No one goes to websites anymore, except when they do.
Sounds nuts, I know, but let me explain.
I don’t purposely visit many websites anymore, especially websites that produce their own content. You probably don’t either. The idea of going directly to a website and exploring its content is becoming an old-fashioned notion.
That just isn’t how we discover content anymore. Instead, our content comes from search engines and social networks. We look for something specific and type the inquiry into Google. Or we browse our Facebook and Twitter feeds and a piece of content catches our attention. In both cases, we click a link to get to the content source.
That’s what brings us to the website – the content. We aren’t going directly to the website. A piece of content has taken us there.
There’s a third way as well – email and RSS subscriptions. But the same principle applies. A piece of content grabs our attention and click…
Once there, we read it. Or view it. Sometimes we’ll share it or like it or leave a comment behind.
I know that I rarely stay on the website after I’m done with the content that brought me there. I’d argue few of you do. In fact, the majority of people probably don’t even know what “website” they are actually on. That’s why you get more and more people saying things like: “I read it on Google” or “I saw it on Facebook.”
Would it surprise you to know that only 5 of the top 100 visited websites in the world could rightly be called content destinations (defined as websites that produce their own content)? And that the first one on the list doesn’t appear until #49 (it’s CNN by the way)?
Look at the top 10 websites (according to Alexa):
5. Baidu (the largest Chinese search engine)
7. qq.com (a Chinese social network/messaging service)
10. Taobao (a Chinese consumer marketplace)
What do these websites have in common? They are sites that aggregate content – lots of content. They don’t create it, but provide easy access to it and a way for people to react with it. These are places where we can discover content and interact with it – all in the safety and comfort of being among our own peers and social circle.
So what does this mean for brands?
It means they should spend less time promoting their websites and more time promoting specific content. Websites are not destinations, but places for brands to collect and curate content. So treat them as such.
There is no way brands can compete with Google or LinkedIn on being web “destinations.” Few brand websites will ever be destinations so why invest in trying to do that?
Where brands can compete is in content. By creating compelling content, especially content with a smart distribution strategy that takes advantage of this new way that people find and discover content. Put your content where people are and where they can get and share it.
Face it, search and social destination sites need your content. So give it to them. But make sure your content drives home the brand message, the brand experience and gets people excited.
George F. Snell III is senior vice-president, digital & social communications, at Weber Shandwick Boston.
This article first appeared on Snell’s blog High Talk