Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nobody wants to be optional. Design a social strategy based on competition to be the not optional choice.

Secret Society album cover
Nobody on the web wants to be optional. Everybody wants some attention. A social media strategy has to meet that demand so the competition doesn’t drown you out.

To clarify your strategy for social media, you have to start with competition. Everybody in business at some point will face the enemy and you must be trained and fit to head into battle. Sometimes you might have met the enemy and the enemy was us. Not specifically you as in the Pogo enemy meaning, but it happens when you have a captive market because you are an internal organization.

Information technology groups traditionally have been designed to serve the enterprise and don’t do much, if any, marketing and sales. It’s usually done at the managers’ meetings through trust and promises. But these owner-customers are not committed to use the only game in town because they don’t have to. LinkedIn can give you a trusted network to find solutions from multiple clandestine meetings in technology groups.

Another place social networks have influenced traditional internal service providers is through the freelancing sites that bring together bidders on projects and sometimes help you manage them with necessary transparency. The top freelance sites these days are (in order of Alexa ranking):
Small and mid-sized companies have the greatest benefits in using these outsourced web development and graphics services but even government and non-profit organizations are feeling the competition.

Value niches

What makes an internal technology group compelling is the value that they bring to the table. The strategy behind not losing your customers is to know how you provide a different and unique value to your customers.

Customers usually want value in economic terms, but with public services, such as government agencies, it can also come in the form of social welfare. What customers can perceive is your giant web site filled with a tremendous stock of knowledge and thought leadership. What they can perceive is your great reputation through superior customer service. They also look at the price tag and match you up with your competitors’ products to see if they want the dependable Blackberry, the innovative iPhone, or the uber-innovative Droid.

Strategic assets

Another way that you look at competition is in what kinds of assets you have versus what your competitor has. Assets aren’t always physical and if we consider the typical knowledge service, or blogger / tweeter / social networker, we find that the assets are mostly intangible. We all have the same computer and the same internet. It makes you ask the question why, when I tweet my pithy aphorisms, I don’t get offered book deals and television show contracts too just like Justin Halpern did this week.

The strategic asset here, the grumpy dad, provided Halpern with his crusty core competence in the tradition of Will Rogers and Archie Bunker. He also has a distinctive performance for keeping up the dialog and an ability to participate in the market that appreciates it. I’m hoping that he has a chip off the old block enough to keep up his durability for the hungry media.

Thinking about these assets is the same way that an investment in production systems or research and development labs is made. There’s considerable value in people, processes, knowledge and infrastructure as well as intellectual property like brands and patents.

It’s thinking about these assets and competition through a structured approach such as ITIL that allows you to create real social networks that work. Your ability to be a knowledge service will depend on how you compete.

More than money

Just having a cost advantage over your competitors isn’t enough. Efficiency isn’t enough because the price isn’t that high whether I follow Justin or I follow Roland Hedley. Lowering your cost anymore would mean that you pay people to follow you. And there are strategic businesses even based on that if all you want is followers but I wouldn’t call it doing social networking. It’s scummy old Public Relations 1.0.

Other strengths can be vital assets. We can earn more respect by helping others learn a new way to leverage social networks or take on a new scale because of the amount of attention we’ve drawn on the web. As a knowledge service, you can better serve your viewing public by understanding the uncertainties, compromises and questions that your viewers have.

The key to the strategy is to decide on the business goal you have that makes you different from the rest of the marketing bots. You have to be perceived as the better value. You have to be the not optional choice.

Image via Wikipedia

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