Brands in Public, The Controversy
By: Andrea Trapani
This is one of the most inventive new uses of social media aggregation I’ve come across in a long time…but it might also be the most controversial.
If you haven’t heard of it, marketing guru (and founder of Squidoo) Seth Godin recently launched his “Brands in Public” project, described on Seth’s blog as:
You can’t control what people are saying about you. What you can do is organize that speech. You can organize it by highlighting the good stuff and rationally responding to the not-so-good stuff. You can organize it by embracing the people who love your brand and challenging them to speak up and share the good word. And you can respond to it in a thoughtful way, leaving a trail that stands up over time.
Over the last few months, we’ve seen big brands (like Amazon and Maytag) get caught in a twitterstorm. An idea (one that’s negative to the brand) starts and spreads, and absent a response, it just spirals. Of course, Amazon can’t respond on their home page (they’re busy running a store) and they don’t have an active corporate blog that I could find, so where? How?
Enter Brands In Public.
Squidoo has built several hundred pages, each one about a major brand. More are on the way. We’ll keep going until we have thousands of important brands, each on its own page (and we’ll happily add one for you if you like). Each page collects tweets, blog posts, news stories, images, videos and comments about a brand. All of these feeds are algorithmic… the good and the bad show up, all collated and easy to find.
Of course, these comments and conversations are already going on, all over the web. What we’ve done is bring them together in one place. And then we’ve made it easy for the brand to chime in.
If your brand wants to be in charge of developing this page, it will cost you $400 a month. And once [we build] the page, the left hand column belongs to you. You can post responses, highlight blog posts, run contests or quizzes. You can publicly have your say right next to the constant stream of information about your brand (information that’s currently all over the web–and information you can’t “take down” or censor). You can respond, lead and organize. If a crisis hits, your page will be there, ready for you to speak up. If your fans are delighted, your page makes it easy for them to chime in and speak up on sites around the web.
However, not everyone regards this launch as the best thing since scented highlighters:
Mr. Godin’s new concept is set up as a public dashboard where you can monitor what’s said about your brand. But there’s a twist. For $400 a month, you can “curate” your own brand’s page. And there’s another thing: Mr. Godin is making a site for your brand whether you ask for it or not, which one blogger called “brand hijacking.”
I confess to straddling the fence here. On the one hand, I think it’s a totally cool and appropriate idea — for the brands themselves to launch and control. I can see where others find it “creepy” that Godin is setting these aggregators up for brands, then charging them for the privilege to partially control it.
Ultimately, where I see this heading is people and brands will love the idea then take the concept and run with it on their own — where they have 100% control at the expense of their own choosing. Whether Brands in Public gains traction and becomes the portal and go-to source for these brands remains to be seen. If it doesn’t own the search rankings and can’t become the Google of social media aggregation, and quickly, brands may very well say, “Thanks for the idea. We’ll take it from here.”