Losing To The Social Web: Visualized

Tue, Oct 6, 2009
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End-Of-Standard-Websites
A brands website has been the single biggest ”online” focus for 99% of businesses over the last 10 years apart from banner campaigns and microsites here and there, but with the evolution of social media growing at unheard of rates (Twitter is up over 3500% alone this year, while Facebook increased over 700% to finally overtake MySpace and then turned them to dust!) businesses really need to think about what’s happening to their website traffic…

I recently read a great post on Supercollider by Geoff Northcott (via Martina on Adverblog) that talked about the end of the destination web, along with adage, we are social and adweek about how the times are fading for websites and microsites are dead – Geoff posted a few good Google trends graphs, so I thought I might take that a little further, find a few additional graphs and look at why and where this traffic is going…

What you’ll notice from the graphs below (you can see them here) is that some of the biggest brands, websites and portals are loosing unique visitors hand over fist for the last 3 years. Doesn’t make sense right? More and more people are connecting online, brands are spending bucket loads of cash on digital campaigns, so website traffic should be the complete opposite? (note. the graph below with out a heading is the BBC.co.uk)

Brands-Trending-Down

So with such dramatic declines in website traffic and rapidly increasing numbers of Internet connected people, where is all that traffic going? The Social Web – the emerging networks where everyone is connected, everything is relevant, and everything can be shared with a single click and browsed, summarized or bookmarked with ease…

Brands-Trending-Up

There are 2 key reasons why website traffic is declining.

  1. Social Networks (obviously) are growing and most people prefer to hang out there instead of searching the big brands websites for content to interact with. Your friends on Facebook and Twitter share what you’re already interested in. Everything is relevant and you don’t have to leave to get the best content from 10 of your favourite brands / websites.
  2. Off-Site Content Distribution is rapidly growing, I’m talking RSS Feeds, Twitter, YouTube Channels, Facebook Fan pages and so on… All the best brands and websites now actively push their content (the same stuff you use to get from their website and still want to access) to as many various “off-site” sources and platforms as possible.So naturally this removes unique visitors from their main sites, channeling them into a maze of various networks, feeds and tweets…Oh, and ofcourse, widgets/apps – we’ve only just seen the start of these.

Over the next few years, brands will need to re-structure they way they deliver experiences to their customers online (the best ones are already doing it), and that means delivering unique content to anywhere customers want to experience it.

Maybe that’s the latest offers by RSS feeds, new product demos by YouTube, campaigns by iPhone apps, online shopping via widgets in facebook or branding exercises by seeding stopmotion viral videos (they seem to be all the rage!)?

The fact is, agencies and brands will need to work out how to deliver the relevant content, branding and experiences they are currently achieving on their own websites, into highly competitive social networks, feeds, apps and widgets, where every “campaign” or “offer” has to be groundbreaking just to get noticed… and then there was tracking…!

I don’t think websites & microsites are dead yet. There are still years and years of usefulness ahead for them, we’ll just need to come up with better ways to connect them and their content into the social lives of customers online…

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