There’s a pretty big kerfuffle going on about marketing guru Seth Godin’s recent launch of Squidoo brand communities.
Godin launched a service that aggregated the conversation occuring about companies in the social space and provided the brands a sidebar next to the content to address the various statements made.
Someone tweets badly about your brand? Just write next to the entry on squidoo that you’re working on the issue, or that this individual is a looney tune.
Pretty good idea, if you ignore that you are responding in a different medium than the complaint was filed in, on a site that has no third party validity, and that is an excercise in futility. But I will ignore that, primarily because Godin probably could have pulled it off and created a site third parties used to validate information.
Godin launched this program with a business model (companies pay $400 to own the sidebar next to all of this content and be able to respond to issues), and that was his fundamental problem. He realized the validity of his value prop and created the project, but missed the fact that we would view this fully baked idea as exploitation rather than participation in the community.
To see how Squidoo brand communities could have been a massive success, one just has to look at Get Satisfaction. Here’s the model: 1) find a massive need that consumers of companies have, 2) build an amazing application for it and get consumers to use and like the solution, and 3) charge companies for it.
Do all three, in order, and you are a hero of the next web, ushering in the future — skip number 2 and you are a brandjacker, preying on the fears that large companies have of not being able to control the conversation. Sad, but this is the case, even if you know what your business model is likely to be, it still pays to release your MVP early, for free, and get customers used to the service while learning from their interactions.
Godin should have published the brand communities feature with an ad-supported sidebard and then rolled out the solution for companies to buy that sidebar from advertisers. He would have had a much bigger winner on his hands had he done that.
Seth’s backed off, and that’s a bummer, because aggregating comments and sentiment about brands is a valuable service. I wish him the best of luck in continuing to innovate in this space and hope that through direct outreach he’s able to get many brands involved, because this service is only massively interesting if it can serve as the consumer’s one stop shop to get information about all brands it is thinking about doing business with.