The “social computing vendor” market grows daily. From consulting services, application developers and custom platform operators it seems that all this “social stuff” has created an industry whose offerings grow daily.
As major brands and institutions migrate toward use of social technologies the differences in vendors makes the space even more confusing and complex for organizations to sort through the hype and define what is real and relevant.
It is ironic that many of the suppliers who claim to know the “art and science” of social media have limited hands on experience in using “social stuff”. Academics and consultants publish articles, books and papers on the science of all this social stuff. CEO’s of platforms and application companies proclaim their insights as if it were the “word from the heavens above filled with wisdom and prophecy”. While there are keen insights smart people can obtain from observing the market and related dynamics the more useful insights come from actual usage of the technology and interactions with other users.
Commenting on the dynamics and disruptive nature of all this social stuff without having used it is like teaching students how to build a car but never having the experience of driving one. An expert can tell you how the car engine works, the suspension, the steering etc. but unless they have actually driven a car they cannot effectively share the experience of use.
What Is The Difference?
Today’s social media tools and related technology is built by technologist and engineers. After talking with many of the top developers and platform operators it dawned on me that they don’t actually use the very tools they build. Not having the experience with the technology you build limits one’s comprehension of its use.
I was recently in conversations with a major platform developer. The company has been successful in selling their “platform” to numerous major brands. The executive team was made up of some very smart people with Fortune 500 experience and Ivy League education. Before my conversation with the executive team I decided to check out each person’s profile and activity throughout the social web. Here is what I found:
1. They had profiles on Linkedin and Facebook but no one individual was connected to more than 50 people
2. None of the executive team members had ever created or maintained a blog
3. Most of the executive team had a Twitter” account but kept their profiles and exchanges private
4. No one on the executive team had a Friendfeed account
5. None of the executive team members had either set up or participated in any group exchanges on Linkedin or Facebook.
The list of what I found and did not find relative to the executive team’s participation within the social web is much more extensive than just the five listed above. The point is while the executive team represented very smart people whom had either built or read about social tools none of them had much experience using the tools. Yet they seem to be successful selling the technology to major brands. However, now their customers are asking for help building their intended communities.
So here we have a company that knows how to build good technology but their customers are now asking “how best to use it”. This is an example of what is know as the difference between the core and the context of a company’s offerings. The context is that which provided a company’s entry into a market. Context can quickly become a commodity. The core is that which provides a company the means to continuously grow their market position through product/service differential. In reference to the company discussed in this post the context is their original technological platform. Their core would be having the knowledge and the resources to help their customers build outstanding communities. Without actually knowing how to use their context it becomes impossible to create the core.
Without the context you cannot gain the position to create your core. Without the core you cannot insure your position and enhance your value with the market you’ve been serving. It is vital to have both context and continuously create the core. Do you use what you sell? Get it?
What say you?