Communicating Over the Rainbow
Reaching for a new way to attract young and tech-savvy candy-lovers, Wrigley company, maker of Skittles, unveiled a sweet new web site, built around today's most prominent social media tools. Embedding unaltered pages from Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube and FlickR, it relies heavily on site visitors (often kids) to contribute content. The effort is bold in its extensive use of social media. But does it help sell those fruity candy chews, and how might such an über-mashup of these third-party services work for other organizations?
To probe the effectiveness of Wrigleys' colorful approach consider its alignment with broader online communication trends. The new site:
- Borrows functionality from from online service providers (cloud computing);
- Generates a significant amount of content from web site visitors (crowdsourcing); and
- Mixes and matches features from different online services (mashups) to offer something unique for its target audience.
Mashups, Crowdsourcing and Cloud Computing are power tools that can lift traditional web sites to the next level of effectiveness. The Skittles experiment and experience of other social media users illustrates the triumphs and challenges that may come with the use of these tools.
The Skittles site is designed around existing communication services (Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, etc) without any adaptation, making it easy for developers to build. But different layouts, appearances and operating steps, and even separate user accounts for each feature can be a sticky proposition for its visitors. While Skittles' young and tech-savvy consumers may be comfortable, even enthusiastic, with a loosely connected collection of social media tools, others, may not find these tools quite as convenient. Those without existing Twitter or Facebook accounts may see these tools as a barrier, rather than a facilitator, of great online communication. What tools do your stakeholders use to share their thoughts and needs?
Although organizations increasingly recognize the value of online community interaction and crowdsourcing to market their brand or even to invent new products, many are also struggling to re-define their own role in social media-facilitated conversations. Under a new age mantra of "let the customer speak," some organizations are loading their web sites with social media tools, then stepping back, without considering the kinds of conversations they would like to have. To make their social media experiment work, the folks at Wrigley have developed a collection of conversation starters in the form of content — videos, photos, tweets and such. What might your organization do to start and maintain conversations that support your communication goals?
The ability to outsource social media, content management and other functions to the web has opened new audiences and made online communication convenient, flexible and cost effective, even for small organizations. At the same time, the diversity of choices creates a challenge for measuring the impact of communicators.
Because traditional web sites are easy to equip with powerful data collection and analytics tools, communicators have the capability to learn about the needs and interests of their web site visitors. Further, they can identify chokepoints and breakdowns in the communication process or sales cycle. But even when third party services offer an ability to count visitors or clickthroughs, the integration of statistics from multiple sources can be a challenging endeavor.
Built upon three important trends in online communications, the Skittles web site is sweet, colorful and intriguing. But what, you ask, does it mean for your organization? The answer lies not within the realm of technology, rather in the fundamentals of communication itself. Whether and how you use tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia to achieve specific fund raising, engagement or operational goals depends upon the needs, wishes and culture of your target audiences — and your ability to measure the results.