What Are We Fighting For?
The recent entrance of Google+ has ruffled more than a few feathers high in the tree tops of our social media jungle. Facebook in particular has been responding to the competition by introducing various features, such as the ‘improved’ “friends lists” that allows the user to choose which category of connections sees what information.
The solution has to come from the end point- what, in its simplest form, do your consumers want? Who is giving it to them? How can you improve that offer through innovation? Be warned; it may mean the end of the fight.
Another recent feature allows the user to subscribe to the feed of any other user, no matter how disconnected, providing the latter agrees to publicly display their feed. The first of these new features is obviously a direct counter-move against Google+, the second, an interesting attack aimed at the more established Twitter.
But what is Facebook really trying to achieve here? Isn’t the potential market for social networking sites so vast that users will have profiles across all sites, for different segments of their lives? If so, a traditional competitive strategy may be inappropriate for an environment where loyalty shifts quicker than you can say “hashtag”. Wouldn’t open collaboration be a far better solution?
Due to their seemingly panicked reaction to Google+ as a new entrant, Facebook would also no doubt have been rattled by the eagerness of certain politicians to establish themselves on Google+, desperate to ‘engage’ with the public on a newer and less renowned social platform. David Cameron, posting no less than 106 comments in 15 hours, was criticised for not asking relevant questions but just posting for posting’s sake.
Another question therefore arises, do we as users even truly get what we want from social networking- or is the ‘build it and they will come’ game still on? Considering the example of the PM who would most likely be judged as fuddy-duddy if absent from our online conversations, it is likely that he may never win the war.
Despite the current necessity for individuals and businesses to have an online presence, the question arises as to whether competition between the different online factions will cause further confusion and frustration amongst users who, at the heart of it, simply want to communicate, connect, or gather information easily. Apparently one of the core reasons Google+ entered the social networking world was its fear that 700million users were spending too much time on Facebook, opening up valuable advertising opportunities for their opponent. But will FB users be happy if they are constantly bombarded with ads while conversing with friends?
In my opinion, there is a danger of overcomplicating the features on any social networking site, confusing competition with commercial viability and forgetting the core needs of the end consumer. The Facebook example sends a message to all businesses wanting to rethink their competitive strategy. The solution has to come from the end point- what, in its simplest form, do your consumers want? Who is giving it to them? How can you improve that offer through innovation? Be warned; it may mean the end of the fight.
To find out more about open collaboration and ‘making the competition irrelevant’ at www.blueoceanstrategy.com