For the past few days, the arresting new design of the website for Skittles candy
has sparked a pretty interesting conversation. There have been a ton of responses, covering what the company has done well (embracing what their community is doing across the social web) and what they've done poorly (making a candy site that forces kids to pass an age check before they can view it). And the company's gotten loads of free press for making a few smart choices with their new site.
At Six Apart, we have a lot of experience helping big brands embrace the social web with social technologies like blogging and community websites. Our perspective is that Skittles has the right idea, but has missed fulfilling the full potential of their ideas because they don't yet have the right tools for the job. Fortunately, that's a problem we can help fix.
We've been thinking for a while about how to make connected social sites that work across many different social networks. Our friends at Modernista
, known for being one of the more forward-looking agencies around, adopted something similar to Skittles.com's hybrid of sites as their company website about a year ago
. And of course, thousands
of bloggers have an "About Me" site or page that says "here's how to find me on various social networks" with links to their Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook accounts. So the idea of connecting various networks together has been floating around, though there's been no good way for most people to actually build a site using these ideas.
A few weeks ago, we introduced the Laws of Motion
, the principles behind our upcoming social platform Motion
, built on Movable Type. A few of the ideas we mentioned then are particularly relevant to the new Skittles.com site.
- The biggest online social network is the internet itself. Skittles obviously gets this — instead of targeting one social network for their efforts, they've tried to connect to a broad set of networks.
- Reveal the community you already have. Again, Skittles understands that they shouldn't try to make their own community from scratch. Instead of competing with the big social networks, they tried to connect to their community wherever those people are already active.
- Your social network belongs under your control. This is the one where Skittles.com comes up short. Letting your community share in ownership or control of your brand does not require completely abdicating control over your company homepage.
As you might expect, we think that we have the tools to make these kinds of sites possible. But it's not just about technology: we've also learned some terrific lessons from our Six Apart Media
team, which helps a wide variety of brands connect in an intelligent way with their community across the web. As a result, Motion
combines our experience with software and our expertise in social media, and is actually designed specifically to let a brand or publisher connect these networks together while still having total control over the design and 100% approval over what content appears on the site.
If you look closely, you'll see that Skittles uses YouTube to power video on its site, Flickr for photos, and Twitter for updates. Motion has support for aggregating all of these services, built right in. Even better, Motion has dozens of other social networks as well, so that a brand like Skittles can aggregate its community's ideas from all of these social networks on its site, no matter where the conversations takes place.
Skittles.com reveals a few clear lessons, which we're already working with our customers to build on:
- Instead of merely saying "our brand has to have a Facebook page!" or "Why isn't our company on Twitter?" smart marketers are realizing the only way to be successful online is to combine all of the different networks together.
- Empowering your customers and community to feel like they own your brand does not mean that you have to completely give up control over what people see when they come to your website.
- A smart way to look at what people are saying about your brand online is as a starting point for a conversation that can continue on your own site, not as the end of the story.
What are you doing to help your brand adapt to this new era of social media? Get in touch with us
and let us know.