Three Years Running A Mini Content Sharing Web Site - Part 2

One interesting ‘challenge’ that I haven’t had much success on since day one is on promoting Wish to the masses. By nature, Wish is a web site with a very low returning visitors rate. Most visitors would only stop by the site once, browse around, probably submit a wish, and completely forget the site. There is no reason to revisit the site unless if you’re interested to know what other people are wishing for, or if you need to wish for something, really really really hard (to which I sincerely wish it would come true).

I didn’t think too much on what was going to work and what wasn’t. Mainly because Wish had always been just a hobby site, plus it’s never going to make money [tm]. So I took it as an opportunity to experiment with various things.

The Goodies

My first brilliant idea (NOT!) was… t-shirts. Everybody loves them t-shirts.

I ended up getting cheapo low quality t-shirts at a bargain price, I ordered two dozens of them during my trip to Jakarta back in 2006. And as I’ll explain below, doing it on a very low budget was a bad decision.

The t-shirts came in 2 flavours. The first one had ‘I wish for world peace.’ on the front and Wish URL on the back, that’s the plain flavour. The second one was more playful with ‘I wish for world peace and all I get is this lousy t-shirt’ on the back and the URL on the front.

Having the URL printed on the shirt turned out to be a blunder because I changed my domain name last year (the old one was too hard to remember), and Wish URL was changed along with it as a subdomain. The message about world peace wasn’t a great idea either, obviously it was too cliche. I should’ve gone with something catchy and funny instead.

It’s not obvious from the picture, but the printings on the t-shirt were quite messy. It didn’t give you the slightest confidence that it wasn’t going to ruin your other clothes if you wash them along with a Wish t-shirt.

And the biggest problem of all was… those t-shirts didn’t look nice. Some friends in Singapore told me that they only wore the t-shirts at home or nearby places, in short, it’s not something anyone would wear on an outing.

Friend: 'Hey Cliff, I wore the t-shirt outside the house just now!' Me: 'Where to?' Friend: '[Tiong Bahru Market](' (warning: pig's head on Flickr) Me:** ... - . -** Get the idea?

I gave out the t-shirts to a number friends and some Wish site fans from various countries. I still have 3 t-shirts left, if anyone is interested, let me know and I’ll be happy to send one over.

Lesson learned: when it comes to promoting your site, you can be cheap, but not too cheap.

The Pixel Ad

Just like any other web sites, identifying the target audience of Wish was something that I tried to figure out early on. In terms of the site visitor in general, I was sure that there’s no specific age group, young and old, everybody would eventually wish one thing or another, it’s only a matter of surfing the Internet and finding the site.

So what’s more important was getting incoming links from various sites. IIRC, 2005 and 2006 were the years when blogging really took off (i.e. my Internet-ignorant friends suddenly had blogs), and I knew I had to take advantage of its popularity. I was thinking about who would be interested to click on a link to visit Wish site, who would be interested to put a link to Wish on his/her blog.

After considering the possibilities, I decided on purchasing a pixel ad on Xiaxue’s blog. For those who don’t know much about South East Asia’s blogosphere, Xiaxue can be considered as the blogging queen of Singapore, and her site boasts about 10,000 unique visitors per day. Her blog readers are mostly teenagers and those in their 20s, who (1) would have owned a blog at that time, and (2) might be interested in linking to Wish. My only worry was about whether anyone would ever click those little pixels. There was a hint of skepticism when I purchased the most expensive 300 pixels square ever in my life and slap the word ‘wish’ on it, as simple as that.

The pixel ad worked quite well. For 9 months, the vast majority of the site visitors were from Singapore (by ‘vast’ in Wish context, I meant out of 100 visits per day), and there were plenty who linked to Wish from their blogs. There were many wishes about exams and studies, depicting the pressure in Singapore education system.

I was pretty happy with this outcome, not only the little pixels generated visits and incoming links, they also led to content. For a while, I toyed with the idea of purchasing ads on other popular blogs, one from each country, pick 20 countries with the most Internet-literate population. But I didn’t pursue this option, and stopped placing the pixel ad on Xiaxue’s blog after it expired.

Lesson learned: ad really works, as long as it’s targeted correctly. I stopped becoming an ad-skeptic.

To be continued…

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