Today Squidoo founder Seth Godin announced  that his company would begin launching websites for major companies that collect social buzz--good and bad--from around the Web. In his blog, Godin says that these "conversations" are already happening, so Squidoo is simply going to funnel them into one aggregate spot. That lets any customer or company see what the buzz is around Brand X. But for companies to get on the page and respond, it will cost them money. Is this fair to companies? More importantly, is it good for customers? (Below, one such page for In-and-Out Burger .)
It's a smart tactic on Godin's part. "We've made it easy for the brand to chime in," explains Godin on his blog. "If your brand wants to be in charge of developing this page, it will cost you $400 a month."
Pay up and you own the left column of the page, where your company can respond to claims, adulation, and complaints. Godin also offers, "If a crisis hits, your page will be there, ready for you to speak up." But doesn't collecting all those sentiments in one Consumerist-friendly format help foment that kind of crisis?
Squidoo is performing beta tests in cooperation with Allstate, Molson, and Home Depot. Godin believes most major companies will come around. He describes the sites, called "Brands In Public," as a place "to coordinate and organize the conversation." Right now companies fight this kind of Twitter-borne negativity by going to the original tweeter. The usual result is an enthusiastic tweet that the problem has been solved. Left organic, the social Web may be even more of a conduit for good press  than bad.
But by moving the "conversation" to a static website, the energy a company might put into a personal response instead goes into a PR campaign. That brings us full circle, to backward-looking company-customer relationships. The ultimate loser? The customer.