If you haven’t heard by now, the Mars brand candy Skittles made a courageous effort to include social media user-generated content (UGC) on its website, but its effort has blighted its colorful face with a few ugly punches.
It was a valiant effort, and to answer the question: Yes, this kind of UGC can help you optimize your website for your important keywords. But at what cost? Well, that’s what Skittles found out.
Any time you open your company website up to the entire Web to come in and say anything they want, they will. Do you really want that? Is that the cost you’re willing to pay for search engine optimziation your website the easy way?
The comments page on a MediaPost article on this subject has some interesting question from one of the commentators:
So Twitter was being used for a Text2Screen campaign? Is it approved by carriers for that purpose? There is no profanity monitoring apparently.
And the answer is, no, Twitter has no profanity control measures. There’s a reason for that. It wasn’t intended to be used as a business tool to begin with. It was a social tool. And in social settings, well, people tend to let their hair down (and everything else apparently). But, like language, you can’t control how everyone else is going to use your tool (no euphemism intended).
Twitter’s API And Language Control
What Twitter does have, however, is an API. An API is a developer’s resource that allows third-parties to take the code of a website and incorporate it into another tool to create a program, script, or other application that interacts with the website represented by the API. It’s sort of semi-open source. And it has its advantages.
Twitter’s API is what made Skittles’ social experiment possible. The problem is that Skittles didn’t take the proper precautionary measures to maintain control over the content that appears on its website. The company could have taken a commenting script and placed it on the site, thereby allowing users to comment on its website and assign an administrator to manually approve and disapprove those comments. But that’s a whole different ballgame. It’s much more cool to just allow comments that appear somewhere else to show up automatically on your own site. That is soooooo cool.
But cool has its price. And that’s the lesson to learn from Skittles. But the story doesn’t end there. What Skittles’ developers failed to do was to implement their own content filters. What would have stopped them from filtering out certain words that might appear in Twitter comments and close off those comments from appearing within the Twitter stream on their website? That would have been additional work for someone, but for a company concerned about its image, it’s a necessary step. And if you’re going to use a third-party API that directs user comments to your website for instant publication it is an essential step. I wonder why no one at Skittles thought of it.