Could this be the future of websites?
Could social networking websites like Facebook, YouTube, mySpace, become the next section of your website?
Many personal websites have been built using features available through social media and networking websites. For instance, you may use flickr to show off your photo collection, YouTube to share your videos, and mySpace to display other content. Put it all together, and you've got a website that connects all your user experiences with benefits from the tools and the social aspects of each one.
But could this form of website building spill over into the corporate world?
Well, it already has. And it's getting a fair bit of attention. Recently Skittles launched a new website doing just this. Skittles.com utilizes each of the major social networking websites - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, flicker, and Wikipedia, which connect with a navigational box overlay. The only feature that seems to reside on the company's own server is the form on the Contact page. Of course, they could have used a service like eFormIt.com to create the web form, and then the entire website would have used third party properties.
The approach Skittles.com took has some key advantages:
- Increased traffic from the social and viral nature
- Money saved in development costs
- Utilizing the features of these web properties
- Continual change of content from brand advocates making the site very current
- Real time display of testimonials
- More emphasis placed on the brand's space within the social site, hence effecting each of its properties' ranking within the search engine results for the term "skittles"
- Possibly help in controlling online reputation by pushing other content further down the search results page
- And of course, good marketing buzz
There are also key disadvantages:
- Limited control over what is said and displayed on these other social properties (there are some monitoring tools, but limited)
- Possible spam abuse
- A lot of negative comments may damage the brand
- Uncontrolled or unknown changes to features, terms, etc.
- Many of these sites are blocked in corporate local networks
- Loss of authoritative search ranking on the main corporate website
- In order for this style of navigation to work, Flash needs to be installed on the computer. For instance, mobile devices can't view it. Yet!
The approach Skittles took is definitely interesting and creates a reason for people to visit a website for such a product. It's worth experimenting with for consumer goods and some other situations. However, I don't believe this to be a good approach for a corporate website as one should build a quality website design and within a more controlled environment.