Twitter seems to be the buzzword for most companies, and the real question many agencies are trying to answer is how can social media help grow our businesses or understand more about our customers. A very interesting campaign was recently launched by Agency.com and revolved around using the Twitter service to publish any tweets about the topic #skittles on their site.

Suddenly it was your 15 minutes of fame, seeing your tweets up in lights for millions of potential visitors to view. This Twitter-powered campaign has only been running for a few days, but around 9pm (Brisbane time) it really started to ramp up among the Twitter community. The graph at the end of this post shows a massive lift in the number of topics of conversation that use the #skittles tag.

This started to drop once some of the novelty factors wore off, but the second image shows some of the issues with leaving the gates open for people to take over your brand/site. Community sentiment was that it was an interesting concept, but spamming accounts were starting to move into the space.

The question they kept tweeting about was: Is it a failure of social filters or a success for freedom of speech?

@soup_media tweeted about how can they stop people writing crap and tagging it so it shows on skittles.com?

@PRsarahevans tweeted it was an interesting PR stunt, but questioned about the lack of a social filter

The background behind the site was initially discussed by Fred Aun from www.ClickZ.com, where Ryan Bowling of Skittles parent firm: MARS announced that Agency.com designed site as, very different from anything else consumers are seeing, with an intention to encourage consumer chatter and also certain beliefs about our brand.

While companies have dismantled their traditional websites, with Kusbi Jeans, moving to Google Sites platform for their store, and Modernista sent users across to a number of sites such as Facebook, Google News and Wikipedia. It seems that this site is designed to be substantially different according to Ryan Bowling, as it doesnt drive visitors away from its site but encourages engagement.

To ensure that the new site doesnt violate MARS company policy and target users under the age of 12, you must enter your DOB. This little quirk also offers Skittles a wealth of demographic data as to who is visiting their site as everyone who wishes to enter the site must enter their DOB. This information is then stored in the visitor cookie and when you return you will not have to re-enter your DOB. This visitor information is more valuable than the actual campaign using Twitter to promote their site as they can using their web analytics package, Omniture, understand their visitors more than they ever could before.

They can now understand that someone from Brisbane, will visit their site X number of times, and eventually looked at their range of flavours or chose to contact their company to find out more. So the question is, was the Twitter campaign setup for generating hype for their brand and to increase its awareness in the market or was it an exercise to create a place where using web analytics they could create a better understanding of who are the consumers who are engaging with their brand?

So how do you judge the campaign if you dont understand the brief, it may be a massive success if they were working to build their understanding of their visitors using Twitter as a honeypot, or it may be a failure if they expected to get quality engagement with their brands like YouTube?

David Iwanow
BY David Iwanow ON 5 March 2009
With over six years digital marketing experience consulting to Australia's biggest companies and marketing agencies, you can now find David working as a SEO Product Manager at Marktplaats.nl