Surprising Social Media Lessons from my Sailing Website Launch

Website LaunchYou may have been wondering where I’ve been for the last while. Well, I’m very excited to announce that I’ve been building and launching my sailing website.  It has been up for 48 hours and I’m very pleased with the results so far!  I was also shocked by the results of my social media experiments.

In the first day, there were 270 visitors and nearly 500 page views.  I was absolutely blown away.

So where did all of these people come from?

From Social Media.

A young blog has no authority in Google, so SEO won’t work in the early days.  It takes time to be recognized by the Google algorithms.  I had two visitors from search.

Social Media Launch Strategy

In the run-up to the launch, I spent time on forums, Reddit, twitter, and Facebook.  I had a different strategy for each and got wildly different results.  Let’s look at each one in turn:

Forums

Strategy:  I have been active for years on three sailing forums, but mostly concentrate on one.  I am well known and respected there.

Each forum has its own culture and attitude towards self promotion.  I have decided to tread very softly here and will mostly post links to posts as answers to others’ questions.  I also have a link to my blog in my signature.

I didn’t post at all about the launch on day one and only briefly mentioned it on a small thread on day two.

Results: Remains to be seen.  I got no visits from the forum on day one.  On day two I did get 7 visitors from that brief mention.

Facebook

Strategy:  I chose not to build a dedicated page (though I did reserve one that matches my brand).

When people like a page, they only get about 15% of the content on the page sent to their news feeds. Groups, however, are different.  People see much more content from groups they’re a member of.

I spent about half an hour finding related groups.  There are a couple of groups which are specific to sailing blogs, one local to Vancouver where I live, and a large sailing group which is very general.

On launch day, I posted a single post to each group.

Results:  28 visitors.  In subsequent days I posted a couple more times and this number has remained very steady.  The groups seem very tolerant of self promotion and my posts have been shared around a bit (one was shared 6 times, a long ways from viral!).

For now, I’ll keep up with this strategy.  I also intend to work on my blog’s Facebook page as a lot of sailors seem to hang out on Facebook.  My competitors have way more Facebook likes than Twitter followers.

Twitter

Strategy:  I put a huge amount of effort into Twitter.  I tweeted many times a day and worked on building relationships.  I had a bit over 200 followers by the time I launched.

I quickly began to realize, however, that in my niche, the people on Twitter are the other bloggers, not really my audience of beginner sailors.  I knew that most of my 200 followers really weren’t my target, especially for my first articles which were very targeted to complete novices.

I know that these new relationships will be useful in the long haul for guest posting, cross promotion, etc. but Twitter isn’t going to drive a lot of direct traffic for me.

I tweeted a few times a day in the lead up to the launch and then used a free Hootsuite account to spread out a post every couple of hours linking to my articles.

Results:  I wasn’t expecting too much, but I was actually really shocked how little my efforts paid off on launch day: 1 visitor!  I would have thought my new friends would have at least popped by for a peak!  I was pretty bummed by this.

Reddit

Strategy:  Each social media platform is different and it’s very important to learn how to interact with the people on each one.  You have to learn the culture.  This is especially true on Reddit

Reddit is unique in that people post links and then others comment on them and vote them up or down.  If you get voted down, you disappear off the front page very quickly.  Redditors are looking for quality.

[Side note:  Reddit also awards articles dofollow links if they get upvoted enough. This is very good for your SEO]

There are thousands of sub-Reddits on different topics and each has their own sub-culture.  I spent months on the sailing sub-Reddit.  I posted articles and interacted by commenting.  By building up this credibility, I felt that they would be tolerant of the occasional self-promotion.  I also chose not to reveal that I was launching my own website.

On launch day, I posted one of my three launch articles to Reddit.

Results:  Wow!  This single post netted me 237 visitors on the first day and kept on giving on the next two days until the link disappeared off the front page.  I could not believe it.  More than half my launch traffic from a 30 second post (and a couple months of grooming a Reddit presence, granted).

An important point is that this only worked because people really liked the post.  It resonated with them and generated a lot of discussion, so they upvoted. It was upvoted 12 times and had zero down votes.  I’m very proud of that!

I will certainly continue with my Reddit posts, but I’ve been careful to post other great articles from other blogs and leave helpful comments over the last few days so I don’t wear out my welcome.

Final Thoughts

  1. Spend the time to understand different social media alternatives and, most importantly, how your audience uses social media.  Where do they hang out?  Go find them.  Each audience is different.
  2. Traffic in and of itself is useless.  You need the right traffic.  Anecdotaly, the traffic from some sources is far more useful than others.  In fact, Reddit traffic has a terrible reputation.  I actually believe that this is also dependent on the sub-Reddit’s culture and that I might be on to a good thing.  Only time will tell.

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