There's nothing particularly new about this; this has been the pattern for hundreds of years. However, one difference with the advent of social media tools is that people are now able to talk to dozens, hundreds or thousands of other people instead of the few they used to.
There are plenty of tools to help companies listen to what people are saying. While I often talk about Radian6, there are plenty of other tools out there, both free and professional.
"You can't control what people are saying about you. What you can do is organize that speech. You can organize it by highlighting the good stuff and rationally responding to the not-so-good stuff. You can organize it by embracing the people who love your brand and challenging them to speak up and share the good word. And you can respond to it in a thoughtful way, leaving a trail that stands up over time."
Brands In Public provides an online dashboard that pulls together the latest news and conversation about a brand from sources such as Google Blogsearch, Google News, Yahoo! News, Twitter, BackType, Google Search Trends and Quantcast.
Where Brands In Public gets more interesting is that if a company decides it wants to sponsor its company page (for $400 a month) it gets control of about 2/3 of the screen real-estate on the page. It can highlight blog posts, run contests, post videos or whatever it likes. In case of an issue, the company can quickly respond without needing any technical skills, the ongoing maintenance requirements of a blog, or IT's go-ahead to create a new page on your website.
All the time, the regular searches continue in the right-hand column, uncensored and unfiltered.
So, while the Molson page features a Twitter search, the Molson blog and a quick poll on how people feel about the brand, the Allstate page includes YouTube videos from various channels along with content from multiple blogs (disclosure: Molson Coors Canada is a recent client; Allstate Canada is a current client).
There's nothing complicated about Brands In Public; in fact Seth takes pain in his post announcing the service to note that it's deliberately simple. "It's simply a place for your brand to see and be seen, to organize and to respond."
A few thoughts from me:
- The interface is clean, friendly and easy to use.
- Right now there's no search function - the pages seem to be limited to a scrolling list. Presumably this will change as the service is built out and the volume of pages increases.
- The FAQs indicate that the service will remove a company's page if they request it. However, as they note, "Your fans might be disappointed though." What's more, the lack of a comprehensive list of companies may inhibit the growth of the service.
- If brands haven't yet invested in a social media presence, they're unlikely to make this their first step due to the lack of control of the searches. To those who have already invested, they don't need this presence as they're already out there.
- Brands In Public provides an easy way for companies to be part of the conversation - an entry level solution - but at a premium price. As TechCrunch noted, $400 per month is a pretty hefty price point for a series of automated searches and a few dashboard modules.
What do you think? Is this a useful tool for brands?
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