Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Content or Platform?

Yesterday I was talking to a guy from a large media company about its social media strategy. The company is already successfully using social media for distributing and sharing content with its customers, but it doesn't have as much corporate presence as it might like. How might we use social media to talk about ourselves, to let people know about, say, job vacancies or our corporate ethics, he asked.

A media company is judged by its customers according to the range and quality of the content it provides - the company essentially provides a platform for this content. But how do you talk about the platform without interfering with the content? Will customers be turned off if we use the platform to talk about the platform?

At one extreme, there will be customers who really don't want to know about the platform at all. @dgwbirch tweets "I don't want to be friends with my bank, I want to be friends with my bank account. I want to follow my credit card, not my issuer".

But at the other extreme, there will be customers who may value other kinds of interaction. For example, a media company is always swamped with requests from young people for internships and work experience, and we can only grant a limited number of these requests. But suppose we could use social media to give a much larger number of young people the opportunity to develop some skills and show what they are capable of, provide them with decent feedback, and allow them to earn some token of experience that they could mention on their CVs.

Note how an innovative approach to strategy (in this case social media strategy) is driven by a quest - looking for different and innovative ways of creating direct and indirect value within our ecosystem. The widespread success of social media depends significantly on the fact that people are motivated by all sorts of things other than money.

When I was a teenager, I entered a DJ competition, for which I had to nominate three singles. I chose one current hit, one old hit, and one new release. I failed to win the competition, and I guessed that my choice had been too obscure for the mainstream. The new release I had chosen was a folksy cover version of a song by Joni Mitchell; several months later, it started to get some airplay and shot to number one. I'm sure there's a lesson there somewhere.

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