Forget your website, create a social footprint

On a webinar last week, I briefly covered an idea I call the information eco-system (or social footprint) and received a lot of questions about it.  This is a critical concept for businesses today so I thought I should expand on the idea.

If you did a web search for you or your company three years ago, the result would have been a list of websites.  If you conducted the same search today, you may get LinkedIn profiles, YouTube videos, Slideshare presentations, maps, perhaps even tweets from Twitter.  In fact, as the social web has emerged, visits to traditional websites have declined dramatically for many companies.

The implication is that if you have a website and think that’s all you need any more, you’re not understanding the social web.

People have the opportunity to find you (and your competitors) in lots of places now and you should have a systematic, mindful strategy to populate this information eco-system with content that will support your business objectives … and hopefully drive people back to your website. Put your information out there where the people are. Then give them a reason to go back to learn more at your website.

Let me give you a dramatic example of this in action. Recently I posted a slide deck on SlideShare for the convenience of my college students.  I went back to the site an hour later to make sure the slides had uploaded properly and 251 people had already viewed the deck.  None of them were my students, since they didn’t know about it yet!   Those 251 visitors to my deck were vitally interested in a presentation called Social Media 101 and were high potential contacts for me, right?  I added a slide at the end directing people to visit my website, blog, follow me on Twitter, etc.

Another little example: I recently gave a talk to economic development leaders and asked them what they would get if they googled their cities.  If the answer is YouTube videos of drunken conventioneers, they better get out there and populate the social web with videos that tell their story THEIR way.  If you don’t systematically populate the web with your story, you’re abdicating the brand management for your organization.

So, create and own the social footprint of your brand everywhere you possibly can … or at least to the extent that your resources can support.

Does this make sense?  What ideas do you have about this concept?

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  • Aubrey Mondi

    In your post, it seems you’re focusing more on businesses who use their own websites instead of social networking sites. But I wanted to show the other side, too –

    Individuals who use social networking all the time might want their own personal site, too. I know that as a job hunter, it’s mandatory to be active on social networks, but it’s nice to have a homepage to direct people to that has a formal, maybe even somewhat static overview of you as a person. At least that’s how I think – they completely work together all the time. I do think that a social footprint is more important.

    Like for me – I always end up expressing more of my personality on Twitter than I do on my website. It’s a better reflection of me, for better or worse. Companies should definitely take note of this and try to benefit from the fast pace that social networking lends us.

  • Mark,
    Absolutely… and I’ll weigh in on two points:
    1) I definitely agree with the “drive people back to your website” concept. I think from time to time this can be lost in strategies, like mass emailing for instance. Occasionally the desire to serve up good content leads to providing so much information that the email suffices and people never come back to the site.
    2) The reverse situation is also true. Your website should tie back to social media. Not just in links to your social presence, but make your content shareable.
    Painting with a broad brush… but I’ll leave it at that for now.

  • Hi Mark, I’ve been reading your tweets and blog for a couple months now and share many of your ideas regarding marketing. I think you hit the nail on the head with this post since it drives home the point companies don’t just need a website, they need a website strategy. I wrote a similar piece on my blog regarding how a company’s online strategy should be built like a pinball game – SM spaces should bounce visitors to your website which, in turn, bounces them back to your SM spaces. This isn’t a plug but I’d appreciate your thoughts –

  • The essence of what you are saying makes excellent sense to me, but there is a slight conflict between the headline and your statement in the article that the social footprint serves to drive more traffic to your site. If the site disappoints these visitors, implied by the headline’s forget-about-it aspect, they’ll bounce away and minimize your social media marketing (SMM) efforts.
    To me, SMM is one part of an Internet based Marketing & Sales system. An important part, but one component among many and they must all work together to boost productivity. Complex systems like these are run by processes involving people and technology. To reduce people time by using the machine’s strengths, a well-designed Sales and Marketing Automation system contains at least 4 sub-systems. Each one serves a distinct function:
    1) Attract more visitors to the website through SEO, SMM, and PPC. And yes – the larger the SMM footprint, the better; but being found via organic search is also important.
    2) Engage those visitors’ attention with industry leading content (website copy, white papers, videos, podcasts). Match the content to the prospect’s buying cycle to ensure you can nurture them around the cycle (see below).
    3) Qualify these visitors by grading their profiles and using their digital footprints to rack up a score and hence “know” their quality. And then, nurture them from cold leads to hot prospects with multi-touch drip email campaigns.
    4) Automatically feed these hot sales ready prospects directly into your CRM and automatically notify the assigned sales rep (based on product or territory or whatever…).
    If you’d like to know more about Sales and Inbound Marketing Automation, our website contains a Resource Library of white papers, tools, videos and an extensive glossary, all covering the above in more detail.

  • Mark

    @Aubrey. Good point. The strategy is the same — drive them to the site to make the sale.

    @Mike — Absolutely agree. These are just a few thoughts from a much larger presentation. In it, I add that your website should be a content engine, shuttling people wherever they need to go on the web to get the information they need. I agree with both of your points! Thanks!

  • Mark

    @Harley — Loved your post. Great analogy and you even used the “eco-system” characterization. Very cool. I really appreciate the fact that you read my blog, but appreciate even more the fact that you took the time to comment. Thanks!

    @Eric — I will give you the point that the headline is not completely consistent with the theme of the post. Sometimes it’s hard thinking up catchy headlines every day!

    Agree with your points. It is eerily like a sales pitch for your company but quite relevant all the same. ; ) Thank you.

  • @Mark;
    Thanks for the kind words. As a fellow blog writer, couldn’t agree more about the difficulty of thinking up headlines.
    Sorry about a the “sales pitchy feel” to my comment. I honestly believe it’s good advice. All too often people regard the next gadget as the latest silver bullet. Could be, in the hands of a user who truly knows how to use it. That’s where the process and systems design come in. It’s not rocket science – just about anyone can do it – but the point I was trying to stress is that you do have to do it.

  • Mark

    @Eric It is not good advice — It’s superb advice! I love the integrated, holistic approach. Thanks!

  • Mark, I really liked your reference to story here. SMM is one way of developing a company story, but like others I firmly believe there should be a strong tie in back to your domain that works as a hub.

    I think Boingo demonstrated that last week, using social media to monitor and engage, but also using their site, blog and Facebook page as places to engage with their community.

    The interview with their communications manager by Shel Holtz is a great example of why companies need to have an integrated web presence strategy including social media.

    The interview is here:

  • Thanks, Mark, for expounding on last week’s presentation. As a new blogger I am actively seeking all advice and soaking it all up – applying what is relevant and enjoying the journey!

  • Mark

    @Jon — Thanks for sharing this interesting and relevant example!

    @Arminda — Love your enthusiasm! It really is a lot of fun!

  • Great post Mark! Like Jon, I was struck by your example of creating the story you want shared. Full engagement on all fronts from within your sphere of influence leaves a powerful imprint if infused with creativity, responsibility and a desire for connection. Loved this!

  • Mark

    Thanks, Sally! It means a lot that you took the time to express your thoughts.

  • A start, that you have. Specifics, what actions to take, those would be invaluable.


    Saul Fleischman/OsakaBentures & KdL Group

  • Mark

    @Saul — A big question! I certainly think I have bits and pieces in past blog articles. Take a look through the archives of {grow} in the right hand column of the blog, especially under social media best practices and case studies. And if there are specifics you want to learn about, let me me know. People ask me to write articles all the time and I usually do it! : )

  • I meant to comment on this when you first posted it so sorry for the delay. I think there are quite a few people who are suddenly waking up to the idea that online marketing shouldn’t be seen in tactical isolation but as a strategic spectrum across all the disciplines, and your post is a great light for those people to follow.

    We launched our agency a little over a year ago and focus very much on strategic online marketing. Last year it was difficult to find someone who got what we were talking about but suddenly prospective clients are not simply understanding but are telling us that we meet their new requirements, so I think the word is getting around.

    Feel free to check out our blog as well, as many of our posts follow the same line of thought that you demonstrate here. All the best.

    As more people

  • Mark

    @Aaron — Delighted to hear about your business success. Sounds like you’re well positioned to meet the needs of your customers and those opportunities should be plentiful as the economy heats up (it is heating up isn’t it?). Best of luck to you and thanks for commenting!

  • Hi Mark

    Thanks for the kind words. ‘Heating up’ I would definitely agree with, but anyone that says the recession is over is either optimistic or lying in my opinion, because the prospect of a double dip still looms high. House prices and the FTSE in London are both massively inflated and so I am still cautious.

  • Mark

    @Aaron — Agree. Just saw where UK unemployment went up again. many people are still suffering.

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