First Mover Advantage Doesn’t Matter

…if you’re moving in the wrong direction.

Big numbers are big news, and if you want to know the moment when businesses all over the world “switched on” to thinking about Social Media as being a massive opportunity for driving additional revenue, you need to look no further than December 2008 when it was revealed that Dell had generated $1 million in sales directly from their Dell Outlet Twitter account.

You can hear similar stories about socially aware companies doing well on Facebook too – so well in fact that ASOS opened a fully transactional store on Facebook in January this year, and have apparently done very well from it.

Stories that include big numbers are exciting to big business and big minded business.  managing directors read them and salivate about the prospect of driving huge sales volume at no (or limited) cost.  It’s exciting.  Back in December 2008 when Dell announced the million in revenue, Twitter had around a million monthly users, about 18 months later when Dell announced that they had sold $6.5 million in inventory via twitter, the monthly visitor number for Twitter was around 6.5 million.  There’s a correlation here somewhere.

Didn’t they do well

The reason Dell and ASOS both did incredibly well on Twitter and Facebook is not because their products are amazing.  It’s because they instinctively knew what social users wanted:  Something cool that they could share with other people.  I like a deal as much as anyone, and if I can find a way to tell my mates about getting a laptop for £100 rather than £500, I’m going to do that.  If I find a pair of shoes that go well with a friend’s dress, then I’m going to tell her <= Disregard that, not gonna happen.

Dell’s approach to twitter with Dell Outlet was perfectly in tune with the transient nature of the stream.  The offers were short term, exciting, and shareworthy.  ASOS’ synergy with an immersive, visually led social environment like Facebook is obvious, and it works.

Of course neither of these companies succeeded without trying, they got things right, and they worked hard to ensure that they kept them right, but at the centre of the achievement is the idea of matching their commercial proposition well with both the audience and the means of delivery.

The Arctic Monkeys - Big on MySpace
The Arctic Monkeys - Big on MySpace

This is a story that has been played out before – The Arctic Monkeys on MySpace sold a million downloads ahead of their album launch, and Lily Allen also did pretty well at redefining the A&R process for major record labels.

Getting the most out of a channel means understanding what makes that channel work, and using it to your advantage.

A New Playing Field

Google+ is of course the new Twitter/Facebook/MySpace.  There’s been no public confirmation of how many people have moved across to the platform yet, but rumours seem to put the number at around 7 million.  That’s more than were on Twitter when Dell were doing £500K per month.

Google +1 Button
Google +1 Button

Google+ is not Twitter or Facebook.  It is it’s own platform with its own USPs.  The audience is different – although it will become as homogeneous as either Facebook or Twitter given time.  Ignoring the audience, which is currently made up mostly of tech aware early adopters, the platform for Google+ offers a huge opportunity in the form of hangouts and sparks.

If you think about Twitter as being a stream of consciousness, and Facebook as a network of recommendations, then the idea of a Hangout where you can present content at an appointed time to an audience.  For me, the company that will succeed best on Google+ will be the one that can build and then leverage an audience with how to / Q&A / Webinar content that can be presented in real time and be responsive to users.

Products that are either highly visual (clothes / consumer tech / furniture / cars) lend themselves well to a video presentation, also concepts that are complex but can be explained simply in a visual way would do well – think about popular science shows on TV.

A good example of a company that does video in an engaging way to promote their products would be Blendtec.  But they’re a bit web 2.0 for me :).  Google+ can be about a much richer user experience based on conversation.