What Race Are You In?Which car is the best for racing?

Well, what kind of race are you in?

Is your race more like the Dakar Rally or an Indy 500?

Which is the best racing car? The answer is… it depends.

It is the same with web platforms. They can all do things for your. But what race do you think you are in?

Basic websites

For businesses that just want a presence on the web, its hard to go past the economy web site:

  • cheap and cheerful hosting for around $10-20/mth.
  • basic HTML website that is uploaded with ftp.
  • email addresses that don’t cause you too much grief.

This economy model has been around for yonks and won’t cost you much at all. There are thousands of web designers, web developers, and ISPs who can help you get online in this way.

eCommerce websites

If you want to put products up into a store, you can get a wide range of e-commerce packages. The easiest are fully hosted, and you just pay a commission on sales. If you have your own hosting and merchant account and invest a bit more in your setup, you can bring down the cost per transaction (important if you have a higher volume of sales). Lets call this the e-Commerce web site:

  • why do your own store when you can set one up in eBay or Amazon?
  • other fully hosted e-Commerce options include popular platforms such as 1ShoppingCart or niche providers such as Shopify.
  • if you are prepared to download your own software and invest time in configuration and administration, you have access to open source platforms such as osCommerce.
  • there is no shortage of choice in this area, just search on ‘ecommerce website’ and you will have no trouble finding something that suits you.

Online marketing websites

However sometimes even though you sell products, even use a shopping cart, your business isn’t best served by an e-commerce platform.

E-Commerce platforms are great at putting your goods up on display for purchase. But not necessarily best as an online marketing platform.

The rise of open source and free content management systems has changed the game.

Let me explain my reasoning here.

People buy on emotion, and justify with logic (that is a Seth Godin principle that I firmly believe).

If you find people in trouble and help solve their problems, people may trust you, and then sales will happen. Another Seth Godin principle.

Ok, so if sales take care of themselves once people understand they can trust you, and that you can help solve their problems, what do you focus your energy on?

Displaying products in a catalog so they can be added to a shopping cart? Sorry, what problem were you solving for me again?

Maybe you’ve already done your marketing, and people just want to buy their Wii at the best price and get on with life. In which case, you aren’t really in need of an online marketing platform, just an online e-commerce platform. Dakar vs Indy 500.

So what does a web platform for online marketing look like?

So what does an online platform need to do? Here is my checklist for an online marketing platform:

  • it should help you publish. Making it easy to publish means you can talk about understanding of problems, and how you can help solve them
  • it should help you build trust. There are many different ways to do this, but if you believe people trust people, then you want an online marketing platform to help personalise your presence.
  • it should help you engage in a conversation with your audience. Some people make instant decisions, most don’t. Mostly you want to open a conversation with someone rather than try to sell them on the first visit. Business is business, but life is a lot more fun if you take the time to understand each other.
  • it should let you do everything else you can do with a normal or eCommerce website

Right, so that is my definition of what an online marketing platform should do for you.

Publishing is such a powerful part of an online marketing strategy (or at least the style of online marketing I believe is best). And open source content management systems have enabled self-publishing in a way we have not seen before.

So recognising content management is at the core of online marketing here is my shortlist of best web platforms for online marketing:

  • if you are prepared to download, configure and administer your own web platform, then you can’t go past my favourite WordPress.org, but there are also excellent CMS options available from Joomla or Drupal and Ruby On Rails.
  • if you want a free hosted online marketing platform, then WordPress.com will get you started for nothing other your time. There are restrictions however, and you may find (for example) rather than being able to integrate your own e-Commerce pages you will need to link out to another site (see above)
  • commercial hosted online marketing platforms are also available from Site Sell.
  • and last but not least, we ourselves offer hosted OM4 sites that use WordPress as their engine (for example Auspen Markers and Histology Online).

I know some people will argue WordPress is not a content management system. Whatever.

All of our customers have online marketing sites and can manage their own content and manage their own design. So if there are better content management systems, I am not going to argue about the toss, I just don’t care. Because it isn’t only the content management that matters.

Recently WordPress won an award that neatly sums up the main reason I recommend WordPress so strongly. WordPress has just won the Best Open Source Social Networking Content Management System 2007 award from Packt Publishing.

Now that is some title for an award. BOSSNCMS 2007 for short 🙂

The very fact that Packt felt a need to create this category is important. Because in this field, the content management capabilities are only part of the story. And WordPress is good enough at content management.

It is the ability to engage with an audience that WordPress really excels. So now I will give you the reasons I think WordPress is the best web platform for online marketing:

  • Social Media integration. As the award indicates, WordPress is brilliant for integrating with social media such as StumbleUpon, Deli.icio.us, Flickr, Digg, Reddit, FaceBook, MyBlogLog – the list just goes on.
  • Personal. WordPress naturally leads you towards a personal web presence. Its just the way it is. You can make a basic HTML web site personal – if you try hard. With WordPress, its just they way they assume it will be.
  • Conversational. WordPress is exceptional at facilitating conversations with an audience. RSS and email subscriptions for readers, comments, pingbacks and trackbacks from other blogs, recent posts/comments widgets, forums, directories – you name it, WordPress excels at conversation.
  • Ease of Publishing. WordPress makes it really easy for non technical people to be publishers. 1.7M people with hosted WordPress.com blogs and many millions who download WordPress software and run their own sites has made it very easy to use. Non experts can publish text, images, videos, audio – incredible.
  • Flexibility. WordPress is tweakable. So you can get exactly the design you want. People are fussy, so that is important. You can also integrate it with just about anything. It is LAMP underneath (Linux, Apache, MySQL & PHP), so easy to extend when you need to.

The social media integration is the most important aspect, and I think the Packt award will help draw attention to this. WordPress.com is now the 6th highest ranking social media site by unique visitors, trailing only Facebook, Geocities, MySpace, Windows Live Spaces and Blogger.

Pretty amazing stuff. And that is only WordPress.com, it doesn’t include WordPress.org sites.

That is not meant to be an exhaustive analysis of WordPress features. Or a feature by feature comparison with other platforms. I think Joomla, Drupal, Ruby On Rails are excellent platforms.

Microsoft has a genuine problem, there is so much genuine competition for it here.

So this is one way of looking at a web platform for online marketing. We love WordPress over here at OM4. But there are many choices that can help you get better online marketing outcomes.