The Social World Is Skittles’ Site

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Skittles stirred up quite a bit of chatter this week by outsourcing most of its Website to major social networking sites.

In a move that is presumably acceptable to Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr, and Facebook (even though it reminds me of framing external sites within one’s own site, a technique long frowned upon since it traps visitors), Skittles sends visitors to its discussion pages on major sites. The “Chatter” link brings a Twitter search for all entries with “Skittles” mentioned in them; the “Friends” link brings Skittles’ fan page on Facebook.

A small red Skittles dashboard hovers over the external pages, unmovable in Firefox.

I’m impressed with this campaign because with the openness of its trademark rainbow (okay, maybe that’s too generous), Skittles is encompassing (okay, maybe coopting) communities where its consumers live – rather than trying to compete with them.

True, Skittles could build an island where people would discuss Skittles – but do you think people would go there? I assume that earlier versions of the site had some community experiments … assuming those grew slowly, if at all, can we blame Skittles for embracing communities where they’ve grown organically?

The same risk of heckling is there, but it’s housed within external sites. The challenge will be for Skittles to Tweet and engage within the communities it’s embracing. It may find that islands are easier to control, but in the long run, engaging with consumers where they live is bound to increase Skittles’ share of mind.

Whether your site links to an external social network or encompasses it within a Skittles-style dashboard, your firm has to engage these communities on their own turf.

P.S.: Note that Skittles asks for your age before giving access to its dashboard – and you must accept “terms and conditions” that aren’t disclosed through a link or pop-up – just outlined in the window’s text (see the orange box in the screenshot above). Perhaps one term is to allow tracking of one’s Tweets, Facebook activity, and YouTube commenting … only Skittles knows … UPDATE: Once signed in, there’s a link to a privacy policy.

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