Nov 1, 2010

The Value of Integration

So the 800 number at the bottom of the ad was replaced by the website address, which in turn was replaced by the ubiquitous Facebook URL. And brands are investing heavily in their Facebook pages, giving users the chance to do everything from having “conversations” with the brand to ordering pizzas and airline tickets to entering contests and games.

Which makes sense at first blush: you want to be where your users are and Facebook’s got 500 million some odd users.

But... (and there’s always a but)

All that data about all those users is going straight to Mr. Zuckerberg’s servers. Not yours.

You can make assumptions based on what you can find out about your “fans” from looking at those parts of their profiles they’ve elected to make public, but that’s about it.

What’s more, you’ve got a website somewhere that’s going underutilized, a site where you can actually collect user data and control content, plus customize the look and feel to your heart’s content.

Plus you’ve got more and more users who primarily interact with you on their mobile devices where they can’t really do a whole lot with your cool new Facebook tab.

Which is why brands need to look at ways to integrate all their various and sundry touchpoints. That doesn’t mean that they all need to look identical, but rather, that all your content needs to live on a single platform based around your brand site where it can be ported out to social media’s walled gardens and open APIs (and vice versa) without your brand losing control over user data.

And while your immediate goals may not call for any sort of social CMS, there’s a good chance that as social media becomes more ubiquitous, more like Charlene Li’s famous analogy “like air” there’s going to be a lot of value in knowing who your “fans” and "followers" are and how and where you can reach them. (Facebook and Twitter are great, low-barrier ways to initially attract users, who can then be funneled over to your site for deeper engagement. But funneling them is a whole lot easier when you already know who they are.)

An integrated approach has other benefits as well. Various social media will come and go. At some point Facebook will become AOL. (It wasn't all that long ago that ads ended with "AOL Keyword: Compaq") Mobile apps may give way to some other platform. But your brand’s URL is a constant. It’s the one place consumers will always be able to find you, the one place you own.

Now of course creating a platform with the ability to host all your content, and making your brand site the nexus of your digital presence is exactly what my current employer, KickApps does. But that’s precisely why they are my current employer: we share a vision of the web where user data is paramount and brands act like brands, not buddies. (aka “Your Brand Is Not My Friend.”)

As the social web becomes just “the web,” the ability to quickly share and control content will become more and more important. Which is why having a single, integrated platform makes so much sense.

To me, anyway.

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