Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Death of Microsites

I was noticing today how more and more brand marketers are driving their campaigns to social media sites. Or actually, these social media pages, tabs, and channels are functioning more like campaign microsites.

For example, today I heard a radio ad for Trident Gum. The call to action at the end? Find us on Facebook.com for more details. Even their banners ads drive to Facebook!

Similarly, Carl's Jr.'s Wheel of Awesome is powered by a Facebook app.

Toyota has been using YouTube as a major part of its marketing communication strategy for their Sienna minivan for a while. Even their iPad ads drive readers to Youtube.com/sienna. The Swagger Wagon rap videos are pretty hilarious. They have over 3 million channel views! Are there even that many Siennas on the road?

And let's not forget Ford's bold move to reveal the new Ford Explorer exclusively on Facebook a few weeks ago and generated lots of buzz among the digerati.

Why is this happening?

Yes, social media is growing and marketers are fishing where the fish are. Facebook has over 500 millions users. YouTube is the #2 search engine behind Google. Blah blah blah.

But I think there's more at play here inside companies. In my experience, lots of online marketers used to launch microsites because they wanted to break away from IT's "rigid" site architecture and layout of the brand's .com website. Or they wanted a vanity URL or not some long cryptic URL from the .com site. Even if it cost them serious $ to pay for digital marketing agencies (Thanks, by the way) to build these microsites, it was worth it because they could get to market faster and not deal with internal IT teams.

Official brand presences on social media sites have replaced these custom microsite builds. Some of these sites already offer a decent user experience with little programming. For example, a decent YouTube brand channel can be launched pretty easily, assuming you have the media budget. Facebook requires a little more work for custom tabs.

But marketers can turn to agencies again for help. They've got another "excuse" to go externally because many companies still haven't figure out who owns social media internally. IT? PR? Marketing? Opportunistic marketers are going to just hire an agency, build it, and launch it until the dust settles internally.

If you want to minimize agency costs, there is a whole crop of startups that aim to help marketers launch "Facebook tabs in a box," such as Wildfire or FanPageEngine, on the cheap.

Bottom line: R.I.P. Microsites


UPDATE: 8/15/10

Pop on over to Ad Age, where Pete Blackshaw has a good article on how websites need to change due to social media. He paints a broader picture that my narrower view of microsites.


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