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Let me preface this post by saying I am a huge fan of Seth Godin’s. I admire the way he thinks and his vision. But I do have concerns about his latest venture.

I was just reading about Brands in Public, a service launching soon which focuses on helping gather information about your company or brand and aggregating it in one place. As a brand subscribed to the service, you can (for $400/monthly), respond to any feedback or comments about your brand, as it is listed on the page.

While I certainly agree for the need for online reputation management, my strong feeling is that this is a service each of us must do for ourselves. In Seth’s post, he does mention that it is something you can do on your own, presuming you have sufficient resources to do so.

My concerns about this stem from two main issues. First, I have issues with the idea that Brands in Public will become the middlepeople between companies and their customers. Essentially, because of the reach and traction I expect this service to have, they are becoming the arbiters or monitors of what is being said. They have put themselves into a judge/jury type position in terms of content, and I believe that if enough paying clients complain, certain information will be reduced in its importance or removed entirely. In a sense, by aggregating the information, they can also change the information.

I agree that this type of service would be useful. I understand that there needs to be a revenue model. I just have concerns about any service which is supposedly for the public good, but can allow a reshaping of public sentiment based on who is paying for the page.

In a way, this process is removing or at least reducing the community driven aspect of online brand management.

My second issue with this service is that if you don’t invest with them, they are gathering all the data about your company, and you, essentially have no control over it. Again, because of their reach and influence, they are likely to become the authoritative voice on issues- even if their information is wrong or incorrect.

I don’t expect that I’ll have to worry, and you, as a small business owner, may not either- but the fact is, should any inaccurate negative information appear about you or your company on Brands in Public, you or I are unlikely to have the resources to combat it adequately. At minimum, this means the continued perpetuation of misinformation. At maximum, it could mean lasting damage to our businesses or reputation.

I don’t think that Brands in Public is a good idea as it stands. A better way to approach it may be to use the resources and knowledge of Brands in Public and work with businesses to build their own self managed brand pages. This way, Brands in Public can help businesses accomplish a key objective (which Seth himself notes is a good idea) without putting themselves in as middlepeople of a company’s online brand management.

What do you think?