When Skittles gave its landing page over to a Twitter feed, much hand-wringing, fingerwagging and prognosticating over what it meant to new-media marketing ensued. But an awful lot of hot air was
wasted, because ultimately the experiment probably didn't mean very much at all in the grand scheme of things.
A couple of days later, Skittles swapped the feed for its Facebook fan page, and then a real-time mirror of its Wikipedia entry (which mentions the Twitter episode), taking a social media tour of sorts.
Most of the criticisms lobbed at Skittles execs had to do with the accusation that by opening up an unmoderated feed the execs showed they didn't understand social media, but it's more likely the critics who misunderstand. The move respected the open spirit of the platform, letting anyone say anything he chose. To mediate this interaction would have made Skittles seem out of step. Undoubtedly, the brand managers knew what would happen. The fact that the mob will deface any public space is neither new nor surprising. Look at most any bathroom wall.
If we did a thought experiment and turned Ed:Blog over to the Twittering masses (and if this were a Web page and not on good old 70 lb. glossy), invariably the third or fourth post down the page would read something along the lines of "@ommaedblog haha ed:blog sux. I just sed sux on ed:blog, lolz," or the like. It is the inexorable march toward the lowest common denominator in all public spaces.
This is not to say that the move by Skittles
showed any special innovation or savvy. But it wasn't an embarrassing misstep. It was a stunt, plain and simple. A friend wrote Ed:Blog on the day skittles.com switched to the Twitter feed - via IM,
that new-media communication stalwart - and, in the parlance of our times said, "Even a social
media fail is a win." Which is to say that, for all the ink and pixels wasted on it, skittles.com worked because it built a new base for the brand online, and, of course, sales of neon candies were up.