Innovative and stunning websites are one of the hallmarks of a great digital agency. With beautiful imagery, succinct case studies and a dash of fun, an agency can impress potential clients and entice the best workers. Lately we’ve seen a few companies really push the envelope with their websites—namely, convert their websites to social-media profiles. But is the Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest platform appropriate to the task of serving as an agency’s hub? More important, will this growing trend spread to brands—eliminating the website as we know it?
Let’s start with the most recent example of website hopping. Tribal DDB Israel made the leap to Instagram with a full website navigable via hashtags, like #tdilcontact, #tdilworks and #tdilspeople. Each hashtag contains relevant information and hipster photos. This “website” is clearly an attempt to jump on the recent popularity of expressive visuals and photo linking spurred by Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Yes, it’s a cool idea. But what does the website lose in the process? Instagram is primarily a mobile platform, and this limits its audience. And although the website follows visual trends, it is still contained within the design limitations and functionality of the Instagram platform. Inevitably some creativity is lost in fulfilling this project, which yearns to be called creative.
In a similar move, Argentinean creative agency Kamchatka moved its website to Twitter, using a variety of accounts to represent various categories. Again this is a cool idea gone awry. In addition to involving tricky navigation, this particular use of Twitter defeats the purpose of the platform, which is supposed to enable real-time conversation on a global scale. A website full of static information and infrequent updates feels out of place there and, while unique, doesn’t offer much room for growth.
In digital advertising, one must always strive to match the platform to the purpose, whether one is working for the agency or for the client. Yes, using popular social-media platforms is a great way to reach more consumers and earn more business for your brand. A social-media presence shows that you are hip, aware and involved in the global conversation and keeping up with advertising trends. There is a huge difference, however, between using social media to its capacity—taking full advantage of all its features—and stretching it beyond its limits. Grey Stockholm seemed to have the right idea when it moved its entire website to Facebook a few years back, but here’s the catch: It also deleted the old website, vowing to use Facebook for its primary hub. It’s since merged with Ogilvy Stockholm to form Ingo. While Facebook certainly offers more versatility than Instagram or Twitter, enabling the use of text, photos, apps and more, Ingo is still constrained by its use of someone else’s platform. The page itself has a mere 3,260 fans, and a cursory search for Ingo on Google comes up with nothing related to the agency. These platforms are great as far as they go, but stretching them beyond their natural limits will seem, well, unnatural, and awkward, to consumers.
Poor use of a platform is obvious to marketing professionals and disconcerting for general consumers. Are Facebook, Instagram and Twitter the best platforms for agency websites? No. Does that mean that the website in its present form will never be overthrown by some form of social media? Absolutely not. Just because these popular social-media platforms aren’t ideal for housing websites, we can’t discount the possibility of a innovative new platform emerging in the next few years. The nature of the website is changing. What was once a static, contained entity is becoming a collection of scattered digital pieces. In some ways this is fantastic: Expressing an identity through many platforms allows brands to tailor their messaging to different audiences and platforms. They must be careful, however, to maintain a unified creative vision amid the chaos.
So tell us: What do you think of these social-media websites? Are popular platforms the right venues for agency and brand hubs? What can we predict about the future of websites?