A topic of much rancorous debate over the last few weeks in the office and on a few pitches has been the comparative appeal, need for and roles of these three very different e-beasts:
- the corporate site
- the online brand community and
- the social network extensions
(we could add blog if we wanted a fourth).
Some late adopting companies have questioned whether they need to even open themselves to the latter two more socially-oriented digital arenas. I liken them to the sentries trying to hold onto the last outskirts of the Roman Empire; I hope they have a better fate, but I fear not
Other aloof companies believe a bit of social media monitoring and a Facebook page is all you need to be social. I have a great deal on "pork belly" futures for you too if you subscribe to this school of thought.
Meanwhile, a number of high profile Cluetrain advocates have suggested that leading companies in the future may not even need to own their own hubs and that there business will be taken care of ably by their Facebook platforms, Twitter profiles, Google apps and iPhone apps. Calling all patrol cars, we're looking for the web insane - they've escaped their cells again.
All of these positions are horribly wrong and missing the key axiom on the role of web in building value for business - be everywhere, to all people with a balance of environments, content, benefit and control.
In an effort to presumedly control costs and complexity, companies are hunkering down and believing they need to choose one direction and stick to it. This is a cardinal sin - unfortunately also one being furthered by self-interested groups: boutique agencies who favour gorgeous looking standalone sites, ecommerce/technology companies pushing security tight enterprise infrastructures, Silicon Valley who are pushing white label, company-owned collaborative environments and ad platforms and social nets who are peddling third party platforms.
Why choose? After all, each serves a valuable purpose and if you look at the best engaged brands - they have a healthy participation and integration in all camps.
The chart below suggests why each has a role to play and how chopping a head off, eliminates access to a big part of the digital value chain.
So as much as you'd like to cut off the some of the limbs, arms and noggins from the three headed digital hydra - you'd be foolish to. You might be able to control your assets better but as a wise manager once told me "you can always manage failure, much tougher to manage success."