Build a web presence ecosystem

If you just visit my blog, you’re only seeing one-third of me.

That is, you’re only seeing a third of my professional online presence. In the old days of new media a company’s entire public online presence could be summed up in a website. But with the proliferation of time-sensitive web communications tools over the past decade (including the broadly defined “social media”), that thinking has changed.

A true web presence is now an integrated whole of parts that account for public persistence, information depth and audience reach. If you’re only using one tool and you’re a business, it’s like expecting a nutritious meal from only the milk food group (and no, there is no web version of Ensure).

The best way to explain the new integration is to start with an Intrinsic Strategy example — though the underlying concepts scale to any size business:

  • I tweet as @FrankCatalano on timely content relating to the fields in which I consult (education technology and consumer tech), plus the occasional time-sensitive tweet on events and current speaking/writing;
  • I post status updates on Facebook for those who want to know more about my related personal interests (which tilt toward science, the arts and wry observation), and in parallel, post different network updates on LinkedIn for those who know me primarily professionally;
  • I blog here, at www.intrinsicstrategy.com, with advice and observations on tech and marketing that require more space to explain and may provide long-term reference material. This also serves as my website through WordPress’ static page capability.

That’s well defined for now, but only after a lot of trial and error. The idea is to maximize supporting cross-references while minimizing mind-numbing repetition.

Approaches vary, based on the business and industry. Not every approach works equally well for everyone. If so, we’d all be eating plain oatmeal every morning for our health and liking it. There probably are as many strategies as there are self-proclaimed “social media experts” (the successors to “Web 2.0 experts” and “Internet marketing experts“) many of whose sole qualification is they have a Twitter ID when you don’t.

But in this decade, a business has to be more than one place online to be anywhere. It helps to think of web-based communications as a grand ecosystem. And it’s an ecosystem in which different creatures have different lifespans.

Every tool mentioned above plays a separate, yet interconnected, part of varying depth. A part which plays itself out over differing intervals of time. Taking the same tools and very generally examining their persistence, depth and reach:

Twitter: Tweets are the fruit flies of Internet communications with life spans that can be Fruit fly illustration from Benjamin A. Pierce, Genetics: A Conceptual Approach. Used under Creative Commons license.measured in hours, if not minutes. They are very public, and very fleeting. Tweets are at their most useful if they point to information elsewhere due to their 140-character limit (such as a blog or website), or provide a quick, time-sensitive update. The reach can be broad since tweets are public and good use of hashtags increase their visibility beyond direct Twitter Followers.

Facebook and LinkedIn: Status updates on both, no matter whether the page and its information is private or public (including company and public figure pages on Facebook), and no matter what the size of network,  have a permanence measured in several hours or days. The practical depth of information in a status update is a short paragraph. Reach, though, is limited to Facebook Friends (or public page fans) and LinkedIn Connections, and browsers of any public pages or profiles.

Blogs: Blog entries are the most permanent and lengthy of the this time-stamped group — and  the most persistently public, for days or months. Especially those tied to an organization’s or professional’s website. Reach is potentially the broadest over time, due to search engines, subscribers (via RSS feeds or email) and in-bound links.

(E-mail is a special case because it’s not a strictly public part of web presence. And several of the new time-sensitive tools, plus texting and instant messaging, are replacing e-mail for certain uses. But e-mail has avoided extinction due to its canny ability to specialize. For now.)

Keep in mind the strengths (public persistence, information depth and audience reach) of each tool. Map them to what you already (or want to) communicate either as an organization or individual professional.

Even if a tool you use isn’t one of these listed, considering its persistence, depth and reach can help you figure out where it fits in. Companies are more likely to use public Facebook pages and perhaps a dedicated discussion forum on an appropriate community website; individual professionals, personal Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

Let each do what it does really well, not stridently forcing a role onto a tool that performs poorly that way. Have them support and cross-reference each other.

Then you’ll have an integrated web presence, providing your whole online self to those who want to marvel at a well-coordinated herd of gazelle, and only the relevant parts to those who are more interested in specific, yet equally impressive, fast-moving specimens.