Six Hours In: Launching a Niche Microsite
Earlier this evening, we launched a microsite at www.votethesite.com to allow people to vote for their favorite political websites. In just six hours, the site has already recorded 3,000 votes, received dozens of comments, and been viewed by hundreds of visitors from across the world. This site wasn't just launched with an "if you build it, they will come" strategy, but is the result of a multi-stage, concerted effort by our team to publicize and market it.
We launched the site hoping to gain as many votes as possible, and hoping to get picked up by outside political blogs and circulated around the designer community. We knew that we had to crawl before we could walk, so first we needed to get traction with low hanging fruit, such as friends and family. So far, we've followed a pretty regimented roll out; here are the steps we're taking to market our microsite.
- Send to friends and family - Everyone on the NMC team sent the project to their friends and family, encouraging them to pass along to others. This was kind of a light launch that let us fix any problems that arose, knowing that the visitors would "love us no matter what" as my grandma told me when her district's screenshot didn't appear correctly. This led to a good first wave of traffic and gave the voting some momentum, encouraging others to vote when they got to the site.
- Distribute to Favorite Social Networks - For this stage, we all posted on the social networks that we spend the most time on, which are still composed of mainly friends, but more distant than in stage 1. We each posted the link as our Facebook status, Tweeted it (follow me for more updates on the site), put up as our Gchat away message, and a couple more. This round was really successful, leading to several re-tweets (including from complete strangers), and getting picked up by a North Carolina newspaper's blog.
- Email out to list of political contacts - As a political web design firm, we have a pretty sizable amount of consultants and campaigns that we work with, who we knew would be interested in the site. We sent them all individual emails, encouraging them to try the site out. This resulted in some good feedback and even a call from a contact that we hadn't spoke to in months who wanted to hire us to work on a new site (nice!). In addition to just our personal political clients, we also sent out an email to each contact from the campaigns featured on the site, letting them know that they had been highlighted and to let us know if they had any feedback or changes for us.
These are the stages we considered part of the initial rollout. The goal here was to gather a decent amount of votes on the site, so each race had multiple votes and to start a little buzz around certain circles that we had launched this site. Considering we launched the site at 5pm, we had modest expectations for the results of these phases, and have exceeded all our expectations so far.
Below is a brief overview of the next steps we're taking to get the site in front of more voters. I'll offer more details on these steps later this week, after we have tangible results on whether they worked or not.
- Continue Blogging about the project - Over the next few days, we'll be continually blogging about the project, the programming behind it, and it's coverage. By continuing to create good content about the site, visitors to our main site are likelier to go to it, it can spark interest in different web communities, and will more likely get indexed by Google.
- Submitting to popular news aggregators - This is the stage where we really try and take the views to the next level. We'll be submitting to Digg, Reddit, Hacker News, and some others. If it gains steam, these sites could drive some serious traffic.
- Reaching out to industry decision makers - In this stage, we'll reach out to the big time players, such as Politico, large newspaper blogs, and other relevant sites. Hopefully, they will like the idea, see that it has already been fairly popular, and write up the site. This would result in huge traffic and give the site a lot of credibility. This would be the ultimate win.
Well, there's still 6 days before the election, so we think people have plenty of reason to check out votethesite.com and vote on their favorite political sites. Per #4, we'll be keeping the blog updated as we keep publicizing the site and we'll let you know if we reach our goals and how the traffic is doing. Wish us luck and be sure to go vote - both in our fake election and in the real one!