I’m a huge fan of user generated content. I think the greatest copy, ideas, and criticism can come from your own users. However, there is such a thing as going too far.
Last night at some point, http://www.skittles.com switched its page to become a constant feed of a twitter search for skittles. Almost immediately, people began talking about all sorts of random, not-skittles related stuff, just to appear on the page. I even sent a message about prefering M&M’s to skittles (which I do).
You just can’t put unfiltered user content out there. Sorry. I learned this lesson the hard way years ago. Back when I was at Pseudo, I had to do an interview with Dick Morris, who at the time was embroiled in quite a scandal surrounding the Clinton white house. We had this fantbulous idea of showing the live chatroom on a plasma screen right in between the two of us during the interview.
As you can imagine, the room was filled with things that weren’t appropriate for anyone to see, much less the target of them – Dick Morris himself.
The ONLY way to do this kind of content is to very, very cautiously moderate. You don’t need only positive statements going out, actually, if you want to really show what your users are saying, you should include some negative statements. But you absolutely need to be able to block messages like this:
PMansellSheep: fighting the cult @ XENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUoYOUoJUSToLOSToTHE
I don’t understand why Skittles didn’t know better, and why they haven’t taken the page down yet. There’s a warning that you need to be an adult…but when the first comment is “skittles sux,” does being over 18 matter? In my case with Pseudo, we yanked that chatroom screen down before I was 10 minutes into the interview.
Over the summer, a lot of concerts did a deal with Verizon where you could text a message to have it shown on the big screen. Those messages appeared quickly, and looked “live,” but they were heavily moderated. And I know this cuz, um, I sent something inappropriate to see if it’d get through. I had to try, I almost ALWAYS try. I sent “scream if you love porn,” which I thought would be fun. But nope – lots of “Scream if you love linkin park” and the like, but no joy for me.
There is also the question of privacy, something people have been talking about a lot lately. Is my Twitter appearing on Skittles going to be seen as an endorsement? Do they actually even have the rights to do it (I need to dig through various terms to figure that out – expect a follow up post when I have time to do that). I can’t block it…at least I can block myself from appearing in Facebook’s social ads. But this is a whole other thing, and not one I’m entirely sure I’m comfortable with.
All that said, would I have ever written a blog entry about Skittles today if they hadn’t done this? If “any press is good press,” then Skittles has done a fantastic job at that – everyone’s talking about them on Twitter. Not talking about the candy, of course, they’re talking about the mess on the Skittles homepage. In what probably took them 10 minutes, they redid their website to something that people can’t stop talking about. Well done for that.
In the long run, is this going to make me buy more candy? Absolutely not. But I will be pointing to this as an example of UGC gone bad for years to come.
So for that, thanks Skittles!!