A Twitter epiphany

From the Zazoo blog:

They say a year on the Internet is like seven years in the offline world – think of it as dog years (oh no, now I can’t get this image of my Dalmatian chasing his tail out of my head!). In that case, a year in social media is at least twice as fast.

So 10 weeks is a long time in the life of Twitter – by my complicated reckonings, it’s about a year ago. Now that I’ve completely confused the issue, I’ll get to my point: 10 weeks ago I wrote a post questioning the business value of Twitter (two posts, actually). Since then, Twitter has really entered the zeitgeist, with global users supposedly jumping from 6 million to 8 million just in the past couple of weeks, up from practically nothing 12 months ago.

There have been articles in just about every major newspaper in the Western world trying to explain the appeal and the utility of the service. It’s been used by Australian and American politicians, Rove, my resident breakfast radio announcer Adam Spencer and schoolkids. Most of the coverage has been favourable if somewhat bewildered, though some people are looking at it harshly, such as IT philosopher Jeremy Pettit, who wrote, “Didn’t Nietzsche say, ‘Soon everyone will learn to read and write, and that will be the death of language’? Brilliantly offensive. I’m sure he had Twitter in mind. The morbidly self-obsessed screeching to the morbidly self-obsessed in bite-sized chunks.”

Anyway, after writing those earlier posts I decided to become more pro-active and try to test the business utility of following scores of people and having them follow my 140-character musings (BTW, I’m @raywelling if you would like to follow). I tried to seek out social media experts to follow and sought the advice of more experienced Twitterers about how to monitor what’s going on in the Twittersphere.

I’ve watched people of all ages and backgrounds join up, particularly social media geeks, such as the hundreds of people attending ad:tech this week who drove the conference search term up to the #2 trending term on Twitter on Tuesday.

After attempting to manage the growing flood of postings through Tweetdeck (a specialised Twitter browser) and setting up regular searches on terms I’m interested in (contact me via the comments box if you want to know how to do this), I noticed a few trends settling in, such as the fact that an increasing number of posts tend to be links to interesting/useful blog posts, stories, videos, photos etc. (if you’re wondering about the problem of long web addresses in a 140-character environment, there is a widget you can use to shorten addresses to a manageable length).

Anyway, I had my Twitter epiphany this week. After viewing a tweet from a social media PR expert in the US who happened to be in Sydney speaking at a conference, I decided to follow him. Within minutes, I had a direct message from him noting that I was based in Sydney and since he was in town, did I want to catch up for a drink? We did catch up, and even if it doesn’t turn out to result in extra business, I can now clearly see how these connections can prove to be extremely useful. If nothing else, I met an interesting person who I would never have connected with through conventional means.

They don’t call it ’social media’ for nothing!


Skittles aftermath: Nothing to see here, mosey along now

Following on from yesterday’s post on the Skittles.com saga, the interest in this story in social media circles has been phenomenal, but now that Skittles has yanked the #skittles Twitter Search page from its home page (you can still find it if you go looking deeper on the site) like a spam Twitter account, the post-mortem has begun in earnest. It’s a bit like a digital version of the finger-pointing that goes on after disasters such as the recent Victorian bushfires.

Catherine Taylor writes today in Social Media Insider: “Now, it’s time to drown in social media clichés, like the following: The mere fact I’m writing about this means the campaign achieved some success. Awareness of Skittles on the Web probably hasn’t been this high, ever. The underpinning for the strategy for this campaign is in itself a social media cliché: The consumers own the brand.

“But I’d also like to offer that, in obsessing about this campaign, social media watchers are becoming their own cliché. What stood out to me in looking at the tweets about Skittles this morning wasn’t the naughty stuff, which seems to have run its course, but the whole meta phenomenon where people aren’t talking about Skittles per se, but what the Skittles campaign means for social media. Then there’s all the hand-wringing about the fact that some people said naughty things about Skittles and how that somehow mars the campaign (no pun intended, though Skittles is made by Mars). C’mon. Do you really think the agency and client were so naïve as to not know that would be part of it?

“It’s time to move on to something truly important. Kudos to Skittles and Agency.com for embracing the idea that it’s not the brand home page that defines the brand. That’s a good thing. But we knew that already.”

To quote from a couple of the comments on Catherine’s blog post:


“We have to be very careful about what strong thinkers we are and make sure not to over-intellectualize these new age approaches as marketing professionals. This wasn’t about us. This campaign or experiment thereof was about where we’re going. It wasn’t rocket science, but I’m sure it worked. Skittles displayed a direct interest in finding their consumers where they are likely to be found and used their consumers to communicate the brand however the consumer chose to in their very own language…and the consumers did just that!”

“I’m not sure what you need to know to wake up and be MORE IN TOUCH with your audience. They got trashed on Twitter because Twitters are about REAL, organic, testimonials and truth in real time. Spending the time, and $$$ with an agency that didn’t understand nor grasp that from the get go, shows that someone at the top of this, should have done more homework, or solicited better advice about using Twitter. Every agency in the world wants to jump on the bandwagon and utilize Social Media. If you don’t understand how to properly “engage” consumers using Web 2.0 technology, you need to be careful, for it’ll blow up it you face.”

“The only important question is will this cause people to buy more Skittles? I look forward to learning the answer.”

“I think the real value is less about the execution and more about the philosophy that drove it. If it means anything at all, it’s that this campaign is a recognition of the importance of the role social media plays in brand-building. The game has changed. It’s not 1999 anymore.”

It will be interesting to see how the campaign is viewed in the fullness of time. Brilliant tactic or big mistake? What do you think?

Skittles, Twitter Search and Facebook: a recipe for good publicity

From the Zazoo blog:

Skittles has conjured up a storm of controversy over its new un-website. The lolly-maker turned its home page into a glorified Twitter Search page on the weekend, and the company has been praised and pilloried ever since.

David Berkowitz wrote in Mediapost: “Today, when contacting a company, the first place I’d likely turn is its Web site. I’m saying that tentatively, as Skittles makes me wonder if corporate Web sites will be around much longer. The company’s new site seems to herald the fact that the corporate site is nearing its expiration date.

“…. Here’s the message Skittles is sending: What consumers say about the brand is more important than what the brand has to say to consumers.”

He asks: “Why would anyone care about what Skittles has to say? What, pray tell, could Skittles ever say that was so important, unless we woke up one day to find out that eating Skittles is the world’s tastiest cancer cure, or alternatively that Skittles lower men’s sperm count. Then, perhaps, the world will listen.”

On the positive side, Marketing Daily spoke to a range of marketers who thought the move was a great idea, quoting the head of eConsultancy as saying that: “Skittles has essentially turned its site into ‘a massive social media experiment. It is possibly the bravest move I have yet seen, in terms of a global brand getting into bed with social media and social networks … it appears to be an extension of the old adage about there being no such thing as bad PR. Everybody is talking about it.’

Marketing Daily also reported that: “‘Some will question whether it’s wise to give up control on the Web – whether this is a good use of social media,’ says Charlene Li, author of business best-seller Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, consultant, speaker and blogger (altimeter.com). ‘But they are controlling content in the most important sense, which is that they’re getting people to talk about and engage with the brand. It’s hard to get people to engage with a candy, but this is generating incredible buzz and PR. This is a big brand pushing the envelope toward what a brand will be in the future.'”

MG Siegler on Venturebeat was bit more sanguine: “In what is either a sign of Twitter’s ongoing transition to the mainstream or of a candy company’s epic laziness, Skittles.com is now simply a Twitter Search result page for the candy.

“I’m a firm believer in the power of Twitter Search as perhaps the most compelling thing about the service, but the candy’s use of the feature just feels gimmicky. It would have been better as a part of the site, not as the homepage. My advice: I know times are tough, but hire a web designer.”

He presciently wrote: “Naturally, people are already spamming the hell out of this. One tweet being repeated over and over again unfortunately uses a racial slur. As such, I suspect this little experiment will end rather soon for Skittles.”

Meanwhile, Berkowitz suggested that Skittles should highlight its Facebook presence rather than Twitter Search, since its Facebook group has an astonishing 587,000 friends. And as of Tuesday US time, after a puerile Twitter campaign, that’s exactly what they did. The Twitter experiment ended, and the Twitter Search page was replaced by the Facebook page. But the debate goes on. Of course the big question is: what effect will it have on the brand and on sales? We’ll let you know.

Follow the story as it developed:

Skittles Converts its Home Page to Twitter Search

Marketers Praise Skittles Gutsy Site Move

Why Skittles Killed its Website

Skittles: tweet the rainbow (or racial slurs)

Skittles switches homepage from twitter to Facebook (what’s next?)

Bad Jokes Force Skittles to Retreat from Twitter Search to Facebook