There was a time when having a web presence was enough for a corporation.
Clearly that is no longer the case, and some are saying that there is little need for the brochurewear that exists currently, and that it should be replaced by social tools.
But I think that web sites as brochures are going to be here a while longer, for the following reasons:
1. Blogs are actually not the ideal way to organise information. Posts listed by date (albeit with a decent search facility) are good for the very latest news, but it is difficult to quickly find information on a range of products that have been released over a period of time on a blog. Finding such a range of information is often the primary reasons to visit a corporate blog.
2. It’s too early to dive head first into social tools for company sites. Participation is growing all the time, but we would do well to remember the 90-9-1 rule: websites designed for the Creators will marginalize the Lurkers. A corporate site has a duty to the people who do not want to participate, but want clear, well-structured information about the product.
3. Honest opinion is essential in the purchase process. Posting negative reviews to a corporate site is laudable in terms of transparency, and may even be the first stage towards accepting that every brand has a dark side (which may be essential to recognize if we are to be authentic). However, is a corporate web site really the best place for consumers to go to get the unfiltered opinion? It is my belief that corporations will always filter the information available on their web site: it would be irrational (self-harming even?) to do otherwise. Buyer beware.
4. Realistically, changes at large corporations take time. The number of stakeholders involved in maintaining corporate sites is huge. Many people “own” part of the site, and are averse to dramatic changes in the section that means most to them. Again, self-interest, and to a certain extent ignorance of the possibilities, will hinder any chances to change.
5. Corporations do not have a personal voice, and therefore most corporate blogs suck. Corporations are a collection of individuals. Individuals should want to have their own space to express their opinions, which will of course be tempered by their employment situation, but will not have to go through the rigorous legal checks – unlike everything on an official corporate site.
In essence, I am arguing that a corporate site that is just brochurewear is an important communication tool. As long as their is implicit understanding between consumer and corporation that this is the corporation’s attempt to display all the key information while making things the products and services look their best, then this is fine as it is. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you may look for user reviews of books you like the look of.
Social tools are then used by real people (including employees of that corporation) to discuss the products and services with which they are involved. It is my belief that people lead the tribe, not brands. Brands are at best social objects, i.e. socially relevant topics of conversation. People should get involved with communities, and marketing can do its best to stoke the fires of conversation. And if your corporation doesn’t have people able to connect with social media and lead a tribe, well then, perhaps you don’t have the right people any more.