Remember that 1970s advert for Coca-Cola, with youngsters on a hillside singing “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”? (See video below for a reminder.) OK, I’m showing my age, but yes, I remember it…! It was an iconic advert that actually lived on for many years afterwards. Advertising historians still talk about it, no doubt. Even back then, prior to all this stuff about “branding”, it was an advert that stood head and shoulders above the other trash that passed for “advertising”. It showed that the Coca-Cola company was prepared to be creative, forward thinking and professional in its approach to promoting its products.

So it is worthwhile sitting up and taking notice of the company’s latest decision. Coca-Cola is dropping traditional websites in favour of using social networking sites to promote its brands. That’s right – this giant in the world of advertising is scrapping ordinary campaign websites, instead focusing entirely on social media.

And they are not alone – the global food and household products giant, Unilever, is doing the same thing. In other words, two of the world’s biggest businesses, with some of the most creative and forward-thinking people in their marketing teams, have realised that the day of the traditional website is over, kaput, nada.

For the past couple of years, with more and more people visiting social networking sites, using Twitter and so on, the days of “a website” are over. People interact and share information about products and services on Facebook, or Twitter, or similar services. Then they direct people to a single page, not a website, for further information.

In terms of size, Facebook is now the third largest “nation” in the world – with a population of over 350m its kicks the USA into fourth place; only China and India have more people than Facebook. So Coke and Unilever have realised that if they want to attract people to their products they need to go where the people are – rather than trying to get those people to visit them.

Imagine you have a product that would be really useful to the people of Uzbekistan. If you were to set up shop in Oxford Street, London, how many Uzbeks do you reckon you could sell to? A few, for sure, but as many as you would really like? And even though you may well be doing everything you can to get those people to leave their homes in Uzbekistan and travel all the way to London to your shop, the chances are most of them would stay at home.

If you set up a website these days, many people you want to attract are living in the “country” of Facebook. You, over on your website are expecting them to “leave home” and travel all the way over to you. Like the Uzbeks, they will not do it. They are quite happy where they are. If you want to attract people from the world’s third biggest country you need to be IN their country. Coke and Unilever have realised that.

It signals the importance of Facebook – and other social networks – from a marketing perspective and it suggests if you are not marketing your business on Facebook you are missing out. If you want to get run over, go and stand in front of the traffic. If you want to work hard, struggle, have sleepless nights, sweat a lot due to stress, then carry on trying to build your website that intends to drag people away from where they are happiest – with their friends. The choice is yours – go where the people are, or try to attract them to you. Coca-Cola has realised that the easiest and most cost-effective method of marketing is to go where the people are – and nowadays that’s in social networks.

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