Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Would You Turn Your Home Page Over to Customers?

Mars’ Skittles brand yesterday began what is indeed a social media experiment. Prior to Sunday they had a wonderfully interactive, but still a traditional, brand page. This one is from February 14, 2008. You can see more on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which is a fascinating place to study the evolution of websites.

Yesterday it took that site down and replaced it with a site that directs visitors to the chatter around the web about Skittles. The only marketer-controlled content is the small box which rotates themes; Interweb the Rainbow is the other theme. The page is composed solely of Tweets that contain the brand name. I found over 30 pages of Tweets already archived; at that point my finger was tired of clicking and I quit. The point is that there’s lots of chatter about Skittles. Some of it is funny, most (to me at least) rather silly, and some obscene. That could prove a problem with their core teenage audience (if their parents are paying attention, at least).

Clearly they worked to stimulate the volume on Twitter. My guess is that the number of blog mentions is no accident either. This video is one of the interesting results—or are this video and perhaps some blog posts, the result of reaching out to bloggers? This kind of a spike in activity doesn’t happen by accident.

What can the rest of us learn? Few marketers are likely to be willing to go to this extreme in embracing social media. Will some be willing to bring microblogging content onto their sites? Probably not without monitoring. Can sites afford monitoring of a robust Twitter stream over an extended period of time? Will this experiment soon lose momentum? Or will it crash and burn as a result of malice or the sheer grossness of some of the content? Will something else happen that none of us has yet forseen—good or bad?

And where does Facebook fit into all of this?

What’s going on here really interesting, and I’m sure the business writers and the blogosphere will be following it with interest.

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