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Multiplatform Online Strategy

December 17, 2010

The website is dead, long live the website!
Online strategy is no longer about simply building a website (if it ever was). Superior marketing, engagement and interactive models demand that organizations colonize a number of online properties, chasing function, chasing audiences and offering service wherever, whenever and howsoever the consumer demands.

Explained on this website under ‘Services’, there is an illustration of one theoretical model of how websites, search tools, blogs, social media platforms and other web aggregation points can work together. The illustration below takes a different approach, an ‘engagement funnel’ of progressively more closely aligned consumer behaviours (viewers, referrers, subscribers, members and customers). Later, we will explore how some fourteen free (or almost free – ‘Freemium’) services can assist in deploying a contemporary multichannel online network.

Online Platforms (Behavioural Proximity Funnel)

WebPlatformModel

(Illustration displays (mostly) free web services, and a few others, that can improve your total online strategy. The services/platforms are broken into this ‘behavioural model’ for discussion. My selection is arbitrary and could have included many other powerful web services.)

Objective
This post is focused on getting more visitors to, and better outcomes from, your online assets. Put another way, making use of the web’s great (almost) free platforms for your strategic advantage. The suggested platforms are neither perfect nor exhaustive, and I have deliberately left out of this post the significant issue of ‘what to do with your engaged visitors’ – a topic for another day. So lets look at a multifaceted strategy for making your online presence more effective, using the wonderful array of (almost) free tools that are ready and waiting for you to enlist their functionality, audiences and additional online benefits.

Your Online Armory
Viewers
Lets start in ‘heritage web’ with classic search discovery (I just wanted to say ‘heritage’ in a quasi-derogatory way for fun – no real denigration is meant). Google and similar search environments (pay-per-click or free – also known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for fans of web jargon) are still key players in getting traffic to your web assets and your online message out. In the gaining ‘Viewers’ funnel of the illustration, I have placed Google, Youtube and Flickr. Google search and their host of web portal environments (Google Scholar, Adwords and so on) for bringing traffic to your web assets as well as Youtube where you have video content to leverage and Flickr where you have images to leverage. Optimizing for these environments and colonizing them with your content and links will help build your ‘web’ of online hooks that gain viewers and bring them to locations that take the online engagement further.

Referrers
Online platforms such as StumbleUpon, Digg and Delicious, while working in different ways, allow people to demonstrate preference for web content. In effect, creating channels for aggregating content and referring material for others to access. Some of these environments create ‘public bookmarks’ to web content, others create referral outcomes from popularity and in most cases, search tools and topical notification can help find content and from a publishers perspective drive relevant traffic. Identifying and promoting your published material within these platforms is another way of supporting your broader online strategy. In some cases, network effects can create surprisingly strong results.

Subscribers
Subscribers can offer a level of both permanency and invitation that surpasses the comparatively short-lived and superficial dynamic of either viewer or referrer. Subscribers fall into the hot category of ‘permission based marketing’, a strong audience that has invited you to remain in contact and given you a channel for ongoing engagement. By way of demonstration, I have use four very different web environments. The first, Feedburner (now owned by Google), is an example of a syndication tool that allows readers to aggregate news and blog content and publishers to make their content available to subscribers across different web distribution channels. Feedburner is a practical example of using RSS Feeds to broaden the reach of your content and encourage subscription. Blogging tools such as WordPress, Posterous and Blogger (also owned by Google) allow you to publish blog content (and even full websites), including attracting subscribers in their own right. These blogs generally provide feed functionality (RSS) that can be picked up and subscribed to by other aggregation, reader and subscriber environments. Twitter provides what is sometimes called ‘Microblogging’, short posts (up to 140 characters in length) that can provide information and link to other longer form content and other parts of your online presence. Followers on Twitter could be considered as sharing similarities to subscribers on other platforms.

Members
MySpace, LinkedIN and Facebook are examples of Social Media platforms with rich and multi-variate functionality. They include everything from games to job boards, chat, status updates, images, rich media and integration into mobile platforms. They can also be embedded into, share data with, or be used to encapsulate other social media environments. Like Twitter (mentioned under ‘Subscribers’), these platforms generally encourage connections (Friends on Facebook, Contacts on LinkedIN) that vary in loyalty, strength and influence. In well constructed environments, with compelling content, these network connections can have the dynamic of members. This can include advocacy, referral, engagement, solicitation and commercial activity. The nature of how the network members behave is often a reflection of the brand, the community and the mutual value proposition. In any case, penetration of your business into these environments can be a great assistance in overall online performance and may be expected by the part of your consumer audience that is already active within online social media channels.

Beyond Discovery and Engagement
To hint at complexity and system completeness beyond the scope of this already length article, I have included Google Analytics to demonstrate the importance of metrics to understanding and optimizing the performance of your online activity – especially where it is extended across multiple environments. Then of course, you will need interaction, transaction, sales, accounting, staff collaboration, compliance, human-resources, enterprise-planning and a host of other systems to support your activity – much of this is available in powerful online environments.

Of some relevance to this article if you are interested in further reading, are Ten Things That Matter For Search, my Social Media Tool List, the interaction illustration under Services, Proof That Your Website Sucks and finally People Not Pages. You can piece all of this knowledge together, or of course you could have me help your people succeed online (just a mini sales pitch). Comment most welcome …

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