Tales from the microsite crypt: the rise of social zombies

Since 2006, Web 2.0 and the growth of accessible publishing platforms, the microsite (also called hotsite or campaign site) has been on life support, with a near death as new forms of interaction extend to multiple touchpoints. Many have declared the death of the microsite — hyperboles are good linkabait — as the social web became increasingly important, both for consumers and companies.

The age of microsite featured the usual broadcast tactics, pushing “shiny flashy objects” and applying the usual recipes of “spray-and-pray” or “build-it-and-they-will-come”. From those days, the web graveyard inherited thousands of zombie pages that became lifeless, after broadcasting their ephemeral commercial message.

FWA 2005 Site Of The Month: 4 out of 12 are no longer online

The kind of campaign websites listed above, is pretty much careless of what happens after the “campaign” ends. Not even the decency of doing a simple 301 HTTP redirect, with users stumbling upon a parked page, filled with AdWords by someone with a sense of opportunity. Don’t tell me that a company can’t spare a lousy hosting bill for an old sucessfull campaign or $10USD for a redirected or masked domain.

But enough about microsites, that i personally call “the web’s non-recyclable garbage”. Fast forward to 2009, where one would expect that some lessons from the previous days would turn companies more wiser when defining an integrated Internet presence. Well, not quite.

Zombies in San Francisco
Photo by Laughing Squid under Creative Commons

Meet the social zombies

These are the kind of corporate presences on social web platforms and services, created only to serve a temporary tactical purpose. As with microsite, they’re nurtured during a few weeks with fresh blood (regular updates, a widget, a viral wannabe), but then left dying on the same kind of web graveyard. But now with a more bloody consequence, taking with them all the community (fans, followers, viewers, etc) that they’ve built while alive.

Examples include the usual Twitter account created for the yearly event, a Facebook page activated only for a new product launch or a YouTube channel with the 500 views viral wannabe. This “social media bribery” is again leaving pieces of rotten digital flesh all over the web.

dharma-lost (An ARG for TV series Lost) has won a Primetime Creative Arts Emmy, but is now defunct (or should i say lost)

A sustainable solution could be a wiki on the same domain, highlighting the narrative and interactions.

Sometimes it’s just brands experimenting and failing, and i’m ok with that. The problem is not caring to clean the mess once finished, on a bad example of interactive sustainability (how’s that for a buzzword?).
The social web is also about brands creating a sustainable presence on conversational destinations and managing the digital footprint for the long run (Google doesn’t forget). Once a campaign ends, don’t stick only to analysis, with the follow-up also including a post-mortem curation, by informing (updating the bio or description) or reaching out to the community ( open-sourced their service). And please, don’t just limit yourself to profile euthanasia.

2 thoughts on “Tales from the microsite crypt: the rise of social zombies

  1. super article, social media is turning into sheep marketing (lets follow that one). People are looking for a quick SEO or traffic boost. Its a fever with no cure

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