Microsites tilted toward sustainability get clever

When talking about social media to a group, I often step back to get them to pay attention to how to design for interactivity. After all, social media is all about interactions, right?

I like to note how wicked a wiki could be (though no one ever talks of wikis anymore, with all the tools around Facebook and Twitter). I mention how Microsites can do a lot of things their POW –that’s Plain Old Web sites, in my book) can never do. All this thanks to social media elements that are almost invisible.

So I want to comment on two microsites that came on my radar this week. Toyota and Timberland.

The Toyota site works like a cross-section between an ad and a social network. Timberland is more complex. I’ll take that first here:

Timberland’s Earthkeepers is so complex it could easily be a mistaken for a grass roots movement, or a cause-marketing campaign such as Hopenhagen. Indeed, it has a cause-driven section called ‘Don’t Tell Us It Can Be Done’ (launched this week), aligned with the Copenhagen summit. As the press release states, it is “a movement that encourages citizens of the world to challenge government leaders attending the United Nation’s Conference…”

It has definitive calls to action – Take Steps, Make Pledges, Shop Responsibly etc.  The Twitter site is actually set up to track 12 students on a bus tour supporting the cause, rather than the typical corporate tweets. Their ‘Heroes’ are doing more than sporting Timberland attire. They are doing things like this.

There is a lot more, and it points to how web sites are getting built up so much around engagement, that very soon these microsites will be the template for the macro-sites. You know: the  standard corporate sites with dated, static information.

Toyota’s Beyond Cars, is a different animal: Dynamic content on steroids. Almost too much information. It’s an ever-changing grid of visitor-generated content (a term I like to use because it is more appropriate in this case than User-Generated). You could sort through four categories of content – innovation, environment, community, economy, with a floating navigation bar. It asks for story submissions using text, video or photos. Not sure if these go through content moderation, but it has a real-time feeling about it.

Unlike Timberland Beyond Cars is not connected to a specific cause other than to make a positive impact on the economy and environment –which is somewhat of a cliche if it ends there. But the very intent, to tap into ideas from the crowd, is bold and inspiring –yes, and visually very appealing. I wish they had thought it through into not just Twitter and Facebook, but beyond cars, literally –into activities not involving wheels. As someone who has two Toyotas in the garage, I have vested interest in this brand, obviously. I could think of a dozen, inexpensive things they could do.

What do you think?

  1. If you have some ideas, jot them down here as a comment. I will add to it next week.
  2. Which microsite do you prefer, and why?
  3. What do you think of a site like Timberland’s that stays behind the scene, as opposed to Toyota’s which is very much a branding exercise, with a cause tacked on?

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