The future of Corporate Websites in 2010-2013

Just got off the phone with a person doing research at a very large technology corporation, they are doing research for their website and asked me what I though websites would be like in 3-5 years as they are planning out their web strategy.

Here’s a summary of what I predicted:

1. content will be amorphous (content will take many forms and shapes, from RSS to widgets)
2. content will be ubiqutous (content will be access everwhere)
3. Communications are moving from asynchronous to real time
4. Existing corporate websites are irrelevant, and they will become community websites
5. Employees and customers will be communicating in real time, openly and collaborating on the live web. In fact, we’re starting to see some technologies already appear, like Facebook, Ustream (I advise them) and PublicSquare
6. Corporate websites will become more ‘human’ and employees personas will show through.
7. Online video will be a huge factor, either live, or archived
8. Corporate web marketing will spread way off the corporate domain to where communities have formed elsewhere on the web.
9. The truth that the brand is owned by those that are involved in the conversation will hold true
10. Corporations are media companies (even if they are not now) and employees and customers will be creating the media collectively

I gave a lot of concrete examples, features, and companies and technologies to look at, it was far to extensive to discuss here. In fact, each of the points above are already full blog posts that I’ve already written.

Love to hear your feedback, what do you think corporate websites will look like in 3-5 years? What did I miss?

  • No way are those happening in 3-5 years. Some of them yes, others maybe, but….

    The Euphoric customers and employees collaborating in real time?? Are you kidding me? I can see the Engineers at Sony now…. “so we’re thinking changing the pagerank algorithm to add a probability factor based on social status, any thoughts on how that will affect your searches?”

    Or, press releases, etc going away…and not being published to “corporate websites”?

    You have to keep in mind that there are a lot of people still not on board with the blogosphere, social media, etc. They may come around…. but judging by the speed of internet website adoption….and blogging adoption, we’ve got a long ways before a revolution in corporate presence on the web. I’m not saying it won’t happen, in fact I predicted blogs as we knew them would go away this year…. and now we’ve got twitter/pownce/jaiku & facebook… so yes I firmly beleive the mediums will change – but not that fast 🙂

  • You’re right, and I know where you work, and which industry, so that’s very possible.

    Fortunately, the company I was talking to was very progressive. They’re already doing a lot in this space and I think they may be able to follow closely what Dell has been doing.

  • Part 2: Let’s not forget how much has already happened in just the last 2 years. it’s been amazing how quickly things got adapted.

  • hehe, I agree 100% about the two years piece!! it was the same with corporate web pages though, first it was a couple of people like cocacola and ford, then the next thing you knew, everyone had a corporate web page (all getting bylines in TV commercials)… Same with blogs, a few, then suddenly almost every company has a blog… but I think we are still in the aftermath of everyone getting a blog, which puts us right about at the spot where companies on the edge will start looking at what’s next or how to most efficiently integrate the community into their presence (most of the items in your post). So those companies who are ready to go will certainly be there in 3-5, the majority though will be there in 5-8 I would bet.

  • Paul Drago

    It is an uphill battle for those of us working with corporate clients to make them “get it” another problem is– there is a certain sort of company (financial industry) that simply won’t be able to adapt as well due to regulations.

  • I understand the concerns Paul. I lead the social media community program at Hitachi, so I know what it takes.

    Financial industry, yeah well that’s tough. Take a look at the Wells Fargo blogs and Virtual worlds, maybe there’s some opportunities to leverage there.

  • Emmanuel

    Jeremiah, could you point out an example of what you think is a good corporate website?

  • Emmanuel

    There is no one website that meets these requirements right now. And if you read what I wrote very carefully, the future of corporate websites are not websites as we know them at all.

    The content is spread ALL over the web, and that’s the point.

    There are a few companies that are progressing in the way I’m talking about, most notably Dell. Check out Ideastorm, Dell Studios, Dell Blog, and Dell forums, the corporate website could use some of the community features I’m talking about.

    Microsoft’s Channel 9 is a form of a community, but it was more of the employees publishing content and videos rather than the customers creating content.

    Enlightenment: When you realize your corporate website is in many places (if not all) of the internet, you’ve achieved web strategy nirvana.

  • If you’ve not done so already, please read this post:

    Evolving your irrelevant corporate website

  • Hi Jeremiah,

    Great blog. Here is my take on your predictions:

    – 1, 2, 7 will happen soon for most corporations.
    – 3 and 6 will take more time
    – I’m not sure if #5 and #10 will (or should)occur to the degree you seem to indicate. Dialog and co-creation will only happen to the extent it provides meaningful value. For many corporations and their customers, it won’t.
    – I disagree with you on #4. Many corporate websites should have very narrow objectives. Too many currently try to address needs that do not exist. Also, few will need to become a community site. Tangerine Toad has an insightful phrase; “Your brand is not my friend”. Although consumers may want fast, personalized, and accurate customer service and product info via online, I seriously doubt they’ll want to hang with most corporations/brands.
    – I can only hope most corporations adopt #8. For most, the corporate domain should get the least energy and funding as part of an effective web strategy.

  • Tom

    I love your analysis, this is all good stuff. To add to your points.

    The person who said #5 is the CEO of Sun microsystems.

    The person who said #10 “Corporations are Media Companies” was the VP of Cisco, traditionally known as a hardware networking company.

    I was present at both these events.

    Regarding number 4, I think you’re right, not all corporations will evolve to a community website, but many of them are going this route.

    I’m glad we agree on number 8.

  • Hi Jeremiah.

    Here’s my take.

    1. I agree that content will take many forms in the future, RSS/widgets are just the starting point. Also, information/content will be sync across various platform more streamlessly.

    2. Corporate websites will be more of a community website. E.g. Apple with its large group of followers. Maybe one day, HP or IBM will have theirs too. Branding online will also take on a new front.

    Hm.. am I repeating here. 😛

  • I agree with Paul Drago about the financial industry. I currently work in the legal industry, and while we’d love to implement all of these things, there is a limit to what we can do.

    Lawyers can’t breach confidentiality. Online legal document creation sites aren’t licensed to practice law and, thus, can’t say anything that might be construed as legal advice. There are a lot of issues that, unfortunately, prevent full adoption of these things for some industries.

    Still, my company is doing what we can to engage our customers in social networks, blogs, etc. The trick it is to go as far as we can without crossing any lines due to regulations. I imagine this is the same for a few other industries (the financial and legal industries are the most obvious, but I’m sure there are others).

    Having said that, it’s not impossible. Like you said, Wells Fargo has done an okay job, and my company is trying to see what we can do…

  • Maria Teresa Salvati

    I think Web 2.0 is forcing companies to improve the quality of their products.
    What you foresee is, I think absolutely right, and the consequence of that is that brands cannot afford any longer to play in the dark…it’s all under the radar and crap products won’t have long life anymore.
    So, more investments on R&D, more space to consumers’ voice and marketing companies will become enablers of this more direct relationship Brand-Consumer!

    Great article
    Maria Teresa

  • Vaspers

    Also, corporations should post their TV commercial videos on their websites, with embed code and links to promote them on Twitter, Facebook, etc. to make them go viral.

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