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• Sunday, March 08th, 2009

That was the question I set out to answer one day last week. Well, sort of anyway.

Skittles - Taste the link baitI’m sure most of you are well aware of the hullabaloo caused by the recent move made by Mars/Skittles that converted Skittles.com from a traditional web site to a mashup of social media sites, incorporating content from Facebook, wikipedia, YouTube and Twitter.  The overall success of the social experiment has been debated widely; some seem to think it was brilliant, others feel it is ridiculous mistake to place control of a brand’s voice into the hands of the general public at large.  Regardless of which camp you are in, all seem agree that it took considerable courage.  Understandably, word of the new site spread like wildfire.  Before long, nearly everyone on Twitter was sending messages with “#skittles” in them, just to see if they would show up on the site.  I began seeing people comment in my “twitter stream” about what others had written just to get listed on the skittles page.  I realized that people were not just looking for their own tweets, but were actually reading what others had written – score one for the skittles team.

This made me curious – if people were reading what others wrote, would they also click the links others posted – just because it was on the skittles page?  I decided to turn the skittles experiment into one of my own.

I selected three articles that had done well with my readers, but had not had traffic in a few days.  I watched the “chatter” at skittles.com until the traffic slowed enough so that the tweets showing up stayed on the page one for about 10 minutes before dropping off.

Starting at around 10:30 AM I posted tweets about every 20 minutes containing links to one of the articles, and mentioning skittles somehow in them.  I spaced them this way to make sure that more than one would not show up at the same time and tip off the readers what I was doing. I was also careful not to send the same link twice in a row.  I stopped around 4:30 PM after sending 16 of the linked skittles tweets.

It was not my intent to trick the readers, but the tweets did imply a slight connection to skittles, however none came right out and said they had anything to do with the candy, or that the links would talk about skittles.  Most of the tweets I sent were similar to the examples listed below.

  • Does advertising help or hinder your business? http://zi.ma/19e094, grab some skittles and read on
  • I like to eat skittles while I do site testing http://zi.ma/831f makes it more fun, less like work
  • I wonder if the skittles page uses the keywords meta tag http://zi.ma/78a88f ?

Because I didn’t want to increase my page views except through the skittles experiment, I asked (and reminded a few times), my regular followers to please ignore my skittles tweets – though a few threatened me with bodily harm if I didn’t knock it off soon.

As I watched my links scroll down the skittles page, I was happy to see they were being clicked on and even re-tweeted.

When the day was done, the three pages had been viewed just under 100 times total.  Not huge numbers by any means, but given how and where they were posted, and that each was only viewable for about 10 minutes – I’m calling this a succesful test.  Had I been a bit more sneaky about the text in my tweets, I’m sure I could have lured a few more in.  Thankfully, my bounce rate did not jump – believe it or not, it actually went down some.  Hopefully some of those 100 people will come back and read more of my pages…if you are one of them WELCOME BACK and please pass the skittles.

UPDATE: The zi.ma URL shortener is now dead.  As such, the links above will no longer work – sorry.

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2 Responses

  1. 1
    RSW  //

    We published an article about the Skittles campaign:

    http://www.respinningtheweb.com/?p=451

    It was interesting to see fans response to this use of Social Media. Twitter has made it very easy to promote content and ideas. The mashup in general was pretty weak because it could be confusing without a central hub of information. Social media “traditionally” is used in support of a central message.

    What I can not wrap my head around is why people care if they are on the Skittles home page.

  2. 2
    Stephen  //

    I came to your blog through your comment on another web site. Your experiment is interesting, and I’m sure it worked for a little while.

    While yes, I do believe some people could begin to take advantage of the #skittles Twitter feed, take into account that, well, how often has anyone really needed to go to Skittles.com? I love skittles and I have never visited the site, why would I need to?

    Of course, if I was a young kid and I had no idea what the candy was I might take a gander and see the Wikipedia page, Twitter, Flickr (which has some fantastic, delicious looking pictures!), and then the web site is automatically familiar to the Internet. Its not trying to sell me anything, its trying to offer up its perception of the brand of Skittles through the other people that have had an experience.

    It won’t be apparent now because all of the Tweets are from people that are shocked at the movie, lets wait a few months until the buzz dies down and people forget about their move. You’ll forget the site even exists when you Tweet something like “Wow, I’m really enjoying the new skittles!” and it shows up on the official web site!

    Of course negative feedback also occurs, I really don’t think it will become a problem for the candy. As a brand, Skittles is extremely strong.