Thursday, April 16, 2009

Online Publishing Insider: The Kiss Hello

The Kiss Hello

How social do we really want to get? It's a question I've been wrestling with as it relates to our company Web site and one that Jerry Seinfeld wrestled with as well. In a "Seinfeld" episode titled "The Kiss Hello," Kramer decides to post the photos and names of every tenant in the building to foster a friendlier living environment. Rather than passing anonymous neighbors in the hallway and giving the obligatory head nod, tenants would be able to greet each other by name and even offer a warm embrace. The social experiment goes too far for Jerry's liking when he is greeted by a kiss on the cheek from every female in the building, and a solid lip lock from Kramer himself.

Whether you're Cosmo Kramer in an apartment complex, or a consumer brand launching a Web site like, sometimes you can be too social. I'm all for engaging customers in the social media space, but I'd just as soon kiss Kramer myself as use Twitter or Facebook as a company home page. That said, when assessing one of our company Web sites recently, it was evident that it needed an overhaul that includes some social elements. The site's shelf life as an effective communication tool was expiring and it needed more than just a fresh coat of JavaScript.

As I've begun working with our team to layo ut the new structure of the site, I've had to wrestle with the question: how social should it be? Gone are the days of a company site that's simply a static media kit filled with overhyped marketing copy written by marketing people like me. The five-page online brochure has given way to the Skittles Web site that turns over the marketing message to anyone with a Twitter account and the ability to fit "Skittles" into a semi-coherent 140 character tweet. For example, @mattfurukawa just tweeted that he is "at dinner with two awesome people, my pastor and skittles." While the "skittles" Matt is referring to could be a spiritual mentor -- which is great for Matt -- it doesn't really do much for the brand message of the sugar candy version of Skittles.

So, should our new site become a full-blown social media hub, or a more traditional corporate Web site with social media elements? As I look to invite our customers into an online conversation, is it really beneficial to make that the central theme of the Web site?

For inspiration, I took at look at a recent blog post on Webdesigner Depot titled "50 Excellent Corporate Website Designs." Of the 50 Web sites featured on the blog, here is the breakdown of the integration of social media into the design (includes Twitter, company blog, Facebook, etc.):

  •     Social media content integrated into the home page: 15

  •     Includes a link to social media content on home page: 25

  •     No social media content whatsoever: 10    

     The most common social media integration was a blog feed on the home page with a small number of sites adding a twitter feed. Ironically, the site named "PimpMyTwitter" has no Twitter content and doesn't even list the Twitter address (although I am giving them extra credit for their company name). While company blogs, Twitter feeds and links to Facebook and LinkedIn pages were common, it was somewhat surprising that 10 of these newly designed Web sites (20%) had no social media content at all. The selection of these sites obviously isn't a scientifically accurate cross-section, but does provide a good selection of well-designed corporate Web sites.  

    For our Web site, I am choosing to start out with a middle-of-the-road approach to adding social media. The site will include links to our social media connection points (blog, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, social media press releases) and possibly pull in our blog feed into the home page. I'm not willing to go as far as opening up the unfiltered social media fire hose like Skittles, but it is a step in the right direction to move our Web site forward with more a Web 2.0-like approach. For our company, this is a good middle ground between the anonymous head nod of the static marketing brochure site and the kiss hello approach that is too social. Think of it as the bro hug of social media integration.


    Editor's note: Email Insider, a MediaPost newsletter sent out earlier today, had the wrong byline. The author is Ryan Deutsch of StrongMail, NOT Jordan Ayan. MediaPost regrets the error. 


    Kory Kredit is vice president of marketing at PV Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at

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