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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Launching Nuketown's Social Media Experiment

by Ken Newquist / January 5, 2013

One of my goals with the Nuketown redesign was to aggressively pursue a social media strategy, rather then letting it simply flop around like a dying fish. The strategy has four pieces

  1. Create article-level buttons that allow people to easily share Nuketown content via social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.)
  2. Make high-level, visible links to our social media profiles
  3. Integrate social media content -- specifically the text of the tweeks/updates -- directly into Nuketown itself
  4. Create more engaging social media posts

As I mentioned before I've been using social media for years; during the Rise of Twitter I was experimenting with dozens of social media tools, jumping from one to the next with my online friends as the new coolness was released. My @NukeHavoc has 1,039 followers. I'm no @WilWheaton, but a thousand isn't bad.

Nuketown? It didn't even have a Twitter profile. Now granted, I'd promote Nuketown updates via my own account as needed, but that's not the same as having a Nuketown outpost on the platform. The same goes for other outlets, like Facebook, and Google Plus. I was there, but Nuketown wasn't.

With the redesign all this changed. Nuketown is now on Twitter and Facebook. I'm considering one on Google plus as well, though it's lack of integration with anything else makes that a lower priority.

So how is it working?

Before the redesign @NuketownSF had 33 followers, it now has 42. On Facebook, our page had 17 likes, now it has 23. I think the Twitter growth has come largely because of the redesign; Facebook is because it let me share the page with a bunch of my followers, and I gained a small bump there. I'm still below the 30 like threshold needed for expanded analytics, but we're slowly getting there.

As far as social media derived web traffic, I have some decent analytics on this. Nuketown 7 went live on November 26, 2012. I compared the one month period of 11/26-12/26/2012 against the same time period in 2011.

Visits via social referal grew 304% year over year. Now the actual number of visits remains very small, particularly relative to Nuketown's larger traffic.

Here are some examples:

Source 2011 2012
StumbleUpon 13 21
reddit 0 18
Facebook 3 17
Twitter 0 11
Google+ 0 5

By way of comparison, the total number of visitors for Nov. 26-Dec. 26, 2012 was 5,376. That was an increase of 13.92 percent over last year at the same time. As you can see, social media is a tiny sliver of Nuketown's overall traffic in a given month.

That said, it has the potential for being higher quality traffic, as people who like Nuketown use social media to stay engaged with the site, and to return to it as new content is posted. It also has the possibility (rarely seen) of going viral and providing big, short-term boosts. to traffic. We've seen this before with the occasional Reddit post or Twitter re-tweet, but the spikes are usually only a few hundred, rather than a few thousand (or hundred thousand) visits. We're just not that cool.

Why do any of this? Nuketown is, and always has been, a hobby. I'm a web developer by trade, and I end up sitting in on a lot of meetings that talk about search engine optimization, social media, and other tools for boosting traffic. Nuketown is a great testbed for testing theories because it is mine. I don't have to debate things in committee; I can come up with a plan, execute it, and see what happens.

Plus, I enjoy the ol'thermonuclear burg. I'd like to see it thrive, and maybe even return to the heady days of 2006 when the site would get 14,000 visits in a month (as opposed to today, when it gets about 5,000). Social media can help with that.

So what's next? Well, the dial's moved a little, but I'd like to grow the community more and see if we can keep movign these numbers higher. This month I'm making an effort to post to Facebook and Twitter via Nuketonw at least every other day. You can expect to see updates about Nuketown, notable links from around the Web, and more conversational topics.

It's this last part that's the most difficult. I haven't found my voice yet Nuketown, so I'm not exactly sure how those conversation will unfold. It's easy to talk as me, and Nuketown is largely me ... but we shouldn't be the same. Otherwise you could just follow @NukeHavoc and be done with it. It's a problem I see with a lot of social media outlets for companies, magazines, etc. It's hard to move beyond simply shoveling your content out onto the web, but hey, that's the same problem we had in moving from print to the web in the first place.

So stick around, follow us, and see where we go!