What’s Best in Social Media – Innovate or Improver?
What is your social media entrepreneur style…innovator or improver? Which is best and why? As a nationwide social media management firm, we have worked with both types; from early innovators to downright laggards, there are pro’s and con’s associated with having an early advantage as well as entering the game late. Today we are going to provide some insight into industry practices which few other professional dare discuss; the good, bad and ugly surrounding the decision to gain an early advantage versus the cost benefit of waiting on the side lines. More importantly, we will cover who should wait, when and why as well as those that should always attempt to gain the early advantage.
Innovate or Improve…that is the Question
When it comes to cultivating a robust social media presence, there are two types of small business entrepreneurs…those that build it from the ground up (aka innovate) and those that wait on the sidelines until all the early kinks are worked out of the system and then make incremental changes (aka Improvers). The decision to innovate or improve upon an existing format isn’t always as simple as it may sound especially for small business owners with limited time or funds available. Fortunately, after working with business owners of all sizes throughout the nation, our social media managers are in a great position to pass along some important tips and considerations for others that may be in the difficult decision-making process.
Throughout most of the industrial age, common wisdom held that the early advantage made possible via innovation was absolutely critical to the success of a company. After all, innovation has some distinct advantages especially when it comes to social media marketing. For instance, it often gains a great deal of publicity and a large loyal following because it is new and exciting. Advertising and marketing may come easily since there is literally little to no other competition. Of course, perhaps most important of all…being the only provider nearly assures that anyone interested in participating will immediately become a client or follow your services.
On the other hand, critics of the early advantage position say that improvement – not innovation – is where most gains will come into play. Unlike the industrial age, the information era is dominated by fast and furious productivity gains making the need for speed ever more important while simultaneously minimizing the profit margins associated with development. While the first to market may indeed make a big splash among consumers, lack of profitability and fully functional features often results in the 2nd or even 3rd to market making a better impression. Perhaps one of the most notable social media examples of this phenomena in action is the MySpace.com versus Facebook.com scenario. MySpace was first to market and originally held a dominant position in the newly emerging social media sphere but lack of features combined with low cost Facebook entry point resulted in the 2nd mover advantage ultimately propelling Facebook into the financial books while MySpace rapidly became all but a distant memory.
Size Does Matter
Clear, the question of whether or not to innovate or improve isn’t all that simple especially when it comes to social media. This is one area where size really does matter. Large corporations, especially those that create an actual product, still need to focus on innovation and gaining an early advantage. On the other hand, small business owners may actually outperform others by taking a slightly less aggressive approach that utilizes improvements rather than innovation. Not only are the profit margins better but they also have to spend less time on educating consumers about the valid uses and methods of gaining acceptance…especially if the business is an information or service.
There is an exception to the innovate versus improve debate; local social listings. Once a business has gained widespread acceptance among the general population it is imperative to gain a competitive advantage at the local level especially for information and service related concerns. Local social search, like that made possible thanks to Google, is becoming a “must have” among business owners. Not only does it provide a distinct advantage when challenging major nationwide initiatives in your local market but local social search is able to enhance other important forms of social media marketing as well as SEO, mobile etc… Local consumers are especially loyal – once they sign up with a given provider, they tend to stick with them longer, spend more and provide ample word-of-mouth marketing in their immediate area. In fact, there is absolutely NO advantage to waiting.
In a Nutshell
So, in a nutshell. When it comes to social media, it’s often better to improve upon an existing mousetrap rather than a build a new one except when it comes to local social marketing. Unlike the industrial age, the information age is built upon incremental changes with better service and more rapid transitions. Consumers are less likely to adopt new technology until it has been demonstrated to provide relevant results and outcomes. On the other hand, rushing to enter into a new market not only has additional costs but an educational burden making it feasible for only the “big boys”. Local social marketing has no such restrictions and is able to level the playing field enabling small town entrepreneurs to gain valuable first mover advantage, loyal longtime patrons and increased awareness for a fraction of the cost.