Corporate website trend: From channel to canvas

Summary: Moving ‚from text to active content‘ is the third corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

When companies started to flock to the WWW things were simple. They set up their corporate website, digitialised their content and done. Back then the WWW felt like a channel. Today it has become a canvas. With the proliferation of social media, companies now need to think multi-channel. There is a plethora of services that organisations can use to expand their digital footprint. To make things even more complicated HR, Marketing, Customer Service, External Communication departments and others could all potentially leverage social media channels to address particular business needs creating their own channels. At times this can also lead to confusion for customers and inefficiencies for organisations.

What is clear is that social media channels cannot and must not replace the corporate website. In fact, they complement each other. In the beginning companies were driving their audience towards their social media channels to be able to engage with them in better ways. But soon companies were unnerved by the frequent changes made by behemoth like Facebook or services that came and went like Posterous that was used for content curation. A better way is to leverage the size of existing and successful social media channels and services to reach larger audiences but aggregate the content and to a certain extent activity on the corporate website to drive traffic back to a place that is owned by the company. 

In this series I normally try to highlight good examples of the corporate website trends that we see. In this case I rather start off with a poor example, simply because it’s an easy mistake to make and I have seen it quite often.

Poor integration of social media channels

Poor integration of social media channels on Boeing’s corporate website

Whilst linking to social media is easy, the integration often looks basic at best and irrelevant at worst. Boeing’s corporate website is a particular poor example. On the Media page we see a number of sharing options. It breaks the layout and looks cheap. But the real question is: Does anyone use the sharing functionality?

The ‚Connect with Us‘ widget on Boeing’s corporate website is equally challenging. In this particular case the reader is confronted with two FB channels, three Twitter channels. There is no tool tip to understand which channel is what. Luckily, these widgets do not appear on every page of the website!

As mentioned before companies should identify relevant channels to leverage their network and scale. For example, many companies already rely heavily on YouTube to host and distribute content. Procter & Gamble use YouTube primarily for storytelling, Nestle has a separate Investor Relations channel, whilst Deutsche Telekom tries to represent the entire company on YouTube. Another distribution network is Flickr, a photo-sharing website. Deutsche Bank have had a presence on Flickr since 2009 to host its own photos but also link to photos from other Flickr users.  I am yet to find a company that has started hosting all their media assets (e.g. pictures of premises, board members, logos etc.) on Flickr. But maybe it will happen one day. Slideshare is potentially another interesting channel to host for example slides, webcasts of a company’s annual general meetings or other relevant content. BASF has been using Slideshare for the past three years now.

With this proliferation of external channels, the corporate website needs to become a platform to aggregate them. Some companies don’t dare to touch the traditional newsroom and instead create  a separate subsite to aggregate social media content. Here is an example from Lufthansa.

A separate Lufthansa Social Media Newsroom

A separate Lufthansa Social Media Newsroom

But some companies also try to extend the traditional media newsrooms to include the company’s social media channels. Integration efforts vary between simple linking and pulling in content either via API or widgets. SAP uses a hybrid approach and links to social media channels but also displays a Twitter feed. Also, have a look at Microsoft Germany and Pfizer as they try to break down the silo between traditional and social media newsrooms. However, their integrations look cheap and poor breaking the look & feel of the site. Scania Group have done a better job in this case, especially with pulling in photos from Flickr and videos from YouTube.

Incorporating social media channels in a corporate website is a good start to position the corporate website as a platform rather than single channel. But I believe we haven’t seen the most interesting use cases yet. For example, LinkedIn offers a plugin that allows career seekers and other users coming to a company’s website to see who in their LinkedIn network works at that company.

Commonwealth Bank - Using LinkedIn plugin to show who you already know at the bank

Commonwealth Bank – Using LinkedIn plugin to show who you already know at the bank

The Commonwealth Bank is the only organisation I have seen making use of the LinkedIn plugin. Even without checking LinkedIn the plugin already showed me that I have 56 people in my network that could introduce me to employees working at the bank.

Furthermore, I believe that companies should not only look at external social media channels to hook up with their website. Many companies have created communities, enterprise social networks, blogs etc. behind the firewall. Exposing some of that content with as little friction as possible on the corporate website would be a win for transparency for the company and readers.

Given the plethora of social media tools and the value they can potentially add for a company, companies will not get around them easily. If they do extend their digital footprint though, they will need a comprehensive strategy and how to tie them all together. The corporate website can serve as an excellent platform.

This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

© Picture Credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg 

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