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With Friends Like Twitter and Facebook, Who Needs a Corporate Website?

  |  March 13, 2012   |  Comments

Is the corporate website obsolete? Wheat Thins seems to think so.

I love Wheat Thins, a fact that I'm usually reminded of during a mid-afternoon craving for a salty whole-grain cracker (or box of crackers) topped with some sharp cheddar. But lately, Wheat Thins has entered my world - sans hunger pangs - by airing a witty commercial featuring characters from Fox's animated comedy, "Family Guy." While the ad itself is worth a look if you know the characters, I've been more interested with the nondescript letters at the bottom of the screen: @wheatthins.

An innocuous Twitter handle or an example of something much larger? I pick the latter, of course, and here are two reasons why:

1. Corporate website? What corporate website? If Wheat Thins ran this commercial in 2005 it would have been just as funny, but probably would have ended with "Visit us at www.wheatthins.com." And me, being a loyal Wheat Thins enthusiast, would get off my couch and go directly to its website because…well, because…OK, I wouldn't have. It wouldn't have been worth the effort (minimal as that relative effort might be).

But this being 2012 - and me having my iPad within arms' reach - I took Wheat Thins' non-invasive suggestion and went to its Twitter page as soon as the ad ended. I read its tweets (most of them pretty amusing) and followed the link to its Facebook page (which was conveniently placed in its Twitter bio) where I was greeted by some mustached character called the Do-Minatrix (the jury's still out on that one).

That was quite the e-Wheat Thins experience: I had ascribed the cracker snack to a distinct personality, read posts and tweets from fellow fans (I'm not alone!), and learned about some new flavors. And I did all this without once going to the corporate website (the only link to which was buried on one of its Facebook tabs).

The question is warranted: is the corporate website obsolete? In the case of Wheat Thins, and many other consumer-friendly products, possibly. The goal of its corporate site is just to push visitors back to Twitter and Facebook, anyway. In fact, even Wheat Thins' online advertising campaigns direct users to its Facebook page, not its website. About the only thing the website offers that Facebook doesn't is nutritional information. Of course, not every company will eschew their website for branded social media pages, particularly products or services that are a tad more complex than a bite-size snack. But expect more and more companies to move their main online presence to social media - which should have good implications for companies and customers.

2. The convenience of the moment. It wasn't just the social media cue that played a role in my actions. It's the mobility of our Internet-enabled devices. If my aforementioned tablet hadn't been nearby, I wouldn't have been on Wheat Thins' Twitter page. Just as I wouldn't have gotten up to visit its corporate website, I wouldn't have gotten up to visit its Twitter page. (I'm just not leaving that couch for much, I suppose.) So, not only did the content have to be interesting enough, but the technology, too, played a role - the role of convenience - in my action.

And I'm not alone. Research shows that more than two-thirds of us use our phone either frequently or occasionally to search the web while we watch TV. We crave new content, and Wheat Thins hit the sweet spot by providing viewers with a social way of enhancing the experience of watching a funny commercial. We get the opportunity to be part of it, and Wheat Thins gets the opportunity to make its :30 spot hold my attention for many times the initial investment. While Wheat Thins is far from the only advertiser to employ this strategy (for example, Target recently debuted a commercial with its own hashtag), it will be interesting to notice how quickly this strategy becomes the norm.

Have you noticed the sometimes subtle, sometimes not-so-subtle attempts by commercials to drive social media awareness to their brand? Have you interacted with a brand because of it?

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Jeff Lerner

Jeff Lerner, vice president, digital media, joined full service digital marketing firm Prime Visibility in 2011 after spending seven years at Google working across all digital media platforms. At Google, Jeff managed the digital advertising spend of the top TV networks and sports leagues, including NBC, ABC, ESPN, the NFL, and Major League Baseball and was responsible for the launch of the advertising sales team in the newly-created Google Brazil office. During his tenure at Google, Jeff has been the 
recipient of numerous awards, including the Sales Excellence Award, Industry Expertise Award, and the Google Impact Award. Jeff holds a BA in sports marketing from George Washington University.

Prime Visibility is owned by blinkx (BLNX), the world's largest and most advanced video search engine, with headquarters in San Francisco and the U.K.

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