Once I had my new site designed, my style sheets tweaked to just how I liked them, my photos chosen, and several blog posts written and scheduled to publish at appropriate intervals, it was time to press that figurative "go" button in my head and release it into the wild. I launched this newest version of jebraweb.com in early July. Knowing the importance of driving traffic to the site quickly, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to do that and stay true to my mission, my ethics, and to the relatively minimal budget I'd set for myself.
My clients had done some really fantastic marketing of their site launches in the past year by offering giveaways. One of them, a non-profit with a national reach, hid images of company logos throughout the site, and the first person to find the logo won a gift card for a popular national coffee chain or for online music downloads -- perfect incentive for the type of people they hoped would use their site. Another client did much the same thing with their site, except they hid photos of earrings scattered through the pages. Users who clicked on the earrings were prompted to send an email to a specified address and, a week later, our client did a drawing from the list of emails they received for a gift card to a local jewelry boutique.
Both of those strategies had the same effect: they forced the end users to spend time on the new web site, and they created a fun incentive that connected the web site owner with a feeling of luck and goodwill. I loved the idea for me, but knew that it had to have a twist that felt more appropriate to my own mission. I also knew that my previous web site had been very low on content, and the new one had a lot more to offer -- so I wanted my users to do more than just scan the page for an image to click. I wanted them to read the content on my site and to retain some of the information they discovered there.
And that's when I realized that I could turn this launch into an interesting contest that would achieve those goals plus bring in an entirely new audience, if I played it right. Here's how I started:
I decided to hold a trivia contest, with the daily prizes as donations to charity. It would force the participants to read the site, which is what I wanted, and the kinds of people who would be excited about choosing a charity were exactly the kinds of people who I wanted to know what we do and why we do it. Before the week started, I scheduled every trivia post on our Facebook page and created a list of charities to which I was happy to make a donation. I opted not to include any of my own clients in the list because I didn't want to seem like I was picking favorites. I also tried to include some local and some national charities -- though most of our clients are local, some are not, and I wanted the choices to be as broad as possible. After the day's trivia question was posted on Facebook, I would check my list and pick three that hadn't been chosen yet. The questions I asked could all be answered by reading the content on the site. Whomever got the answer correct first would choose a charity -- sometimes by polling their friends, which brought more visibility to my page. Then, I would congratulate them publicly on Facebook and Twitter and, if they were a small business owner, direct my followers to check out what they had to offer.
For every day of the week that I did this, there were three winners: the charity who received Jebraweb's donation, the person who answered the question correctly, and me.
Donations went to:
- Evanston School Children's Clothing Association (http://escca.org/)
- Greater Chicago Food Depository (www.chicagosfoodbank.org)
- The Center for Independent Futures (www.independentfutures.com)
- Elena and Miriam Bloom's Cowalunga bike ride for the Respiratory Health Association (www.lungchicago.org/) and
- Youth Organizations Umbrella (www.youevanston.org).
The trivia contest winners were:
- Malik Turley (www.hipcirclestudio.com)
- Hilary Faverman (www.hilaryfaverman.com)
- Mindy Wallis (www.evanstonfamilies.com)
- Jodi Glenn Fox (http://conventus-sei.com/) and
- Steve Hartley (www.sunnysideupmusic.com).
As for Jebraweb, we won in several ways. First and foremost, we got to bring traffic to the site in a way that felt good, supporting charities we like and showing (rather than just telling) what was important to us. In addition, we increased our Facebook page likes by at least 10%, successfully introduced a blog to new followers, and got to spread the warmth to businesses and organizations we appreciate. We picked up a few new Twitter followers despite being relatively inactive there at the time. The Facebook posts almost wrote themselves all week, taking some creative load off our task list, and we learned a lot about how to tailor them to maximize our exposure.
In short, our launch week couldn't have gone better. We didn't add a single new client, but I still think it was one of Jebraweb's best weeks yet.