From Pepsi Refresh to the Samsung Galaxy Tab, more and more companies are turning to microsites to promote new products and branding strategies. The reasons behind this shift in strategy are myriad. Corporate websites tend to be inflexible and expensive to change just for a single product release, and any alterations can damage both customer loyalty and any larger SEO strategies.
In contrast, microsites allow corporations to more specifically and effectively target a narrower clientele and keyword set, and sync their engagement and conversion strategies with specific social media campaigns.
While an individual designer obviously won't have the same kind of cash or work power as a major global corporation, there's much to be learned from this approach in terms of self-promotion. Sure, it pays to have a good personal website, portfolio and blog to give potential customers a glimpse into who you are and what you can do, but microsites present a unique opportunity to show off your skills at a deep and meaningful level no other approaches can emulate.
What's more, just like in the corporate sphere, a design microsite can be an excellent way to build a following and widen your exposure to a much broader audience online, while conversely narrowing your approach. You might, for example, be able to design for any kind of small business owner, but an overly general website can feel one size fits no one. In contrast, if you instead build three different microsites targeted towards three different kinds of business owners, you'll be able to more highly target your message and help casual visitors see why you're the right designer for them.
To understand just how microsites can accomplish all of this, let's take a look at a few corporate campaigns and see what lessons they have to teach the individual designer looking to get a little air time.
SimpliSafe's Digital Security Quiz￼
We all know we need to stay safe online, but that doesn't seem to stop most of us from reusing passwords or relying on easy to guess word and number combinations (hello, password1234). This microsite, created by the home security systems firm, SimpliSafe, grabs user attention in a unique way, drawing us through a series of important questions regarding online safety and providing helpful answers. The user experience is fluid and gamified, as we're brought smoothly down this single page upon the completion of one answer after the next.
Potential engagement is at a maximum (users love answering questions about themselves), and the resource is easy to share across social media sites. Though SimpliSafe isn't a digital security firm, using a microsite allows the company to tap into common concerns while still staying within their field of expertise (security). What's more, the domain name is keyword rich, and likely to drive traffic that will stick around as visitors explore the parent website.
Art & Science's Ideator Tool￼
While some businesses benefit from tools that have a straightforward purpose, others benefit from those that are straight up fun. Take this goofy idea generator, for example, produced by the digital agency, Art and Science. Again, users will be totally engaged as they pull the lever to see what name combinations emerge next, and who knows? They may even keep a few. More importantly, this site is excellent for the agency's branding, demonstrating the agency's creative thinking, solid grasp of user experience and clear design talent. What's more, this microsite is far easier to promote on social platforms as a helpful and fun tool than as part of a broader marketing effort on the company's website.
Simply Business's YouTube Guide￼
If the small business insurance company, Simply Business, had taken expertise building literally, they would have concentrated their marketing strategy on posting information about insurance. But that space was already filled, and, honestly, how many people do you know voluntarily label themselves as, "Avid Insurance Blog Readers"? Instead, the company has taken the much more savvy strategy of targeting small business owners by providing content in their Knowledge Center to promote business growth, putting their insurance focus to the side. This YouTube guide microsite is a prime example of just what that Knowledge Center allows them to do, providing a wealth of rich, useful information that small business owners can actively use to gain an in depth knowledge of the platform and use it to its very maximum.
Like our other examples, the guide is easy to share, and the kind of resource potential customers will bookmark and return to continually. Over the long term, this establishes Simply Business' reputation as a helpful and credible source, while also potentially broadening their audience, getting business owners on board who would not otherwise have engaged with their large insurance-focused site.
What This Means for Promoting Yourself as a Designer
These example websites reveal a number of strategies that can be helpful in promoting your skills as a designer. Building a microsite can:
- Showcase Your Skills:
Each of these microsites does an excellent job of showing off the company's talents. Need to know about security? Trust SimpliSafe. Need a fun, compelling interactive design? Enlist Art & Science. Need top notch business advice? Head to Simply Business' Knowledge Center. As a designer, microsites are the perfect opportunity to show (don't tell!) off your creative and design ability, not to mention your personality, morals and sense of humor by creating something unlike anything else out there.
- Help You Build a Following:
No matter how creative you may be, there's always pressure when advertising your design skills to keep things professional, which is often code for going the low risk route. But, it's often those who take risks with their tone and opinions that get the most respect. Even if you're not smacking down a font, a microsite is a great place to experiment with new focuses and promotions, perhaps even broadening your audience as you take the creative risks required to make a good impression and establish your voice. And if it doesn't work? Just close the site down.
- Rank You for Targeted Keywords:
Of course, if you've already decided either on a new target market or on dominating the one you've already got, microsites allow you to narrow in on a much more specific set of keywords. Perhaps even better, if you'll be creating a resource center, they give you parameters essential for creating consistent content, allowing you to produce more tightly relevant materials more frequently—something for which fresh-content-loving Google will reward.
- Integrate Well With Your Social Media and Marketing Efforts:
Last but not least, microsites are just juicy meat to distribute widely throughout your marketing channels. It's much easier, for example, to tweet out one section of a how to guide at a time than it is to generate interest with a constant stream of tweets that say, "Hey! Check out my design services!" It's also a lot easier to integrate screenshots or other small tastes of microsites into email newsletters that can then draw readers onto your site.
Overall, microsites are a great way to show the world what you can do—and they're a great way to get creative outside of a client's demands. That, in itself, makes the whole endeavor worth it.