Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seth attempts to monetize social media, much teeth-gnashing ensues

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?


Eric Brown said...

Hey Mack, This was bound to happen, and it excites the heck out of me. The fact that one of the greatest marketing minds of our time is doing it is even more exciting

This is somewhat similar to what we posted about over on Search Engine Guide this week that Community Sherpa is doing for apartment operators.

The pundits in our multifamily business are saying the same thing about NCI and their team, in that how can they do blog posts for $300 per month, and how do you manage 500 or 5000 blogs per day?

Point is Mack, big media companies will take this Social Media Space to the next level, and the Social Media Pioneers will be pushed aside, or pushed further and deeper into the next big thing.

Sheila Scarborough said...

I'd say there's a doggone sucker born every minute, and they will buy this service.

Good grief, social media is not a fad or something you shove in a box or onto a Squidoo lens and "manage." The sooner all the 1000-pound brains of the world figure that out, the better.

Elizabeth said...

People will pay someone else to do something they don't know how to do themselves or don't have time to do it themselves regardless of how minial the service might be. If people want to pay to use his service because it is more convenient for them, then great.

Jay Baer said...

Having spent a little time looking at the dashboards, it's basically a search result page with a niftier layout.

Not sure there's a ton of value on the reporting and aggregation front. And for me, any brand that's serious about social media is going to want to dialog with customers in the venues in which the initial comment was made, or on the brand's actual brand community.

Steve Woodruff said...

It's a low-level, and, for some, low-cost/no-delay/high convenience way to at least BEGIN to get more toes in the water of on-line monitoring and interaction. It's also (potentially) a low-cost tool for consumer research on a brand (and maybe for some lazy journalists?) And it's a free market. I understand the expressed concerns of those beating the brandjacking drum, but I think the teeth-gnashing is a bit overblown.

Andrew MacPherson said...

Rather than creating a central location from which to respond universally, this seems to simply add yet another site requiring another response to recycled informaton. Brands get to respond to any negativity on the new brand page if they pay for it?

Adding another site to keep tabs on is bad enough. Charging for the ability to stay in the conversation isn't doing anyone a favor... especially when you're just duplicating content to begin with.

jg said...

This is downright silly. As Marshall points out in his downtempo blog, GetSatisfaction offers much more values for companies wishing to engage with customers constructively on things like support issues, ideas, etc.

If you want to respond to flames, Mack is right, find 'em with a tool like Radian6, and respond at the source.

I can't wait to see what 37signals is going to say about this one ;)

asquaredgroup said...

I agree with both Andrew and Jay. Adding another layer of filter and redirection between brand and consumer seems counterintuitive. While we are all searching for more effective ways to calculate ROI and nurture dialogue between these two parties, don't we also want to educate the companies which are timid about social media and encourage their direct involvement in it, not create an additional hoop through which they need to jump?

MBamieh said...

I say kudos to him thinking about this and coming up with a business model before anyone else. The sad thing is that its like the "for dummies series" for the dummy enterprise. As for the effectiveness of it all ... minimal at best

Mack Collier said...

Guys thanks for the comments, it seems many of you are hitting on a lot of the same ideas I did when I first heard about this.

Something else that I've been thinking about recently is this; Are we as 'social media people' sending companies a mixed message? I mean on the one hand we tell them to hire us (being social media consultants, firms, etc) to get them up to speed and started out on the right foot with social media, then on the other hand, we tell them to 'be themselves', not to 'ghost-blog/tweet', and just experiment with the tools.

For many companies, I think we confuse the hell out of them, and in the end, they just want someone that's going to take what looks like a VERY complex space, and simplify it for them.

This is what Seth's idea does for companies. Is it crappy service? Could they do much better hiring a solid consultant/agency? Of course, but many of these companies feel the need to 'do something'. This is that something, it gives them a chance to get in the space, and for little cost.

That's why it will probably sell. I think those of us that know we can do a much better job need to find a better way of getting THAT message to potential customers.

Mack Collier said...

Eric I read your post on Community Sherpa. If I am reading it right, CS will create content for blogs, for a monthly fee?

That's a great idea, for them. Sounds like what they could do is write 10 monthly blog posts for say, blogs covering the automotive industry, then sell those 10 posts to 500 clients. Good for CS, but what happens when 500 blogs have the same (or very similar) blog posts? Will any of those blogs be able to develop a readership? And how will they get good search juice, when 499 other posts have the same keywords targeted?

Maybe I am missing what CS does, but on the surface, this sounds like a scam.

Charles Sipe said...

It sounds from the description that it only costs brands money if they want to control their page. If I were a brand, I would want to use it as a valuable free resource for aggregation of what people are talking about, but I wouldn't pay thousands a year to control one page when I could create a Facebook fan page for free.

Eric Brown said...

Hi Mack,
I say, "we" (marketers/social media folks) are one critical group, with pretty narrow thinking when it comes to something that may alter "Our Space" Yet, to your point, "we" preach to those around us that we would like to have as clients, about all the things they should be doing and too embrace the change that comes with employing Social Media

Note that most if not all of the comments herein are about what is wrong with the service that Seth has developed, and little about any possible value, and if it does add value its only a "starter kit"

Where has our innovative self gone here,