Your website is telling stories about you.
Digital storytelling reaches beyond the news and content that you post, to the web technology that delivers your brand. A web or social encounter is often the first experience your customer has with your business or nonprofit. Visitors to your digital properties are not just reading or seeing your story, they are experiencing it through the medium of your web properties.
Ensuring that your web presence is telling the right story requires that you match your technology to changing trends in the internet. The way you present your website is part of your brand story.
Think of it this way-- when archaeologists view the writing of cave dwellers on a wall, or the hieroglyphs that tell the feats of Egyptian pharaohs, you not only learn from the stories they tell, but the way they deliver their stories. Rough paintings on cave walls and stone chisels marks tell us a great deal about the people who left them; we know whether they are modern or prehistoric by the way they use technology.
Your website is a virtual customer service counter and a foyer in which people first enter your business- those experiences are all a part of your brand story. The greatest customer impacts don't come from the words of a sales person, but rather from the environment they experience-- websites included. The web experience is an ever increasing part of the business environment-- and to them, how they encounter online is the story of our business.
Consider these current website issues and explore whether your technology lines up with the story you want your customers to experience.
Mobile web story.
An increasing number of customers use their mobile device to visit company websites, often more than 50%. We know that Google has just changed the rules (again) and that mobile ready websites now rank higher than non-mobile websites. Mobile ready sites most often use technology that is called responsive, which automatically resizes the website to fit the device. What is the alternative to a website that re-arranges the view for the mobile viewer? Web viewers have to pinch and stretch your website to view cutting off pictures and partial sentences-- frustration.
Some business, especially those with government contracts, are under the mistaken impression that their customer won't view their website on a mobile device. Younger government staff certainly will, and anyone up to, and including, the program manager will use a mobile device when they are trying to get some basic information about you or when they are talking about your company.
Mobile done well, offers the most popular items in a convenient and easy to navigate mobile enabled interface.
Mobile- the Story You're Telling:
Your mobile accessibility tells a story about whether you are you cutting edge and up to date, but in a bigger way, it signals something about your commitment to the customer. If you don't have a responsive website, the storyline is about how you frustrate people that want to do business with you by presenting a website they really cannot use.
Social Disconnected website.
Big brands and effective brand stories are integrating social throughout their websites. Socially disconnected websites happen in a couple of different ways:
- No Social: Some don't reflect any connection to social networks on their website at all. Some companies have a policy about staying away from social (I will leave that for another discussion), but many just fail to connect the dots between their web and social presence.
- Social Conflict: Other companies have social networks linked to their website, but when the visitor goes to these pages, they don't look anything like the website. The brand story doesn't seem to be consistent.
- A Channel of One. Many organizations can't seem to manage more than just one social network, but we know that 52% of American's use multiple social networks.
- Social Vacuum: Many companies don't have a content strategy, and their social networks reflect that reality. They have few posts and few followers, with little real connection to their customer's interests.
Social- The Story You're Telling:
If any of these things are true about you, then your customer will arrive at the conclusion that you don't have your social act together, or perhaps that you aren't responsive to customers or prospective employees. This story reads that you aren't modern enough to understand the networked consumer or their social network preferences, and may not value input from consumers or peers.
Day old bread on your website.
Search engines like Google and consumers alike are looking to see if there is any fresh content on your website. They see the dates of your latest posts, press releases and photographs and make a judgement about your value. Fortunately, web freshness is not the same as social freshness which is measured in minutes or hours. Adding fresh content, having a strategy to do that frequently, and building upon your story, brings people back to our website, increases search rankings and tells people that you are active and engaged. Here is what we often discover when we complete a Story Review (a digital story audit): the last press release that you posted was a year ago, your CEO's letter has a picture that includes vintage clothing, and when the user looks for your blog, they can't find one.
Freshness- The Story You're Telling.
Without fresh content, people conclude you have checked out, that your company is not active, or that you are irrelevant or unengaged. You are a company "in stasis" since your website is a static set of pages that are dry and dusty.
A Book with No Pictures.
It's easy to write long articles, and it's hard to write effective short articles. Many websites have authors who never read Strunk and White's Elements of Style which teach us that less is more. Web readers are mostly scanners, and they want to look at an effective menu of choices before they start reading. Once they start reading they look for visual references and then decide after reading for 80-90 seconds whether they will continue to read.
The visuals or videos on a page draw us in, and effective visuals create much better and longer engagement. A lack of pictures in combination with a large volume of text is guaranteed to secure low attention levels.
Visuals and Text- The Story You're Telling.
Too much text and a lack of pictures communicate irrelevance and a lack of focus. You will have a hard time convincing customers and prospective employees that your brand story or products and services are compelling or engaging if you make them use legal pads to read your website.