New Top-Level Domains, not Facebook, the future for online brands by Adrian Kinderis

Posted in: Domain Names at 03/10/2011 18:21

Adrian Kinderis, CEO of AusRegistry International, explains why brand owners should 'dislike' the idea of a heavy Facebook presence and instead should consider creating their own new Top-Level Domain for their brand.

It was with great shock, horror and a little amusement that I read a recent news report about Facebook's ambitious plan to eliminate the need for standalone company websites and instead have companies adopt dedicated microsites within Facebook as their primary online presence.

Stephen Haines, commercial director of Facebook's UK operation, told a technology and marketing conference in London that the power of Facebook may see major companies no longer bother with their own websites.

According to CNET, Mr Haines said many more Facebook users click a company's "like" button than have visited the company's website. For example, he said Starbucks received 21.1 million likes compared to only 1.8 million site visits per month.

These are impressive figures for Facebook. However, it's important to remember that success in the online space is determined by a combination of high volume exposure and a deep brand or product engagement that can only be delivered within the walls of a corporate website.

Why Facebook websites may be a bad sell

Facebook is a ground breaking application that has revolutionised society. However, it's just an application and should be used as such. There are many opportunities for brands to leverage Facebook as part of their online presence, but this should not mean the centralisation of all digital activities within the Facebook site.

A Facebook-only approach would:

- Dilute the brand's identity with Facebook's identity
- Place the brand at the mercy of facebook.com's performance. There are no Service Level Agreements nor repercussions should the facebook.com website go down - which it has done on a number of occasions
- Reduce the target audience to only Facebook users (there are more than two billion Internet users worldwide, and only 700 million Facebook users). You can't get the full Facebook experience unless you are a Facebook member
- Limit the scope of digital campaigns to the restrictions of the Facebook platform
- Pose potential risks due to Facebook's policies (Facebook's privacy policies are under increasing scrutiny from a number of national governments)
- Place your customers or clients at risk to potential online security threats that are out of your control (such as the recent Facebook privacy data risk identified by Symantec)
- Marry the brand with Facebook (for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health)

Why have facebook.com/brand when you can have product.brand

A revolution taking place within the domain name industry will revolutionise the way end users navigate the Internet, providing global brands with the foundation they need to build the digital strategy of the future.

ICANN's new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program will allow for new Internet extensions to be introduced and we'll see brands such as Apple and Toyota move from their current .com addresses to .apple and .toyota. It won't be long until we see advertisements directing consumers to ipad2.apple or prius.toyota for an engaging experience built solely on targeted, specific content.

With applications opening on 12 January 2012, we'll start to see .brand domains in operation from early 2013.

So what does this mean for you? Building a digital strategy around a .brand Top-Level Domain will ensure all online traffic is directed to a content environment that delivers a deeper and more influential experience to those customers who recall your message. What's more, it's done so in an environment that you control.

Benefits will include:

- Increased global brand visibility
- Intuitive Internet navigation (product.brand, service.brand, campaign.brand)
- Better brand and domain name protection (customers can trust that your .brand represents your company)
- Deeper customer engagement and increased long-term brand loyalty
- Search Engine Marketing/Optimization cost reductions (there is a whole blog post on the implications for search).

At one end of the spectrum, we have the "walled garden" of Facebook. Their website, their control their audience. At the other a new innovative way of having complete and utter control of your web presence by owning and operating your own slice of Internet real-estate. Facebook and other social network platforms provide powerful features that should make them important components of any digital strategy. No major brand however, should be considering the loss of control that is inherent in any strategy that places Facebook as the foundation of their online presence. The new Top-Level Domain program provides a unique opportunity for major brands to reinvent themselves in the online space, enabling them to leverage all of the benefits of the web, including but by no means limited to those offered on the Facebook platform.

By Adrian Kinderis, new Top-Level Domain name expert and Internet industry thought leader

The original article can be read here on iStrategy and was sourced from the AusRegistry International blog here.

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