Two or three years ago I likely would have been very upset about this.
The gist of it is that Seth has created a Squidoo (Remember them?) lense for a few hundred brands, that aggregates social content about them. Such as blog posts, Twitter replies, even news articles from Google.
And if you pay Seth $400 a month, he'll let you have control over the 'development' of that page, meaning you can put your own content on the wider left column. The right column will still aggregate blog comments, Twitter replies, posts and news stories.
The people that are upset about this, and there are a lot of them, seem to have two main issues:
1 - That Seth is charging for this.
2 - That these pages will probably rank well in search results, and some see that as if Seth is 'blackmailing' companies into having 'control' over the lenses.
First, let me state that Seth is doing this because there is a demand for pulling together content for big brands so they can monitor it. There really is no shortage of companies that understand so little about social media that when they see a negative comment about their company, their first respond is 'how do we get this taken down?' Seth's idea caters to those companies.
Second, while there is a need for this service, companies can do SO much better. That seems to be a complaint of many people, that Seth shouldn't be charging $400 for such a crappy offering. Folks, $400 a month is nothing to these brands, and compared to what they are doing now to monitor brand mentions (probably nothing), it's money well spent.
I do have a bit of a bone to pick with the way Seth attempts to explain the value of the lenses, asking: "There are already monitoring tools online (like Radian6) that allow big brands to watch from behind the scenes. That's great, but what are you doing in front of your audience? Is there a low-cost, easy way to let one of your non-technical marketing people lead and engage with people who are already in the conversation?"
There's no shortage of free tools that will quickly and easily give you access to the same information that Seth will collect for you. And despite Seth's implications to the contrary, you don't need a 'page' to respond to these mentions, you can respond AT THE SOURCE. Why would you want Seth to pull my negative post about your company to HIS site and then you pay him $400 a month for the right to respond to me THERE? How is that helpful since I will never see that?
But come HERE and reply to me for FREE, and that's impressive. That likely changes my tone, and reflects well on you in the process. And it doesn't cost you a dime, other than the time it takes to respond.
Again, Seth is doing this because there's a demand for this type of service. So to that end, I have zero problem with him charging for this service that DOES have value to companies. Granted, this is the 'fast food' version of social media engagement, but for companies that are doing nothing, it's at least a tiny step in the right direction.
My advice to companies would be to invest the money in doing this right. Have a consultant or agency set up a monitoring system internally for you, then have them instruct you on how to respond to customer content appropriately. That way you'll have access to the same customer-created content, and then can respond to it AT THE SOURCE. That's what increases brand awareness, and improves brand perception.
And yes, I offer this service to clients. Please email me if you're interested in a price quote. Be forewarned, the cost is more than $400 a month, but then again so is the value you'll receive from learning how to address and deal with customer issues and complaints via social media channels.
What do you think? Is Seth out of line here, or are people simply upset because someone is trying to monetize 'free' social media?