[David Strom's Web Informant] March 25, 2012: No website? You don't need one anymore.

David Strom david at strom.com
Sun Mar 25 16:51:14 EDT 2012

Web Informant, March 25, 2012: No website? You don't need one anymore.

For those of you who have procrastinated about getting your corporate
website together, I have some good news for you: you can pat
yourselves on the back because you have just saved a bunch of money.
For many smaller businesses, you don’t really need one anymore.
Welcome to the post-Web era.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the Web is dead. Far from it, as you might
expect from someone who writes for a variety of Web-based
publications. But the stand-alone website, in all of its pixilated
glory, is becoming obsolete. Yes, you do need something for potential
customers to bring up in their browsers when they type in
companynamedotcom. But you also don’t need to put a lot of effort into
its creation. Here is why.

The days of building community are happening outside of your own dot
com. It used to be that you created brand awareness and a destination
for your customers by having your own site. No longer. Now, there are
plenty of others who will do it for you, and often they will do so
without you having to pay them. Remember the phrase OPM? It used to
mean other people’s money. Today it means Other People’s Marketing.
Let me give you a few examples.

My wife is an interior designer and supervises a small staff. Some of
her business is coming from the communities that she participates in
with HGTV.com and Houzz.com, two places that people go to look at
pretty rooms and get ideas for their own decorating. By writing
comments on these and other discussion forums, she is sharing her
knowledge with the people most likely to hire her. It doesn’t cost her
anything to participate in these forums, other than her time, and she
is reaching a ready-made audience of thousands of women (let’s face
it, we guys generally don’t concern ourselves with design) who are
hungry for this kind of information.

Yes, she does have her own business website. She does need it to give
her business a sense of legitimacy and purpose. But that site gets
dozens of visitors a week, rather than the hundreds or thousands that
the other sites do. (And on Houzz she is top-rated for all St.Louis
professionals, go Shirley!) She is using OPM.

Here is another situation. All of us writers at ReadWriteWeb
participate in varying degrees on Twitter too. We post and repost
links to our stories and that of our colleagues, and many people
follow us as a result. All well and good. But wouldn’t it be better if
someone else posts a link to our stories on their Twitter account?
Doesn’t that link carry more weight than just our own flogging of our
content? Yes. Remember, OPM! I was covering a conference not too long
ago: one of the participants of the conference liked one of my
stories, and Tweeted about it. That was far more effective than my own
Tweet. I was being validated by someone else’s point of view.

The same can be said about Pinterest. Again, why should I try to post
photographs of my work (if I am a visual artist) when I can do the
same on a site where millions of people are clicking and recommending
what they see to others? Certainly I can spend the time and create
some very nice HTML that showcases my art on my own dot com. But if I
am trying to reach a wider audience? OPM has already built a pretty
nice way to distribute this information.

Now, I don’t think we are going to just forgo our websites entirely,
but certainly we should place less effort into making them the
sprawling digital places of c.1999. No need. A friend of mine, Bruce
Fryer calls this the “Cheap Bastard Startup” method of IT. He even
owns the dot com. Just make it good enough to get by, and count on OPM
to push you further along.

Yes, OPM does have some drawbacks: Like Blanche DuBois, you do have to
rely on the kindness of strangers. Particularly when it comes to
online discussions, there are trolls and others who don’t hesitate to
take people apart verbally. You do have to develop a thicker skin, and
try not to take these folks too seriously. And you have to constantly
feed your discussions and other sites with content, with
recommendations, and spend time to make sure that you are part of the
ongoing conversations online. It certainly is easier to just put up a
piece of content on your own website, press publish, and walk away.
But it is more satisfying once you get your OPM network working for

Welcome to the post-Web era. And if you are looking for some window
treatments, I can point you in the right direction.

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