By Justin Goldsborough | March 2, 2009
Justin case you were wondering…I feel obligated to add to the Skittles buzz today — and I think that’s just fine with Skittles. If you haven’t been on Twitter today, or on the Internet for that matter, or just haven’t heard about the site redesign heard round the world, make sure to check it out: http://www.skittles.com/.
What you’ll see isn’t really a Web site at all, but more of a peak into the rainbow (sorry, couldn’t resist) of online conversations and communities focused around Skittles. The site url take you to a Twitter search of the term Skittles. The media tab takes you to Skittles YouTube or Flickr site. And the Friends tab takes you to…you guessed it…Skittles Facebook page.
So what’s the point of all this? Well, one is obviously to generate buzz. And since Skittles has been a trending topic all day on Twitter, and an office topic all day here at Sprint, I think Skittles can say without a doubt that it’s accomplished goal number one. But where does this candy-coated brand go from here? After the buzz dies down, what’s next? And will Skittles even leave its site in the current state?
I could talk about how I applaud the willingness to try, the demographic targeting (likely Gen Y), the transparency. Or I could scratch my head in words about the site toolbar (bulky and annoying), the fact that you have to enter your age before Skittles will take you to Twitter search, a public site, or the lack of a clear long-term vision (not that there isn’t one, just not sure of it). However, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to highlight what I see as potentially the biggest advantage of this type of a site layout and then tell you I’m not sure how well it will work for a product like Skittles. So here we go.
If you manage a significant presence on any social network, you’re bound to run into a random act of kindness sooner or later; somebody you don’t know who goes out of there way to help you out. Social mediaites can’t help it. It’s in our genes to lend a hand, especially once we’ve formed a relationships with someone.
For instance, these types of interactions happen all the time on Twitter. And Skittles new site design, a.k.a. Twitter search of the brand name, surfaces these examples for all to see. If Sprint went the Skittles route, people would likely see some complaints about overage charges and phones that don’t work. But they’d also see people offering to help…and not just Sprint employees. Remember, customers don’t care who answers their brand questions or solves their issues just as long as someone does.
Companies that aren’t working to develop relationships with influencers like Nan Palmero or Barbara Nixon who help tell their brand story or solve customer problems need to take a closer look atthis strategy, especially if their success is as contingent on customer service as Sprint’s is. Nan is a BlackBerry guru who actually helps our customers when they ask questions about their BlackBerry devices on Twitter. He has also stood up for us in online conversations and told great stories about our brand and the customer service we provide in social networks. Oh yeah, one more thing…Nan doesn’t even work for Sprint. Neither does Barbara, a NASCAR fan and lontime Sprint customer who points out customer issues to Sprint reps on Twitter all the time and answers questions about Sprint when she can.
Now to why influencers might not mean that much to Skittles. The success of Skittles doesn’t really rely so much on customer service, does it? What’s really important is whether or not people like a chewy, fruity candy (I love Skittles btw, especially the red ones). Sure some brand fans could tell cool Skittles stories and point out the company’s work in the community. But in the end, you like the candy or you don’t.
So I’m not sure how big of an impact influencers may have on the Skittles brand. Only time will tell. But Skittles cannonball into the social media pool does make you think about how such a design might play out within your own company. It might be too much. The “anything goes” mentality toward comments might turn some people off. And I’m not advocating this far of an overhaul of our sprint.com design. But I can guarantee one thing…every customer who visited the site would find influencers like Nan and Barbara who could help answer their questions about Sprint, whether those influencers were employees or not. And that kind of “customers helping customers” outreach could help any brand reliant on a superior customer service reputation.
“The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Sprint.”