Seth Godin's Squidoo project allows anyone to build a page about any subject, complete with news feeds, visitor feedback area, and other ways to pull a community together around a topic.
Squidoo's user-created pages are called "Lenses". This is a pretty good metaphor, since the page essentially gives visibility to content around a topic, pulled from all over the web: Amazon titles relevant to the topic, news feeds from related sources, etc.
Here's my lens for Xinet (the Digital Asset Management system, not the Unix internet services daemon): http://www.squidoo.com/xinet. Note - I haven't touched this page in a long time, as the Xinet user's group has dissolved.
While it's not a full-featured social networking portal, it does empower ordinary web users to create a location around a topic.
So what if that topic is your brand? Or, for that matter, what if the Squidoo lens is just a small part of the discussion about your brand on the web? (This is likely to be true!)
That's where Brands in Public comes in. Here's Seth's précis:
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.
Over the last few months, we've seen big brands (like Amazon and Maytag) get caught in a twitterstorm. An idea (one that's negative to the brand) starts and spreads, and absent a response, it just spirals. Of course, Amazon can't respond on their home page (they're busy running a store) and they don't have an active corporate blog that I could find, so where? How?
Enter Brands In Public.
Squidoo has built several hundred pages, each one about a major brand. More are on the way. We'll keep going until we have thousands of important brands, each on its own page (and we'll happily add one for you if you like). Each page collects tweets, blog posts, news stories, images, videos and comments about a brand. All of these feeds are algorithmic... the good and the bad show up, all collated and easy to find.
Of course, these comments and conversations are already going on, all over the web. What we've done is bring them together in one place. And then we've made it easy for the brand to chime in.
If your brand wants to be in charge of developing this page, it will cost you $400 a month. And once [we build] the page, the left hand column belongs to you. You can post responses, highlight blog posts, run contests or quizzes. You can publicly have your say right next to the constant stream of information about your brand (information that's currently all over the web--and information you can't "take down" or censor). You can respond, lead and organize. If a crisis hits, your page will be there, ready for you to speak up. If your fans are delighted, your page makes it easy for them to chime in and speak up on sites around the web.
If you have the tools and wherewithal to build a page like this on your own site, you should consider that. The challenge is getting it done, regardless of where the page lives.
I sincerely hope the ease and convenience of doing this sort of thing enables marketers to get past the wallflower-like shyness that has kept many out of the public forum thus far. Really, it's time to get up and dance, folks.
Brands In Public
Home Depot's Brands in Public page