Will Facebook Kill The Micro-Site Star?

by Michelle McGinnis on Monday, January 31, 2011 in Digital Marketing

Can the micro-site survive the merciless onslaught of Facebook?

Rich Harris thinks not.

Rich recently penned an epitaph of sorts for commercial websites. Facebook, he argued, is becoming so popular that its user base won’t want to leave the site to do anything. They won’t want to visit your brand’s micro-site, move over to your landing page, or jump onto your community portal. Hell, if Facebook were able to invent a toilet app, people would never log off.

“The reason that it works for people is because we are creatures of habit,” Rich, a writer for ZDNet, told me recently in an interview. “People are going to go to Starbucks because they know what they are getting. They know the environment.”

Facebook like Starbucks delivers a consistent product no matter where you are, whether it's in Times Square or Temple, Texas. Building a brand presence on Facebook requires half the fuss and even less of a budget than architecting a new micro-site. Not to mention the established audience of over 600 million users Facebook comes loaded with.

“On Facebook businesses are realizing that you don’t need to create this whole brand new world,” Rich said, adding that micro-sites could be relegated to short-lived, one-off campaigns.

But there are downsides to this strategy. You can’t play much with the Facebook page. One of Facebook’s strengths is how tightly it has held onto its control of the look and feel of the social networking platform. You might put in your photos and video, but the overall the surrounding retail looks exactly the same – not unlike how every Starbucks is essentially the identical, while your indie coffee shop probably has a more unique flavor.

Additionally, the metrics you can view are far more limited on Facebook than on a piece of online property you hold the deed to. Note that I didn’t say that Facebook’s metrics are more limited. The amount of info it has on its users is likely unprecedented. But that doesn’t mean your brand will be able to access it.

I’ve written recently on how difficult it is to measure the value of a Facebook fan, particularly for b2b marketing. The primary reason ROI is difficult to determine is because you can’t really tell how much time fans (not to mention those who don’t “like” your brand) spend on your site, what pieces of content they are finding most valuable, etc. With a micro-site all of this data can be captured and analyzed.

Rich pointed to Ford Motor Co.’s choice to unveil the 2011 Explorer through Facebook. Others who have wondered aloud on this subject noted how Nissan killed its micro-site for a Facebook page.

I still see some signs of life in the micro-site. Not to be too car-happy here, but Toyota has created an interesting campaign with its “Toyota Ideas for Good” concept. Their commercials encourage consumers to submit ways to use Toyota technology for social good and point them to a branded micro-site, not their Facebook page.

If campaigns like this prove successful, than the micro-site will live on. If they fail to move the needle, however, Rich may be dead right. What do you think? Have micro-sites lost their luster?

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