Is Seth Godin Protecting Your Brand or Just 'Brandjacking' It?

Squidoo's 'Brands in Public' Is Aggregating Online Chatter, but You'll Have to Pay for Control

By Published on . 17

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Seth Godin wants to protect your brand from Twitter, for $400 a month. The prolific author, blogger, marketing guru, motivational speaker and founder of web service Squidoo this week launched Brands in Public, a new service which creates "unofficial" pages that aggregate ongoing conversations about brands on Twitter, YouTube and blogs.

Seth Godin
Seth Godin
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."

Brands that sign up get to edit the introductory text, highlight positive tweets or blog posts, point to their own blog or videos, and so forth. "When you take over your brand's page, you don't monitor the conversation (there are plenty of companies that will sell you that service for a lot of money), you coordinate it. In public. Where it's happening," the site says.

In a blog post, Mr. Godin said Squidoo has already built "several hundred" of what he calls "public-facing dashboards" for Trader Joe's, In-N-Out Burger, KFC and Comcast. In an e-mail interview, he said, "We've heard from more than 100 brands after just one day, which is extraordinary given the usual decision cycle for projects that involve big brands."

Brands that appear to be moderating their own pages include Allstate, Molson and Home Depot. (Trader Joe's page includes a not entirely complimentary user-generated ad on YouTube.) A big orange button offers: "Click here if you work for this brand. You can curate this page."

The business is a partnership with online-marketing firm BzzAgent, which provides a feed of comment from its group of product testers, and handles subscriptions and advertising on the sites. But why would any brand want a business that creates "unofficial" brand pages about it, in this case one that aggregates forums for mentions across the web? And if brands are monitoring or participating in social media, why would they want to pay Seth Godin to take part?

In a blog post, online-marketing consultant Lisa Barone called it a form of "brandjacking" "because they're trying to extort 5k a year from you for a free-listening station you could very easily create all by yourself."

Mr. Godin said he's simply organizing information already on the web, like Twitter Search or Google. "Should Twitter be allowed to sell ads next to search results? Is there something wrong with Google selling ads next to their search results? Why isn't it good for consumers for a brand to have their say as part of the conversation? There will always by cynics, critics and haters. Not a lot I can do about it other than offer to not sell them a slot if they don't want one. The internet is a big place," he said.

David Berkowitz, director-emerging media at 360i, said how high the Brand in Public pages appear in search results will determine whether brands decide to take part. Also, he said, the $400 fee is just a start. The bigger cost is the manpower involved in maintaining the pages, which is true of any social-media campaign.

It's not immediately clear when looking at the pages which brands are paying to participate. Brands can't change the comment feeds, but if they pay, they can add their own feed on the left side of the page to highlight the positive or to respond to the conversation.

While brands don't get a choice whether Squidoo makes an "unofficial" page for them, Mr. Godin said he would take a brand page down. "Sure, if you ask nicely," he wrote in the FAQ. "Up to you. Your fans may be disappointed, though."

For the record, he said, no one has yet asked.

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