Is Seth Godin Holding Brands Hostage?

by Jason Falls |
:en:Seth Godin
Seth Godin – Image via Wikipedia

Seth Godin announced Squidoo’s latest venture this week. Brands in Public is, as I understand it, an aggregation of conversations about certain brands. Godin’s team has apparently developed a nice way to aggregate and parse out relevant conversation about various brands and put them all together in one big page. That’s not all that innovative, but how they’re going about it is eyebrow raising.

First, Brands in Public will aggregate conversations and create these aggregation points for brands without their consent or buy in. There’s nothing wrong with that. The conversations are public and no one “owns” them. However, in order for a brand to officially have a presence on the page and highlight their responses to certain issues, etc., they have to pay $400 per month or more.

At first glance, you just think, “So what? The brands can just participate in the conversations on the various social networks and they Brands in Public spider will pick up those conversations as well. Hopefully, Brands in Public isn’t doing anything shady by parsing out the brand participation and that theory will hold true. However, think for a moment of the power, reach and influence Godin has. If his idea takes hold (it probably will because on the surface it’s a good one) and he markets it the way he’s capable of, Brands in Public could be come THE place to go see the “unfiltered” conversation about brands everywhere.

If that scenario plays out, then the $400 or more fee Godin’s company plans to charge is, in a way, blackmail.

Or is it smart marketing? Step 1: Build a place people can see fair, unfiltered conversations about brands. Step 2: Market the place until it becomes a public resource looked upon as the place to go and see the true buzz about a brand. Step 3: Lease brand control of the page out for a fee and make money off the paranoid brand manager who insists on having “control” of the conversation.

Can a competitor pay to take over your page? Can a random person have the same access? Probably not, but is that fair? Everyone can participate in the conversation except the brand, unless they pay?

The only saving grace in this is that, I assume, Brands in Public will not adulterate the conversations aggregated to filter out the perspective of the brand. But are we all willing to assume that? I see accusations, controversy and perhaps even litigation coming on this one.

Godin’s company will make money off this. But will it be at the peril of decency?

A penny for your thoughts?

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).