Here’s my initial impression, after a 20-minute phone call Friday with BzzAgent founder and CEO Dave Balter (pictured at right):
A “brands community” was a long time in coming, and I’m glad to see that BzzAgent has incorporated some of the best feature sets of social media in stirring interest among its 550,000-strong army of volunteer buzzsters. (FastCompany had a good writeup about BzzAgent here.) We’re a brand-addicted nation of Starbucks-sipping, Oakley-wearing, Apple-worshipping, Wii-playing consumers — when we’re not wearing our blogging/citizen journalist/video producer hats — and BuzzAgent is betting that enough of us in Crowdsource Land will want to built virtual altars to express our feel-good mojo about the stuff we love.
Love a brand? Head over to BzzScapes and create a landing page around the product or service you get juiced about. (BzzScapes are free to build.) Then watch as dozens or hundreds of other buzz-folk layer on their own content: photos, videos, testimonials, graphics — it all creates a digital footprint or mediascape of the public’s impression of a brand.
Say, that could prove to be valuable information to a marketer, you say? Exactly. By letting its biggest fans gather digital content and create a sort of fan boy Web presence — and watching other people rank and rate the content — companies can gain valuable information about how they’re perceived by the public. I suspect Balter is right in predicting that companies will reach out to its most ardent advocates to share products, solicit feedback and cultivate a new generation of evangelists. Marketers, however, will not be allowed to pay people to flack their products.
The brands’ role
It would be easy for such a venture to be derailed by conflicts of interest and the impression that companies can tailor their image on BzzScapes, so Balter wants the word to go out: Your company cannot alter the content created by BzzScapes users. Your brand can, however, add additional content (that will be judged by the community), poll the community, and cultivate relationships with the most active participants.
“We want consumers to decide what’s important about the brand,” Balter said.
A few years ago such a site would have been unthinkable — trademark law is notoriously slanted against repurposing of company logos, for instance. (Here are two articles about recent contretemps.) But Balter said, “A lot of precedent has emerged around fair use. We’re not creating the content” around these brands but merely pointing to the images and videos that reside on other sites. In other words, the lawyers have looked at this closely and believe there’s a business to be had.
BzzScapes is starting off with partnerships from such major brands as Procter & Gamble, Ford, Colgate, Philips, Clorox, Penguin Publishing and Walgreens. “They’re jazzed about the possibilities here,” Balter said. “It gets them real advocates through another level of engagement. It’ll be interesting to see what the public finds valuable. This is the stuff that matters to the people who matter.”
The site has been in private beta for a few weeks but it went live a few hours ago. Check it out.
JD Lasica is founder of Socialmedia.biz. We work with large and mid-size businesses and organizations on social media strategies and optimizing your online presence. Contact JD by email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.