If, in the future, we're all going to be sat at our desks blogging, Tweeting, Flickring and whatnot, for the rest of eternity, we'll probably need e-numbers to get through it. Whether or not that was one of the reasons behind Skittles taking their home page all social media-like, we'll never know. But they are one of the more high profile brands to experiment with the various tools online. Whether it's worked or not is another matter.
To recap: anybody logging into their Twitter last Monday would have probably found a slew of tweets with the hashtag #skittles. These were then fed into the Skittles home page which was updating all mentions of the sweet on Twitter.
After a while people started cottoning onto this and includes tweets about paedophiles and the like to watch them get onto the home page. Social media types are a nice bunch, but we do have a somewhat borderline/evil sense of humour.
Regardless, Skittles were THE trend on Twitter that day, even if it's difficult to say if this takeover was a good or a bad thing. In the short-term, it definitely worked. The brand was being talked about and I'd imagine there's a high chance consumption of the rather icky sweet went up among users of the mircoblogging tool.
But there's still one nagging question here - just what exactly were they hoping to achieve?
Yes, it was a bold move. Yes it was reasonably innovative for such a mainstream brand. Yes, it got them talked about for a short period of time. But, to be blunt, what for? And what now?
Currently their homepage brings up their Wikipedia entry. Which is nice but, um, what precisely are we meant to do with it? Sure, it's more informative than a garish flash page, but if I wanted to find out about Skittles on Wikipedia I'd, well, go to Wikipedia.
At Econsultancy, Patricio Robles is similarly nonplussed:
"What exactly did Skittles reinforce by turning its homepage into a Twitterstream? That's the $64,000 question the people in charge of the Skittles brand should be asking themselves because the truth is that buzz doesn't build, reinvigorate or reinvent brands.
A coherent message does.
I think that's something marketers need to keep in mind when they experiment with the ever-growing world of social media. If brands see social media as little more than a cheap tool for getting some short-term attention, they might as well stay home. Branding is a long-term game."
And that is really the problem a lot of brands or companies have with the internet in a nutshell. Most media people have probably been in at least one meeting where somebody asks "Can we get this on the internet / blogs / Twitter?"
Even if it's the kind of thing that fits well with any given social media site, the 'what now' question remains. Skittles have got some great short-term publicity and have shown a lot more social media savvy than a lot of other brands, but now that they've got Skittles out there in social media, what do they intend to do with it?
This may well be part of a slow strategy to get Skittles out there bit by bit. If it's just doing it for the sake of, well, doing it then they've got their buzz and then, a few months down the line, everybody will have forgotten about it.
Building a social media presence, be it for your own work, a brand, a personality, a TV show, or whatever isn't just a case of putting it out into the internet and leaving it.
Sometimes this does work, admitedly, but this usually means you've got a simple little thing that users love and start doing their own thing with.
But more often than not, the brand is thrown out in a great blaze of glory and is then sadly neglected when it's this second step on continual engagement that can yield the greatest benefit in the long run.
And on a slight tangential note, if you want an excellent guide on how to pitch your brand across Twitter, Kai Turner's post on Mashable is one of the best possible pieces you can read.