What is a “microsite” and does my nonprofit need one?
What is a microsite? Let’s jump right into this post. A microsite can be described as an individual web page or a small cluster of pages function as a separate entity either within or to complement an existing website. The content is usually branded with a company’s name and logo, but lives outside of that company homepage or URL. The single or small collection of pages making up a microsite is meant to engage user interaction while conveying information in a creative and useful way. They often serve the purpose of eliminating the clutter and distractions that come with a full website.
Two types of microsites
Typically, microsites can be divided into two categories:
Campaign-based microsites are independent sites with a separate URL that are created by companies to support a branded campaign. These microsites are launched with their written or visual content, and then they can often be left alone. The advantage of these campaign-based sites is that you can create them, make enhancements if necessary and leave it alone to do its work.
In 2011, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore, which provides a home away from home for seriously ill children and their families, and helps to fund programs in the local area that directly improve the well-being of children, launched the Red Shoe Crew. This group of a group of young professionals and students in the Baltimore, MD and surrounding area hosts networking and social events for its members, and raises money for the House. One of their events is the Red Shoe Shuffle, an annual 5K run and walk to raise awareness and support. They created a microsite for their 5K event, complete with event details, registration, tips for fundraising and more. Having the 5k on a separate microsite helps prevent the event from getting lost in the distractions of the full Ronald McDonald House Charities website.
Published media microsites
These microsites act as media sites, publishing regular and original content on a recurring schedule. Unlike campaign-based sites, these must be launched, grown and maintained regularly with relevant and informative content.
DrugFree.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing teen substance abuse and helping families impacted by addiction, created a campaign-based microsite for their “Above the Influence” campaign. The microsite is geared heavily towards teens who have been influenced by negative pressures or influences of drugs and cigarettes. The site has a modern, millennial layout and feel, helping teens feel comfortable reading the site content, getting involved and finding help. The site is updated regularly with blog posts geared towards their young readers.
Microsites for your nonprofit
While a microsite can be a powerful tool for nonprofits to promote their campaigns or content, they also can be a lot of work and may not be the best option for spending marketing time and resources. Below are a few questions to ask yourself to help determine if your nonprofit website would benefit from having an additional microsite.
1. What is the lifespan of my microsite content?
If the content of your microsite will only be around for a few months or your campaign is only a one-time thing, then a microsite is typically not worth the costs and time. Think of the “Above the Influence” campaign discussed above—this campaign is relevant and active, and blog content is updated regularly.
2. Will I be recycling content from my main website?
Your microsite should cover a specific issue that is not already heavily talked about on your main website. If you find yourself copying content from your original website onto your microsite’s page, you likely do not need the additional website. Consider creating a campaign or microsite within your existing website if you find much of your content will be recycled. Your corporate site may have the flexibility to support the needs of the campaign.
3. Do you have enough content for a microsite?
Having a new campaign in itself may not be the best reason to start a new microsite. A short campaign that only focuses on providing information, but not engaging visitors, will often be a waste of time and resources. Again, consider adding this content or campaign to your current website.
4. Does your campaign or content stray from your nonprofit brand?
The “Above the Influence” campaign and content is directed towards young teens, unlike the parent website, DrugFree.org, which is more focused on families and adults. In the case that your campaign or content will have its own visual identity that strays from your brand, this may be a good time to pursue a microsite. A microsite can let you stray from your typical brand position to create a creative campaign.
5. Is your microsite audience different than your primary audience?
With the freedom provided to present your brand or campaign differently than you normally would, you may find yourself targeting a new audience. In this case, again, you will likely want to differentiate your campaign or content on an individual microsite.