The Kiss Hello

How social do we really want to get? It's a question I've been wrestling with as it relates to our company Web site and one that Jerry Seinfeld wrestled with as well. In a "Seinfeld" episode titled "The Kiss Hello," Kramer decides to post the photos and names of every tenant in the building to foster a friendlier living environment. Rather than passing anonymous neighbors in the hallway and giving the obligatory head nod, tenants would be able to greet each other by name and even offer a warm embrace. The social experiment goes too far for Jerry's liking when he is greeted by a kiss on the cheek from every female in the building, and a solid lip lock from Kramer himself.

Whether you're Cosmo Kramer in an apartment complex, or a consumer brand launching a Web site like, sometimes you can be too social. I'm all for engaging customers in the social media space, but I'd just as soon kiss Kramer myself as use Twitter or Facebook as a company home page. That said, when assessing one of our company Web sites recently, it was evident that it needed an overhaul that includes some social elements. The site's shelf life as an effective communication tool was expiring and it needed more than just a fresh coat of JavaScript.

As I've begun working with our team to layo ut the new structure of the site, I've had to wrestle with the question: how social should it be? Gone are the days of a company site that's simply a static media kit filled with overhyped marketing copy written by marketing people like me. The five-page online brochure has given way to the Skittles Web site that turns over the marketing message to anyone with a Twitter account and the ability to fit "Skittles" into a semi-coherent 140 character tweet. For example, @mattfurukawa just tweeted that he is "at dinner with two awesome people, my pastor and skittles." While the "skittles" Matt is referring to could be a spiritual mentor -- which is great for Matt -- it doesn't really do much for the brand message of the sugar candy version of Skittles.

So, should our new site become a full-blown social media hub, or a more traditional corporate Web site with social media elements? As I look to invite our customers into an online conversation, is it really beneficial to make that the central theme of the Web site?

For inspiration, I took at look at a recent blog post on Webdesigner Depot titled "50 Excellent Corporate Website Designs." Of the 50 Web sites featured on the blog, here is the breakdown of the integration of social media into the design (includes Twitter, company blog, Facebook, etc.):



  •     Social media content integrated into the home page: 15

  •     Includes a link to social media content on home page: 25

  •     No social media content whatsoever: 10    

     The most common social media integration was a blog feed on the home page with a small number of sites adding a twitter feed. Ironically, the site named "PimpMyTwitter" has no Twitter content and doesn't even list the Twitter address (although I am giving them extra credit for their company name). While company blogs, Twitter feeds and links to Facebook and LinkedIn pages were common, it was somewhat surprising that 10 of these newly designed Web sites (20%) had no social media content at all. The selection of these sites obviously isn't a scientifically accurate cross-section, but does provide a good selection of well-designed corporate Web sites.  

    For our Web site, I am choosing to start out with a middle-of-the-road approach to adding social media. The site will include links to our social media connection points (blog, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, social media press releases) and possibly pull in our blog feed into the home page. I'm not willing to go as far as opening up the unfiltered social media fire hose like Skittles, but it is a step in the right direction to move our Web site forward with more a Web 2.0-like approach. For our company, this is a good middle ground between the anonymous head nod of the static marketing brochure site and the kiss hello approach that is too social. Think of it as the bro hug of social media integration.


    Editor's note: Email Insider, a MediaPost newsletter sent out earlier today, had the wrong byline. The author is Ryan Deutsch of StrongMail, NOT Jordan Ayan. MediaPost regrets the error. 


  • 3 comments about "The Kiss Hello".
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    1. Jeff Bach from Quietwater Media, April 16, 2009 at 1:22 p.m.

      I think that designers need to be careful with this question.
      I just had a website design fall into my lap, it will be the largest site I have done. The owner would laugh me out of the park if I suggested social media like Facebook. And deservedly so. He does roofing. His customers are in an info gathering mode because their roof is leaking, insurance requires multiple estimates and they need someone "right now". He doesn't need a site that does what your column espouses. He needs a message in 20 seconds that gives his customers what they want. In so doing they take the next step and call him for an estimate.

      Vast swaths of our economy are still in a simple mode and do not need social media. The main question still remains, "what does the customer want?"

      Sometimes it is the Kiss Hello (loved that episode btw) and sometimes it is more old fashioned.

    2. Michelle Batten, April 17, 2009 at 11:11 a.m.

      Hi Kory -

      Great question - I wish more brands would ask it before leaping. You make a great point that when we enter into the social realm, we are inviting people and organizations to conversation, not a one-way broadcast. Building on Jeff's comment - are we taking time to ask "what the customers want"? Kimberly Turner, from Regator, in a recent post highlighted this point by stating "someone creating a publication for public consumption—and that includes blogs—should make decisions with their readers’ best interests in mind".

      I think your analysis of Skittles is spot on - its great to want to engage your consumers in the social space, but make sure you do it in a way that is meaningful and relevant - it should help enhance your brand's story and message while building a long-term relationship with consumers. Feel free to read my take at

      Michelle Batten

    3. Stuart Long, April 18, 2009 at 2:55 a.m.

      Social networking is hard to monetize and crowdsourcing isn't. was able to dump their PPC ad program because they have become a crowdsourcing powerhouse. User created reviews, suggestions and blogs are money in the bank. Decide what you want your website to accomplish and create an online environment that caters to your planned objective. Social networks pretty much blow, and I love people, which is why crowdsourcing blows me away.

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