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Skittles site redesign puts Twitter, social media at the forefront [UPDATED]

March 2, 2009 |  7:17 pm
Skittles revamped its home page to include streams from Twitter and other social media sites
The new Skittles.com, with a few pranksters chiming in.

Skittles redesigned its website Sunday to show an unfiltered look at the online social consciousness relating to the brand. Surprise, surprise, pranksters showed up.

The updated website is little more than a small overlay that links to user-submitted information about the candy on various social media sites: photos of candy wrappers on Flickr, videos from the company's YouTube channel, the Facebook fan page, its Wikipedia entry and real-time conversation on Twitter.

Upon loading Skittles.com, the visitor is asked to enter a date of birth as an agreement to the no-holds-barred information flow. A Twitter search for "skittles" is the default landing page, displayed in the background.

Putting the micro-blogging website at the forefront has apparently paid off. "Skittles" has topped Twitter's list of trending topics since last night. It has spurred discussions about ...

... the candy -- about the fresh marketing idea and, from overeager folks looking for their 15 seconds of fame, about nothing much at all. (Hi, Mom! I'm on Skittles.com.)

It also attracted the online riffraff. Tweets have been flowing in throughout the day of a racy, profane or off-putting nature. Other people have posted on completely unrelated topics, usually peddling some website or brand, followed by the term "#skittles" so it shows up in the tweet stream. Thanks for the free advertising, Mars Corp., they seemed to say.

"Skittles, or any other brand, has to be ready to accept the users' positive and negative comments," Ben Weisman, a marketing expert for the Iris agency, said in a statement. "It's a simple execution, nothing groundbreaking, but it's bringing together platforms and users in direct engagement that's positive for the brand."

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone (@biz) agrees that the final product isn't as innovative as it could be. "The implementation could be done in a more elegant way using our APIs," Stone said in an e-mail, referring to the tools Twitter makes available to outside programmers. "We'll get in touch with them and hopefully make some improvements."

Twitter users expressed concern that the new Skittles.com was to blame for today's shoddy Twitter performance. "There was some technical degradation on the site today but it was unrelated," Stone said in an e-mail. "The Skittles project doesn't slow Twitter down in any way."

The Skittles-related tweets are still flying. You can see a list of the colorful messages, organized by user authority, on the Twithority search engine.

Corrected, 8:54 a.m.: A previous version of this post identified Iris as the marketing agency behind the Skittles website redesign. Iris was not involved in the redesign, which was handled by Agency.com.

-- Mark Milian [follow]

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