The Crowds I Own

It’s an amazing thing that Googling for a multinational, billion dollar brand,  will give you results that those companies would much prefer you didn’t use. But just like everything else, what counts as the de facto representation of brands online today, will change entirely in the next year.

This post is a lot of speculation and prediction, but stay with me.

Lets start by taking a look at how things work right now

Brands in the Age Wikipedia

Because of many factors dealing with SEO, Wikipedia pages are consistently top search results for medium to large brands. For consumers the Wikipedia pages are fulled with useful information about: Brands history, products and services, as well as controversies, issues, and other less than positive items that generally don’t present well for brands.

Brands have very little influence and power on the pages representing their brands on the website, the most they can really do without calling into question transparency issues is fix factual errors by providing evidence. Anything else calls into question too many issues regarding transparency and conflicts of interests that even attempts to edit their Wikipedia page can become a public issue.

Nothing new I know, but brands are generally pretty bad at dealing with Wikipedia’s representation of their brand and the impact it has (Another post for another time).

The Opening of Facebook

I’m not a fan of app focused posts myself, but when Facebook opened up its fan pages, and started giving them simple URLs like http://www.facebook.com/TED, they did more than just give fan pages a bit more visibility and easier to remember addresses.

What they also did was give brands a community centric communtity presence, that they are in complete control of.

That’s a huge deal.

Wall, Info, Discussions, Videos, Notes, Events, Photos… There are all tools plugged into the Facebook community, arguably the biggest community in existence, which are what people might be looking for to really interact with a brand. And by these fan pages being not requiring to be logged in, Google will finally be able to index these corporate presences on Facebook, and by being the central source of activity for tens or hundreds of thousands of people, it might surpass Wikipedia in terms of metrics for traffic, relevance, and frequency of updates.

The main difference between having Facebook Fan pages being the primary Google result for your brand instead of Wikipedia is that on Facebook the brand controls the message.

Brands will have a large, crowd focused platform, that has high visibility, where they can communicate their brand across various rich media, be closely tied in with social, but still be in complete control.

That’s a win. That’s a big win that would really move around these pillars of the web to some degree.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on how plausibe or likely this could be. What do you think?


Join the Conversation

5 Comments

  1. Enjoyed your post, Malcolm. One thing I'm not sure about is whether Facebook is the goal that many of these brands are looking for. While it is true that they can manage their community and the content that does appear, I suspect that the usual Facebook TOS issues (with who owns the content, etc.) will still scare some brands away. After all, the brands must create these pages themselves for it to accomplish what you're asking, right?Certainly a better solution than Wikipedia though, that's for sure.Also interesting to see how FB would benefit here – having fan pages visible and as a first result, but requiring an account to post things would drive user registration, no?

  2. Great article Malcolm and something that I really see as important in the work I am doing and even personally.Engaging the existing conversations and scultping your own voice and message to influence what people find when they search your name or brand.In a world where what we search for on google and what comes up first holds the most weight in the minds of consumers – brands needs to become proactive.

  3. Ya, I'm sure a brand with over 100,000 members of it's Facebook fan page, would much rather prefer all those people going to their own site that they control, very true. In that case I just wonder if brands could attract those kinds of numbers just by having a site that's not necessarily linked to any marketing campaign. If Adidas had a FB Page with 90,000 members, could they have the same impact just by calling out “Hey everybody! Come here!”.If I was a Brand on Facebook I would also really benefit from the deep demographic data that Facebook gives. I really don't know if that's what does, or what may happen in the future. But if that was the case, it would be a big advantage with going the Facebook path.And if brands *were* afraid of the Facebook TOS, it could ironically still be a case of “your customers are going to form these groups with or without you”.Lots of interesting dynamics to explore it would appear.

  4. Hey, I would say the point I brought up to Dan's comment goes along well with what you just said. “Engaging the existing conversations and sculpting your own voice and message to influence what people find…” Those groups and fan pages might easily form without the brands involvement all the same, and that could be a big opportunity lost. All these different mediums Facebook implements might just be the way brands influence the way people perceive them. Like that older Forrester idea that customer have low trust in corporate blogs, what if the CEO posted a message to tens of thousands of its customers on Facebook?One thing I didn't mention before in the post is that once those people sign up to be a member of a fan page, isn't that a direct marketing channel to those customers? The customers have all given that brand permission to send them updates (on a web property North Americans spend a ton of their time). Isn't that even better than advertising?

  5. I am really excited and the new opportunities that are presented from the brand/consumer communications POV. You are right it is far better than advertising and is almost a RSS content feed for dummies.I love what Threadless are doing through their page. Really interactive and conducive to new interactivity and push of the new pages platform.

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