Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why you need to transform your website into a Blog.

If I looked back at my blog posts I am quite certain I had a blog that talked about the "death of websites" primarily because of the rise of social media. Nobody surfs the web anymore... They visit a few different sites for the most part, and don't feel the need to discover new sites.

Partially this is because the "newness" of web has faded. When we all first got onto the web, everything was exciting. We used to freak out that we could track our packages on ups.com. Not anymore. The typical web user has higher expectations. Not just for quality of content, but quality of conversation. Thus, the challenge. How do you engage users in quality conversation thru your website?

Here are a few steps I recommend:

1. Reduce text. Increase images and video. Nobody reads. We live in a 140 character world now. If you can't say it in 140 chars then don't say it. Remember it's a conversation, if you talk too much it's rude. Let your user be part of the conversation.

2. Be more like a blog. Your homepage of your website needs to engage. It needs to be recent and relevant. Create a voice. A voice that your user relates to. In the dawn of the social web, treat your user like a friend. Be funny. Be honest. Be real. Nobody wants to be a friend to a website. Make it human.

3. Less logo, more love. There is something dysfunctional in brand marketing online. It comes across egotistical. This is why corporate marketing doesn't work on the social web. It comes across like the jerk who loves talking about himself. Don't be a jerk. Give your friends love. Engage them, ask them what they want. Let them talk. Just force feeding corporate marketing and branding down their throat will guarantee they never visit your site again.

4. Be social, but not too social. It's cool to have facebook Twitter, etc linked on your website, but don't go overboard. Keep some good stuff on your website and website only to keep your friends coming back. If you give it all to fb and Twitter, you may lose your friend entirely. For example, capture email or cell phone to keep in contact. Do promotions or clever communications to keep the conversation going. Remember, the user doesn't have to be on your website to engage in conversation. It can happen anywhere.

5. Make website mobile. This seems obvious, but many websites aren't ready for the mobile device. You don't have to go crazy and build an iPhone app, but you do need to simplify the interface for smart phones. The fact is that half the time they get your email or txt message they will get it on their phone. And when they click the link, it will be on the phone.

6. Link, embed and share. Somewhere along the line, the web became a very unfriendly place. When it all started people shared content and linked to each others websites. Then corporate branding got involved, and frowned upon links. Insisting it would cause users to leave. It's time to go back to the roots of the web. Link, share and add value to the network. Blogs brought this spirit of the web back, and it's time your website does the same.

7. Be raw. Be real. Everything on the web is digested in context. Videos on YouTube aren't expected to be million dollar productions, because YouTube has branded the experience as user generated content. The same can be true with your site, if you be more like a blog. You can upload corny videos shot with a flip cam, if in context. You can upload behind the scenes pictures in the context of building your relationship with users. It's not amateurish, it's real. And friends want reality.

8. Entertain. It's what you do when friends come over to visit, and it's what your should do on your website. It doesn't have to be a huge production....something subtle is fine. Remember the small things in life is what connect us. Expose your personality, and people will be entertained.

9. Speak to first time users, but focus on users who visit more than a few times month. Like a blog, you need to speak to your friends and fans. Most website, treat you like it's the first time visiting. Quite frankly it's awkward. It would be like visiting your friend over and over, and him asking your name every time. It's cold and impersonal. Treat users like friends. People want to go to websites where everyone knows their name.

10. Finally.... Be a good friend. Say thanks. Invites them over for dinner. Send them a birthday card.