Do Brands Even Need A Website From 2018?

Websites have been with us ever since Tim Berners-Lee published the very first one, back on August 6 1991; that was not really much more than a plain text page, with a list of web addresses.

26 years has seen a colossal growth and development of sophistication, from plain text to highly stylized creations, complete with graphical wizardry and video magic. Brands were relatively quick to understand the opportunity of presenting their ‘Electronic Bill-Board’ and we were presented by all kinds of bizarre manifestations – remember ‘Flash websites’?

Back in the late 1990’s a ‘professional’ standard website could wind up costing you a lot of money. It was not uncommon for sums like $80,000 being forked over to highly skilled agencies and independent developers who were savvy enough to learn how to make HTML sing and dance.

From about 2006 we had a proliferation of social media, the birth of ‘YouTube’ and the emergence of Facebook. There is no realistic way to describe the transformation of the digital experience from 2000, to that of our current online realm – it is like a different entity.

Technology vs Digital Culture

Because the internet is a technical medium, and we access it from equally technical devices we could be forgiven for thinking of the internet as being a matter of ‘Technology’; subjects like ‘digital culture’ appear to be a paradox.

But this is where the really interesting stuff is. Human beings always build culture, always create meaning from their immediate experiences. 

The internet may very well be created, maintained and developed from technology, but the uses to which we as people put it to define what it represents to us, and also generates micro contexts. I call all of these contexts and specific use cases ‘Digital Culture’.

Websites are specific publications, they present, define and enable an individual, an entity, a non-profit, a business, a government to build a unique online identity, to communicate and interact with interested people.

Websites still offer us a powerful way of building a brand. No mistake about this. Sure we have increasing levels of participation on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest (often overlooked, very powerful), and apps – BUT a website still provides the means to centralize and present our thing.

Integrating Social Media – Building a Digital Hub

The game has changed significantly, absolutely no argument there; but websites are still relevant, and how we use them is changing. This is true for Australian web sites, as much as it is also true for the global scene. In fact for Australian business we still have some catching up to do before we even break even with the digital sophistication of the northern hemisphere.

With this article I wanted to explore the scope and depth of digital culture, because this is essential to understand if we are going to go to the trouble and investment of publishing some kind of a website.

Integrating all that we do – the benefits of websites are all about consolidation and concentration. It really is all about ‘Communication’, recognizing that the attention of people has shifted. Nobody is claiming that newspapers, radio, television & cinema are ‘dead’- but we can see clearly that they are no longer the principal media they once were.

Advertising revenue on Newspapers has drastically fallen away, T.V advertising is reaching far fewer, magazine full-colour spreads probably aren’t the best marketing spend today; attention is the critical variable of all marketing, and it has shifted towards digital media.

Conclusions

So what can we say regarding websites in 2018, are they still valuable, do they still reach people, are we able to make them work for us?

I think the idea that we need to become ‘Media Companies’ is a very solid one. Gary Vaynerchuk speaks about this, other pundits and digital personalities refer to it; we are not simply presenting a pretty brochure, an online pamphlet, we are actively producing a dynamic participation, hopefully we are providing value not merely shouting out basic sales messages.

This is what differentiates the successful use of digital media, it has all reached a level of maturity and sophistication, those who only see it as an opportunity to ‘Spam’ are being left far behind. 

Those who stubbornly ignore the opportunity to grow and develop Quality content will be ignored. No amount of tricks, tools and short-cuts are going to give you traction if you do not understand digital culture.

So your website needs to be very much more than a placeholder, a catalog of products, an online flyer; although for some that is all it ever will be. As time goes on, and the competition for attention grows, your dedication to quality will be the single most deciding factor for your online status.

Websites certainly are still a variable, they are increasingly ‘digital hubs’ and the means to generate high quality content. Obviously not all business cases fit this model, but as a general measure, as something which you can do to enhance your communication with your people, websites represent incredible value and marketing power if executed right.

 

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