Differentiating in the commoditized world of social media

July 9, 2013

The next Facebook/YouTube/Twitter/Etc. for [Insert target market here] websites and apps have been appearing at an exponential rate lately. All these clone-like services beg the question: just how do you differentiate a brand that is commoditizing social media?

The Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Uber, etc. for wine/hipsters/cars/whatever can be fantastic and even be the next potential social media hit. But, only if it hits upon several key factors. Otherwise, it’s just another digital piece of fluff that many will try out but few will use in the long term.

Some new brands take a referential approach to their primary differentiator. “We’re like X, but we focus on this slice of the proverbial pie.” or “While X focuses on apples, we’re focusing on coconuts! We just use the same processes as X does.”

Positioning yourself for a niche market, while utilizing the same services and style as a direct competitor, is a cheap and ineffective way to reach your consumers. If your brand can’t stand on its own, why should consumers support it? Yes, companies like Facebook or Twitter evolve and change over time, but they provide a specific set of core services.

If you’re going to differentiate, do it with purpose. Focus on something that X doesn’t have/cover/utilize/leverage and expand upon that opening. Don’t do it just because X is popular and you want in on the action. Do it because you can provide consumers with services that X doesn’t.

Providing value to consumers that your peers don’t is the best way of attracting and retaining them. Provide value that peers don’t. This can be a smoother cross-platform UI, which scales smoothly between screen sizes and OSs. Or, it could be as simple as providing the consumer with the extras that X doesn’t, can’t, or refuses to offer.

Remember, it takes time to show just what your brand can do, so start with the core communications: A mission and vision statement. Explain what your company stands for and what it strives to become. Your communications will most likely be the first contact consumers will have with you, so make it count.

The whole “If you build it, they will come.” Method just doesn’t cut it anymore. If you don’t communicate your positioning, differentiation, and value to consumers, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’re going to become the next Facebook, Twitter, or other social media of choice.

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