personal’ politicians ‘blog’ or the website of a political party will, at least to some extent, be behind the curve if not completely out on a limb.”

Am I beating this theme into the ground? Yes, I’ve a message here and I want people to wake up and realize it, millions of dollars are being spent every year on Corporate Web Marketing, without realizing that the market has shifted. Have you read the Rise of the corporations? Learn why they are so powerful. Also read the Death of the Corporate website, why? because the content is being created in other websites.