I’ve written quite a bit about social networking, social media and brand management. You have less and less control over your brand – this is the mantra that I have been repeating over and over for the last few years. At a minimum you must be diligent just to protect your brand. Enhancing it takes even more effort. For those that pay close attention to this simple principle the rewards can be tremendous. To those who don’t the results can be less than desirable. To some it can be devastating.
Opening your brand to comments and feedback can be a good thing. It can provide constructive feedback. Or it can create groundswell around your brand, energizing your sales and creating momentum. Sometimes it can have the opposite effect, and if left unattended it can slowly fester, leaving a bad impression on potential customers. Here’s a simple example.
I was reading a article on Mashable about business tools to spice up boring work tasks. As I am always looking for better ways to present ideas, I found the review of “Prezi” to be quite interesting. Looks like a pretty neat way to visualize ideas in a different way, adding impact and pizazz. So I decided to check it out and at first glance it looks like your typical social-media focused website. Clean, slick, not too cluttered. So far so good. What I also liked was that it offers up lots of good examples of how Prezi can be used to communicate ideas. Again, good stuff. But then as I started checking out several of the demos I found something that left the proverbial bad taste in my mouth. Each of their demos allow users to leave comments. This is one of those areas that either pay dividends or has the opposite effect – a loss of credibility. In my case, it was the latter. If you click on the image at the top of this post you will see a screenshot from one of the demos. As we all know, SPAM can be a bad thing. Here’s another example. Page after page of useless SPAM comments. There is some useful feedback hidden among all the SPAM, but who wants to spend the time looking for it? And it just goes on and on… Every Prezi demo that I checked out had some degree of SPAM in the comments. The value of what Prezi has to offer got lost to me. The SPAM won out on this one… sad.
So this begs a question – does it really matter? In the case of Prezi there are options that allow you to make your content private, shareable only with specified viewers. There are also offline options for embedding and playing in different environments. So there are ways to control the SPAM and negative image aspect of your message and brand. But for some, like me, the impression left by all the SPAM on the Prezi site lessens my enthusiasm about this kind of service. Sure, I can pay $59 pr $159 annual subscription and use the service under tighter control, ensuring that the value of my message doesn’t end up overshadowed by all the useless dribble left by people with nothing better to do, or worse, spam-bots.
Back to my question – does it really matter? To some it does. So my advice is pay attention to this stuff. Some of the comments on the Prezi site have been there for months. Is anybody looking at this? Maybe, and they don’t see it as a problem. Or maybe not, and they’re asleep at the switch. The question I would like to pose to Prezi (and I think I will) is “do you think the comments really add any value?” If “yes”, then why do you let the SPAM detract from their value? If “no”, then why allow comments at all?
I’ve always advocated the appointment of a “Chief Outreach Officer” – a person who oversees the social networking community that defines your brand. Maybe Prezi should appoint one – at least they’ll have a strategy – good or bad. You should appoint one also – your brand is too important to leave it unattended…