Maximize Your Microsites
Posted: August 6, 2009 | 10:02 ET by Tessa Wegert
Perhaps we should give microsites a new name. There's really nothing "micro" about them anymore.
These offshoots of brand sites are typically used to promote individual products or marketing campaigns. Historically, they've been limited to a few pages of content, and at times even consisted of a single Web page that's more on par with a campaign landing page than a site proper. Not so anymore. Today's microsites offer rich and comprehensive user experiences related to both a marketer's product and brand. They're the source of some of the most interesting online marketing efforts we see, surpassing even banner ads in their creativity and superior execution.
Think about the best sites you've recently seen. The odds are good that they aren't corporate communications or the primary destinations for your favorite brands. It's the microsites that supplement these more conservative efforts that routinely stand out, due to the increased flexibility and room for creativity that they allow.
What follows is a guide for strategizing and developing your next winning microsite--the one everyone will be talking about on Twitter's public feed for weeks to come.
Identify A ConceptMaybe you need a microsite to promote your latest product to hit the shelves. Perhaps you want to emphasize a specific service sector or a particularly noteworthy aspect of your corporate business. Regardless of your overarching objective, the place to begin is by identifying a visual and messaging concept. Challenge yourself to list some the aspects of your product or service that you'd like to promote, and think about the degree to which you want to use these to generate awareness, educate potential customers about your offering, help consumers identify their need for your product, or engage them in an online contest or Web application.
The solution often lies in devising a unique way to present your product that highlights all of its benefits. Consumer electronics giant Toshiba did just this with its "Ask What If" microsite. The site adopts a literal translation of its products to inspire its design, and asks questions to which the features of its products are the answers--all for the purpose of promoting Toshiba's line of personal notebook computers.
The site presents the differentiating features of its products in the context of a traditional notebook, the pages of which flip open to reveal more information about, for example, its hard drive impact sensors and the reduced energy requirements of certain Toshiba models--the innovations specific to the products. A "Products" page offers the additional details and specifications potential buyers require pre-purchase, while a contest section invites site visitors to create their own "What If?" video and enter it for a chance to win a trip to Japan.
Incorporate Social MediaIt used to be that microsites--and, frankly, all manner of marketing sites--were a one-way conversation. Marketers would supply the information, and their visitors would consume it. The emergence and rise in popularity of social media, consumer-generated media (CGM), and community features like message boards and forums have afforded us the opportunity to involve our customers in our messaging, and to do so in a much more engaging way.
There are two approaches one can take to infusing a microsite with social energy. Some marketers choose to employ popular user-generated services, but limit the content to what they themselves create in an effort to maintain more control over the product and brand. Others openly invite consumers to join the discussion, as Toshiba did by asking them to submit their own videos to the site.
Beer maker Labatt Breweries of Canada combined both of these tactics when it recently launched its Bud Light Lime product. The company choose to build its microsite using video sharing service YouTube, incorporating such video features as its television commercials and links to footage from its guerilla marketing tactics, which included flash mobs that began spontaneously dancing "The Twist" to promote the beer's "twist of lime" angle.
In addition to making a major CGM tool central to the site, the strategy to use a custom-built YouTube channel as the Bud Light Lime product microsite included the benefit of a built-in message board. Consumers are able to post their comments about the product, related videos, and the brand's overall marketing campaign, while Labatt can quickly and easily respond to any inquiries or issues that its customers might have.
Promote Your BrandThough the primary purpose served by microsites is rarely to promote the brand behind the products being featured, there's usually a halo effect that does leave a brand impression. This can be accentuated further with the inclusion of brand positioning information alongside the product details you need to deliver.
While this information isn't directly related to the Honda Insight--the model the microsite is intended to promote--it serves to enhance the perceived skill and dedication associated with the product. And ultimately, shouldn't every marketing message leave consumers with a positive feeling about the brand?
Microsites have maximum potential for educating and exciting consumers about your products and services. Use these marketing tools to unleash your creativity on your offerings, and on the Web.
Tessa Wegert is a veteran Internet media strategist and writer covering interactive marketing and technology. For links to her past articles and columns visit tessawegert.com, or connect with her on Twitter (@tessawegert) and LinkedIn.
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Tessa Wegert is a veteran media strategist with a background in media planning and buying, content development, ad copywriting, and campaign management. As a prominent industry writer she has been covering digital marketing and technology for leading newspapers and trade publications for over a decade. Connect with her on Twitter (@tessawegert) and LinkedIn.