The original question in the AskInc. column was “How essential is it for a start-up business to have a website?

After reading a few responses – all of which confirmed “essential,” I got bored.

I didn’t want to debate about the necessity of a Web site.

To me, it’s like asking if a business should have an e-mail address.

In today’s Social Media-prominent world, the real question is “How essential is it for a start-up business to have a blog?”

Social media will drive the next-generation morphing Web sites and blogs.

Hoping to engage in a more provocative discussion, I posted a slightly shorter version of the following and entered the conversation.

Web sites have their merits, but I am finding it harder not to visualize how all the standard arguments will hold. There are a lot of cons to the complications and costs generated on the back end.

We are moving toward the expiration date on complicated content management systems (CMS) that over-promise and under-deliver. And the CMS black box mentality often used as a shield by IT management to distract users from major shortcomings. Either in the system or themselves. Anyone else tired of being held hostage?

Social media levels the playing field for businesses large and small

Again, a meaningful example of how Social Media technologies level the playing field by opening up ownership and access.

Compared to the standard Web infrastructure, blogs are liberating, backed by a technical framework that is starting to take on greater levels of flexibility and functionality.  Know that Web sites and blogs  will, out of necessity, fuse  into a next-generation solution fueled by advances and opportunities in Social Media technologies. Drupal is already there.

Social Media offers a much more immediate, cost-effective, flexible and effective marketing platform. With the potential of a much greater return on investment.

Using a blog as its linchpin, a start-up business can leverage social media technologies to learn (where does our target market hang out online?), listen (what are their needs, concerns) and engage (e.g. would like us to offer … did that upgrade meet you needs, etc.) and exchange (via blog posts, guests posts, or contributing to a discussion such as this).

Expectations have changed. Among the most common questions to today’s businesses: “Do you have a blog?” Followed by, “Are you on Twitter or Facebook?” And the most damaging to brand reputation? Answering “No,” “No” and “No.”

All at comparatively minimal investment of time and money. And with the ability to broadcast instantaneously across multiple channels. With the possibility of a post, comment or campaign going viral.

Social Media has levelled the playing field. Branding has become less about a “Flash-y” Web design and more about establishing a genuine connection with the current/potential customer, investor, employee.

Expectations have changed. Among the most common questions to today’s businesses: “Do you have a blog?” Followed by, “Are you on Twitter or Facebook?” And the most damaging to brand reputation? Answering “No, no and no.”

How would you go about procuring a domain name?

The secondary topic in the AskInc. discussion was about how to register a domain name. Again, I turn to Social Media the source of immediate, cost-effective, flexible and effective information.

Social Media is a culture of community and sharing. Startups can become members of any number of support networks, communities ready to share knowledge and experience including forums on blogging and WordPress.

Advice on domain registration

Among the advice shared on registering a domain:

  • Research keywords before choosing a domain.
  • Know that some of the most popular domain registrars are guilty of registering domains from searches done on their sites. Use trustworthy Whois domain lookup services.
  • There is no shame in starting small, or using a WordPress template. Don’t use the free ones.  There are also excellent frameworks available like Headway, StudioPress and Thesis. And, unlike Web sites, you can change or redesign your blog on a more frequent basis without the same level of hassle and brand stigma.
  • Asking for help or admitting a mistake is not a sign of weakness, but builds trust – essential to the foundation of a solid relationship.

I don’t claim to be breaking new ground here, but it is fun to consider where all this is going.

And for those of us who have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of all that can come with building, maintaining and evolving a Web site – it’s hard not to long for the day when the webs of complication are swept away.

We marketers can do what we love best: Serve the client, amaze the client and feel the pride of a job well done where we control the technology and not the other way around.

Archived comments

  • Ray

    February 25, 2011 | 2:43 pm

    Excellent post – loved it!
    I feel at times, that I’m back in the nineties listening to someone trying to convince a company to have a presence online.
    Having a website for many is just another way of saying “Talk to the hand”.
    They did what the IT guys told them. If anyone wants to know about them, go to the website and if you want more than that; call our 1-800 number.

  • Alison Cummings

    February 25, 2011 | 3:03 pm

    Ray, thanks – always nice to have a post resonate with someone, especially a colleague! You make some excellent (and sadly funny) points.

    Much in the same vein of “(Why) Are we still asking this question?” see this discussion in the LinkedIn group Social Media Today: What do you think about Profiles without Profile picture? I could not refrain from replying … Let me know what you think – hopefully my dark humor isn’t a 1-2 punch that bums you out for the entire weekend. There’s an irony in the group name alone vs. some of the responses. 😉