Self-styled bon-vivant celebrity, Fonzworth Bentley has gone from relative obscurity to global recognition, first as Sean 'Puffy' Combs valet turned protege and now as TV host and aspiring hip hop artist. But for all the ambition and drive his rise to fame exhibits, his online presence is a veritable how-NOT-to lesson for brands large and small.
First off, it's important to note that Fonzworth came to my attention due to his exceptional hip-hop performance in a song called 'Fireside Chat'. It's a gorgeous tune reminiscent of the classic hip-hop stylings of De La Soul and Digable Planets. Mr. Bentley himself possesses an engaging and characteristic voice with which he poeticizes thoughtful and engaging lyrics. I have to admit it was some of the finest hip-hop I've heard in years and as such I immediately went online to discover more about this new (to me at least) artist. It was then that I discovered what an absolute train-wreck online brand management can become.
After some digging (more than should have been required) I discovered that Fonzworth Bentley was the stage name of a former restaurant manager, Derrick Watkins, who had shot to fame through the unlikeliest of roles; umbrella bearer. Of course it didn't hurt that the man standing under Fonzworth's umbrella was none other than brand mogul and media icon Sean 'Puffy' Combs. It was also Fonzworth's good fortune that Combs was willing to, if for public consumption only, allow Fonzworth to market himself as Combs' protege. It was a role Bentley undertook with relish, and parlayed into a TV gig, a record deal, and a slew of a-list party invitations beyond enumeration.
Online however, dropping the name Fonzworth Bentley is unlikely to get you into any VIP sections. Using examples from the first page of Google search results for 'Fonzworth Bentley' (does any page beside the first even matter?) it's possible to teach an entire SEO course in how to mis-manage an online brand.
RESULT #1 - Wikipedia
Of course Wikipedia comes up usually in the top five for almost any search so this is no surprise. What is surprising is how, knowing this FB's people have allowed his Wiki to contain so many errors, the worst of which is a link to his 'official website' - a parked domain.
LESSON - Check your brand's Wikipedia entry for errors and out-dated information and update it as necessary with relevant news.
RESULT #2 - fonzworthbentley.com
Now, you'd think this would be excellent placement for FB's official website and you'd be right, if it was FB's official website.
The middle school grammar, empty and incomplete directories, and Wordpress 1.0 default style pallet makes me think it's a fan tribute page. Which is just fine, I mean, everybody wants fans of their brand right? The only problem is you probably don't want some obsessed teen with ADHD controlling your online brand identity by showing up at the top of your Google ranking.
LESSON - Make sure you get your most desired domain name (IE YourBrand.com) or, failing that, hire an SEO expert to make sure you outrank your "Number One Fan!"
RESULT #3 - Fonzworth Bentley (cooloutrageous) on Twitter
Finally, we are 'in touch' with FB! Unfortunately his Twitter site tells us even less about him than the previously mentioned fan tribute page. I'm not a fan of 'tweets' - I think it's rightfully named seeing as it's an obsessive fad for twits - but my personal preferences aside it is a social networking tool, not a brand building tool.
LESSON - No matter how many trucker caps you own your Twitter account is merely a method of preaching to the converted. If you really want to evangelize your brand this is the LAST avenue for focusing your efforts.
RESULT #4 - FB on MySpace
Sure, MySpace is the refuge for teens, tweens and shut-ins but it's a place rife with opportunities for posting biographical info, sound clips, pictures and so on. Everything the budding Hip-Hop artist needs for promotion. So here we go...clicking the link...
Uhmm...hmmm. Page load error.
OK - reloading. Still no page.
OK - checking on another browser. Nope.
Wow, nice blank, broken MySpace page you got there FB!
LESSON - Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Why bother even setting up any sort of social networking account if you aren't going to update and maintain it? If I wasn't interested about expounding on some search engine optimisation lessons - if I was just some dude looking for info - I'm not even going to bother trying to reload or test a broken page with another browser, I'm just going to move on. Oh, and I'm going to take a negative brand impression away with me as a bonus.
To Be Continued...
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion, where we find the elusive Fonzworth Bentley website and discover it almost worse than having no website at all!