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16 February 2011
How users see the relationship between social media channels and your corporate web site
Managing Director | Read all Cathal's posts
Three separate pieces of research from Norman Nielsen Group – conducted with different types of users and web sites – confirm that social media channels are seen as playing a support role for an organisation’s main web site rather than replacing it.
The latest study, released today, looks at the web sites of not-for-profit, charity and non-governmental organisations and concludes, among many other things, that users expect the official web site to be the main source of information on the organisation whereas social media channels are more suited to real life stories and conversations.
This hub-and-spoke relationship – with social media channels providing routes to the main site for those interested in deeper content – was also evident in two earlier studies. The first, from October 2009, looked at the usability of corporate content distributed through social media and the second, from December 2010, at how university students use the internet.
In both cases users preferred to search for and visit the official web site when they wanted to research the organisation more thoroughly or wanted specific information about, for example, products and services. They did not, however, expect full content when coming across the organisation through social media.
This fits with our own findings that users may interact with corporate content they encounter through social media channels but still rely on a core web site as the definitive source of information which underpins other online communications.
Jakob Nielsen in a reflective moment
As with all of Jakob Nielsen’s studies, there are some big fat and very interesting reports for sale if you’re interested but the top-line findings are always worth a free peek. (In saying that, I’ve just seen that the earliest of the three reports – on social media usability – is available as a free download.)
So, I suppose the – not very profound – take out from all of this is that we need to see all our web sites and social media channels as an interrelated whole with the corporate site at the core binding together the varied users and user journeys, information needs and individual modes of usage. That means being able to understand information architecture as it applies not only to our main web site but also as a multi-space-and-place meta architecture (ouch!) with all the safety nets, escape routes, linking content and consistency of experience that entails.
Finally, it also means that we should avoid privileging or fetishising any particular channel at the expense of the overall system. It’s sometimes easy to get carried away with the exciting new Facebook page and lose sight of the 3000-odd prosaic pages of content on the corporate site.
Any statements made in these blog posts are the views of the blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of The Group.