Interactive websites would look like Stonewall Farm, I've decided. The other day I brought my children to Stonewall Farm. Stonewall Farm is set on a beautiful open country road on outskirts of Keene, NH. Their mission is to connect people to the land and do so through their organic garden (CSA) and their working farm where numerous educational programs and events take place.
It was a bright sunny day as I drove outside of city limits and arrived at Stonewall Farm. There were wide open fields and a windy dirt road that crosses over a babbling brook. It curves around sheep paddock on the left and follows a large lush green field with a single strand electric fence on the right.
About 700 yards down this windy road I arrive at an opening, the main parking lot. This is where all the crossroads meet, taking you to different places around this working farm. There is even a sign like the one on the Wizard of Oz, pointing you to several directions announcing popular destinations on the farm.
I park my car here and get out, wondering where we should go first. The kids know exactly which way to go, out of memory, and head for the bridge over the babbling brook that led to the playground. I think, couldn't we just use the playground at home, let's go see the animals, then I begin to think about Stonewall Farm as a perfect analogy to use when designing an interactive website using social media.
You see, the parking lot in the center symbolizes your home page on a website. But there's more to it than this, and I began to get excited as I swatted away at those obnoxious gnats sucking blood from my childrens' necks.
Interactive websites would look like Stonewall Farm, I thought, and this is why we all love Stonewall Farm. There is something for everyone who comes, every age. They have found a way to make this place appealing to all of their stakeholders (everyone you hope will see your website).
The bulletin board is like an online events/calendar/announcement page. Someone would want to go there frequently to see what new postings have been made as they are changed and updated often.
The babbling brook, bridge and windy path appeal to those whose attention is most drawn from using all of the senses. On a website, this would resemble your TouTube video or an audio component drawing you in and grabbing at your emotions with memories of when you were a child and thoughts of playing in the brook with your sneakers on. I almost let my one year old go right in but was whisked away by those obnoxious gnats again...pop up ads...those don't belong in the social media culture. They're not welcomed yet they occasionally find their way in anyway.
The educational center is a large, 3 levels, restored barn. This is ideal for those coming to your site to get information. Learning the answers to questions you never even thought to ask. That is your information page on a website. It's why people come. If they knew it all, they wouldn't be here, and because it's interesting and easy to understand, they keep coming back for more. You have something they need or want. Maybe, like SF, it's something they want their children to experience. They are the stakeholders you want to reach and their children are the way to grab their attention.
What is it your stakeholders are most interested in, what are their hobbies, what do they do in their spare time? What do they love most? Can you use that to grab their attention too? Do you share similar passions as they do and can you use that as a way for them to relate to you online?
The Facebook of Stonewall Farm is their annual maple syrup gathering event, or their monthly contra dance events where like minded people come together to socialize, be entertained and to relax.
The crossroads at Stonewall Farm symbolize all of the tabs on your home page. Because SF is looking for feedback, they offer a suggestion box. This is your blog/ ratings/reviews. It links consumers from your home page to the head of the business or organization directly, only it promotes more discussion from all parties rather than a monologue suggestion box.
It's so important to convey personality and culture through your website, and to be consistent no matter where you post your presence online. Just remember, keep those obnoxious gnats out of the picture!
Used at the MicroCreditNH presentation of Social Media Marketing on May 28, 2009