Just the other day I made a suggestion to another Ning creator they redefine their network as the “best” site for their respective niche. This was actually an exception to a social media principle I sometimes put out there. One of the natural temptations I think network creators face is defining their concept as the absolute best place to go online for whatever their niche is. You can see this all the time right in the early design phase where the ambition precedes the result. For instance, not too long ago I saw another Ning come out and the pitch was essentially that it was the best site for professionals to network, find jobs, etc. Before that I saw another similar site suggesting it was the best site for social media professionals to network and find jobs. I love the ambition and have to admit “I’ve been there”! Why not, right?
Well the problem has a lot to do with trends in social media. You can go back to business use of traditional media for a good starting reference. It used to be that very few organizations had the resources to advertise, so it was easier to justify they were the proprietary best at whatever they did. When the static web page came around and anyone could publish a site, 10’s of thousands of people followed suit to compete as the “best”. With the introduction of social sites, it’s not surprising to see the idea continued. In fact, just look to your own experience and consider how impressed you are whenever someone suggests to you their site should be your online destination of choice. Saying it is so does not make it so. I think people are now more discriminating than ever. Chances are, if you are suggesting you are the absolute best, the reaction might be that you are not being honest with yourself, that you are overly-ambitious, and even that you are insulting their intelligence.
So “absolute” is an aspect of value proposition that suggests you are either the only choice or best compared to others. You know everything is relative, so you could say that about however you decide to position. However, I’ll tell you the most important relational perspective is not where you say you stand with respect to competition, but how you relate to your target market. There’s nothing wrong with striving to offer a better product, but if that is your basis for relating to others, you can consider yourself to be relatively the same as everyone else from the perspective of your audience.
Thus “relative” is an aspect of value proposition that suggests you are whatever people make you out to be. Think about it. Who is the authority- “you” or “them”? In the emerging dynamic of social media, what used to be the sole proprietary advantage has now become overshadowed by social authority. You can say you are the most likable, but someone else focused on giving people what they really want might be the one getting all the “Likes”. You can say you are #1, but someone else might be winning the popularity contest with each +1 they get.
O.K. then, so why did I suggest this other Ning creator redefine their network as the “best” site for their respective niche? Well, it starts with how they were positioned against their competition. Their competitors are businesses with relatively static websites, they provide content for the sake of increasing sales of products, and they add the value of social media for the purpose of drawing attention to their companies. Each professes to be the absolute best online destination and one-stop shop for people in the niche, but the most they have to show for that are slightly higher SEO listings. However, this network creator actually has the social authority to back up that claim. He’s got far better qualitative traffic statistics- that people don’t bounce, but stay longer, return, and join. He’s got almost ten thousand members who appreciate his content for the sake of passion in the niche, and the social media is there for the purpose of supporting a common interest community.
In his case, I actually think he’s the absolute best because of the fact he’s relative to people. His problem, in my professional opinion, was that he was trying to compete as a relative equal with static business sites when nobody comes close to competing with him as a social network.
With that said, sometimes you do need to give people more of an absolute value so they can get a fix on you. With a social network it starts with you the creator, so it’s smarter to begin with letting people decide where you stand from their own perspective rather than trying to put the idea in their mind. However, once you do have the social authority behind you, there is something to be said about the separation you’ve created to justify you are more competitive with the likes of static sites. Next, I’m going to be going into this more on my Ning Creator’s group A Social Media Dojo. So, if interested in learning more about how I’m applying this principle, stay tuned for Absolute vs. Relative In Social Media.
Very good post. Reminds me of my network as we used to say were your #1 as to state this maybe the best you've seen,yet at the time we were still working on being the best. Now we look at our selfs as number one and so do others.
I say don't speak as if you are number one and just make your site seem and function as if it is number one soon it might.
I really think it's an emerging dynamic of social media. Traditional static sites kind of have to tell people what to think, but social sites are a feedback loop, so you need to walk the walk before you talk the talk.
some extremely well explained propositions in this piece...nice job!
It's kind of a tricky subject. I think about it all the time. You know the elevator pitch- it's easier for you to put forward that you've got the next great thing, but also easier for people to shoot that suggestion down. So there's a balance to it where you can get the best traction.
Thanks for the compliments!