Posted on 04 Nov 09
One of the topics covered at the Aartrijk Brand Camp in mid-September was “Design of the Times: How the Web is Different Now,” presented by Aaron Moore, an Aartrijk design partner, and creative director at Orange Element Design, LLC (www.orange-element.com). I found Aaron’s discussion especially relevant having been involved in this medium since the mid-1990s. I’d like to share some of what Aaron discussed to help you in looking at your own website, especially if it has not been updated in some time, as well as to provide you some ideas of what is available to you to fold-in new features, incorporate social media, etc., to help enhance your brand and on-line communication to clients and prospects.
One of the first things Aaron discussed is how consumers today receive information and become engaged. It’s important to look at your website as reflective of your brand, which includes your people, products and services, but also as a means of sharing information and connecting with customers. Aaron cited three examples that illustrate the shift in how people are engaging and the resulting benefits: Dell reportedly generated $3 million in revenue since 2007 from its DellOutlet Twitter Feed (http://twitter.com/DellOutlet); Nike has seen a double-digit market share gain in the running category as a result of its Nike community, which encouraged runners to log in on-line and record their times while competing with other users; WD-40 has increased sales volume to existing customers by creating a site that takes user-generated suggestions for further uses of the product.
The business-to-business sector has also become reliant on what social media offers in terms of content generation, community building and decision support. Ninety-one percent of B2B decision makers participate in social media and 69% use this technology for business purposes.
Creating Your Digital Footprint
In building your digital footprint, Aaron underscored the need to create a clear strategy and choose on-line channels and networks that match this strategy; analyze what is going on out there to see what makes sense for you and become a part of the various social media platforms so that you can audit them for yourself and be comfortable. Then add your own voice to these platforms, further participating in the experience before remodeling your own site and incorporating social media. And be sure to have fun!
Once you are ready to establish a digital footprint, Aaron suggests considering the following components: identity elements (logo, corporate colors), website templates (the look and feel and navigation of your site, content), Twitter background (to tie into news from your website), advertising banners/towers, e-blast templates, Facebook Group icons (to direct customers to and from your site), Flickr account for promoting events; and Smartphone applications (if applicable).
Here are several key elements to take into account when revamping your website:
• Create modules to support content – for example, industry updates (trends, legal issues) specific to your customer base; Newsfeeds, an Open Forum for users to comment on articles; a CEO blog; an entertainment section that’s related to the targeted industry (e.g., one insurance company that provides coverage for collectible vehicles provides an on-line space on its site for customers to upload and share photos of their treasures – it’s a big hit among these insureds (more on this in a future issue)).
• A well-organized and easy-to-navigate site – be sure that “top of mind,” timely information is located above the “fold” so that you can immediately view the most pertinent information on the screen without having to scroll down.
• Promote knowledge and innovation – we have said this many times… social media is the ideal space to showcase your knowledge and insight into the area in which your expertise as independent agent lies. Capitalize on this with your own website. You are the insurance resource and advisor for customers and potential customers to look to.
• Feed it constantly. Everyone agrees on one thing…once you commit to creating a site and begin using the various social networking platforms (Facebook, Twitter) and features (blogging) available to you to promote your brand, you need to keep up with it. The content needs to remain fresh, relevant and engaging.
• Users can feed it too. Again, develop features on your site (blog, forum) that encourages your users to get involved.
• Package content so that it can be “portable.” Not only will the content appear on your own website, but post relevant items on your Facebook page, tweet about it, tie into your blog, incorporate it into an e-newsletter or e-mail blast.
Aaron also shared with us several websites that are well designed and incorporate social media, including that of Liberty Mutual. Liberty Mutual’s brand on its website is in synch with all its other advertising and promotion; the navigation is clearly delineated; content is modular; company knowledge in each area of expertise is promoted.
Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Blog enhances its brand and commitment in fostering and promoting responsibility among the youth. The blog includes relevant content around its responsibility message, including short films; stories, blog posts, and a forum for consumers to share their own experiences of responsibility. This is a way for Liberty Mutual to engage consumers in the social marketing and corporate governance program the insurer promotes in grassroots sports and in life in general.
Modernista, an advertising agency, takes a more “revolutionary” and dynamic approach to its website (www.modernista.com) content, whereby the site is completely integrated with social media platforms and viewed through the “eyes of the web.” It’s not for everyone, as they say, but it’s a good example to show you what is possible today. For example, when you click on About the Company, you can go to a Wikipedia (the Web encyclopedia) page that talks about Modernista, or to its Facebook page, or to its blog, Twitter, and Flickr pages, etc. You are not within the Modernista website…you are taken directly to these other platforms where the ad agency has created a presence.
You can see that there are many possibilities available to you to transition your web presence from a static one to a more interactive and dynamic approach, incorporating social media and engaging your current and future customers in a way that was not possible before.