I recently received an e-mail from a woman living overseas who wanted my help on developing a social media strategy. I was really looking forward to speaking with her because she had an interesting goal: to collectively promote a group of experts from her country.
The time came for us to talk and she wanted to know how she could use social networking to further her planned marketing efforts. I asked her for her website address. She didn't have one.
Now, to not have any website at all and to be in the market for a social networking strategy is putting the cart before the horse just a tad.
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Let's say, for example, that I had worked with this woman (which I didn't; instead I asked her to create her website and then give me a ring) and she had great success with social networking. People liked her idea and they wanted to spread the word and send other people to her website; maybe she even received some great media coverage and visibility. Let's say all these things happened and she had no website to direct people to. What happens then?
Nothing. Your communication chain stops. People visit your Twitter page and they interact with you on Twitter, but you can't share much about your overall organization in a 160-character bio or in a 140-character tweet.
Many people remember the Martha Stewart debacle. I firmly believe that one of the tactics that played a major part in helping her hit the ground running when she was released was the website she was using in a blog-like manner. It was called MarthaTalks.com
Whenever there was some information reported in the media that Martha thought was skewed or she didn't quite agree with, she would go to her site and update it with her viewpoint. It was awesome. It gave the gawkers something to read and it helped her maintain order in the court of public opinion; because we all know that a rumor left unchecked for more than 24 hours becomes truth in the mind of the public—and Stewart just couldn't afford to have that happen.
She had her home base and you need your own home base for three main reasons:
- To serve as a place where people can go to get detailed information about your company and its services.
- To extend and round out your social networking conversations. Social networks round out people’s experience of you and your brand, but you need a website to unveil the bigger picture.
- You need a place to set the record straight. When the challenging times come (and come they will), you need someplace where you call the shots and you can feel free to say what you need to say to clear the air without worrying about another company’s Terms of Service/Use.
This is part of what I refer to as "cleaning up before you invite company." If your website is home base, how can you effectively invite company (using Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter) if your home base is not tidy, in order or even in existence at all? You can't.
Get your website ready for traffic before you start using social networking. Make sure it's working as a lead-generation tool and you can convert interest into prospects, prospects into leads and leads into clients. And, clients mean money.