One Best Business Strategy for Facebook, Twitter, Digg or LinkedIn

In Twitter isn’t the point, Holly Ross of NTEN comments on a study showing that influence and word of mouth are becoming more important than ever to consumer behavior, and more of it is happening online. She goes on:

I think we’re missing the mark, though.  It’s not really about Twitter.  It’s not about Facebook.  It’s not about whatever the next buzzword is.

It’s about friends.

It’s about building real relationships that inspire people to act on your behalf.  That’s the skill we should focus on building. Whether it’s Twitter or Digg or Facebook or LinkedIn, it’s about those relationships.

We have to teach ourselves to operate that way again.

We commonly use phrases like “Facebook Strategy” or “Mobile Strategy,” but we’d never talking about building a house in terms of “Hammer Strategy.”   The technologies are just tools and our language is tricking us.

When we’re wowed by case-studies showing off the power and effectiveness of these tools, we’re really being impressed the underlying strategy, a powerful one that we can all take advantage of.

It’s easy to forget that it has always been one of the best business and marketing strategies to make friends. We do that by focusing on others, on listening to them and meeting their needs. How will your business be making friends and thriving in 2009?

WSJ: Respond strategically to Web 2.0 or be left behind

If you haven’t already, read what the Wall Street Journal has to say about: The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World.

It’s short, well-written, and says again what we need to keep hearing about how companies need respond strategically to Web 2.0. It’s not just implementing promotional marketing programs there as if it were a new media channel to add to the mix.

Remember how companies were left behind in the nineties. It wasn’t because they didn’t develop a web site or an email list quickly enough, it was because they didn’t have a good response to the changing environment and competition. They needed to add offerings and/or change positioning to carve out a new niche in the new world. Mobile and social media are causing even bigger shifts.

Consumers are flocking to blogs, social-networking sites and virtual worlds. And they are leaving a lot of marketers behind.

  • A New Approach: Marketing these days is more about building a two-way relationship with consumers. Web 2.0 tools are a powerful way to do that.
  • The Pioneers: A growing number of companies are learning how to collaborate with consumers online on product development, service enhancement and promotion.
  • The Lessons: From these early efforts, a set of marketing principles have emerged. Among them: get consumers involved in all aspects of marketing, listen to and join the online conversation about your products outside your site, and give the consumers you work with plenty of leeway to express their opinions.

Experience: the essential competitive advantage

I camped on the street last night in front of 1 Stockton, the San Francisco Apple Store.  I’ll be here until 8am tomorrow.

Reporters ask “why?”
It’s a great question.  And it occurs to me that every business should be answering this question, too.
What would make anyone want to camp in line for a new product release?
What would make someone do that in my industry or for one of my products?
What do people in line say?
What do those who pass by say?
How do they feel after the line is done and they’re buying and using the product and service?
(I’ve had some great conversations with the homeless about what a one-man tent costs, or where they sleep and how they live.  What’s it like to talk to people you don’t think of as part of your market, or you wouldn’t normally have a conversation with?)
Of course, the answers must extend beyond marketing, to every aspect of the product, how it is sold, delivered and serviced.
I may be preaching to the choir, but only dinosaurs will keep competing primarily on price, features, or ad dollars. Others have gone on at length about some of the reasons (Seth Godin, for example).
Watching an Apple Store for 24 hours, and talking to people about it is a great example of how all the little details are accounted for, from the security guard who says goodnight to the friendly staff who all greet you with a smile, to the window cleaner who spends 90 minutes here each morning at 6am and the free internet I’m using to type this on a store computer while charging my old iPhone.
I’m not a fan of Apple in particular.  I’m a fan of anyone who understands the power of good design (understood in the broad sense) and delivers a fantastic end-to-end experience.
If you aren’t asking these questions for your business, it’s just a matter of time until someone comes along and eats your lunch by delivering a dramatically improved experience. And they’ll do it without using any special magic, just by paying attention and asking different questions.
If your organization operates in silos with no way to account for the experience a user has throughout the process, expect the same.  Saying “we’re customer focused” doesn’t make it so.  What do your customers say?
The answers you come up with today may be less important than continuing to ask the questions, to be curious, and to be out there talking to people and watching them.
So come join me in line, start asking the questions, looking, and listening, and lets talk about some of the answers.
(I’ve written several posts about the iPhone and User Experience that you might find interesting, perha