Differentiation Thru Conversation: BeBee and the Quest for Market Share
THE LION'S SHARE OF ANY MARKET GOES TO THE FIRM THAT BEST DIFFERENTIATES ITSELF FROM THE COMPETITION...
Preface: This piece could have been titled "With Some More Help For My Friends", as it is, in many respects, a natural sequel to "With a Little Help For My Friends" And yes, I realize that what follows may not be any of my business. However, that has never before stopped me from voicing an opinion.
But before I do that, I need to make note of the following: While I was working on this piece, Milos Djukic initiated a discussion by sharing a LinkedIn post by Mark M-G entitled, "Time to Ask an Important Question". Mark's piece questioned whether LI-designated "Influencers" were using the platform to accomplish anything significant. And Milos's share of the article generated a what I believe is a significant comment thread which eventually turned to considering what beBee is doing or not doing to build credibility for its platform. The discussion attached to that share should not, I think, be missed, so I include reference to it here and recommend that you read that discussion, as well as Mark M-G's article.
Differentiation In a market sector is almost always the most direct path to achieving a major market share...
Every marketing person worth his or her salt knows that one key objective is to differentiate one's firm or product from the competition in the marketplace. In my experience, the most direct path to increased market share is via such differentiation ― combined with the offer of non-price-comparable value in the product or service being marketed.
Admittedly, the strategy of self-differentiating is often rejected by firms in their quest for market penetration. Instead, some decide to self-position directly opposite the firm or firms (or products or services) they perceive as the top competitor(s) in the relevant market segment.
And to offer either
1) more benefits and value at the same price, or
2) the same value and benefits at a lower price.
A good example of this scenario was Volvo when it decided to position its newly introduced S80 touring sedan opposite BMW and Mercedes-Benz luxury sedans in the same price range.
The idea in such cases is to pick off some of the "leader's" market share by becoming associated in the buyer's mind with that leader's benefits and delivered value. If you like, credibility (instead of guilt) by association.
Sometimes it's better not to position directly opposite the market leader..
As I see it, the danger is that, in many cases, the market leader will kick the challenger's ass, if the latter insists on pursuing a point-by-point comparison. And this is Independent of any "interpretive" spin the challenger may try to overlay on the comparison.
For example, not too long ago, I read some statements that made a direct comparison of beBee to LinkedIn, which I have no doubt were made with sincere intent. The problem is the claims don't hold up.
1) LinkedIn is restricted to professional interests, whereas beBee combines professional and personal interests.
Fact is, there are more than 2,000 groups on LI devoted to "personal" interests, including but not limited to creative writing, art appreciation and collecting, amateur photography, music appreciation, automobile lovers, boating enthusiasts, cooking and other crafts, sports fans, and various athletic pursuits.
2) LinkedIn is restricted in terms of making new connections, whereas beBee enables you to make new connections who have interests in common with you.
Fact is, LinkedIn users are not limited to past and present connections, but are making new connections all the time. Perhaps, the real question is or ought to be how many of those connections are strong, meaningful, or useful.
3) LinkedIn restricts you to connecting by invitation only, whereas beBee supports one-way following.
Fact is that, beside the two-way "connections" that require mutual acceptance, LI users are able to "follow" other users in a one-way, open mode.
4) LinkedIn groups are "closed", whereas beBee hives are open.
Actually, LinkedIn effectively eliminated "closed" groups more than a year ago, in a move that completely undermined the ability of professionals to operate and manage meaningful industry- and profession-specific groups.
As I will argue later in this post, beBee should be moving to provide the group management tools for hives, on an optional basis, that LinkedIn foolishly abandoned in its misguided quest for increased algorithmic control.
5) LinkedIn charges for basic services, whereas beBee is 100% free.
Again, the fact is that LI does not charge a fee for a "basic" account, which includes the tools to 1) build a professional identity on the web, 2) build a network of connections and followers, 3) request up to five introductions at a time, 4) search for and view the profiles of other LI members, 5) receive unlimited InMail messages (although not send them), and 6) save up to three searches, and get weekly alerts on these searches.
None of which is to say that LinkedIn is better than beBee. It is to say that, if beBee is indeed a better platform than LI (and I believe that it is), there are better ways to demonstrate that claim to superiority.
The BIG FACT is that beBee beats LinkedIn and other major social media platforms on several counts that uniquely differentiate it from other social media platforms...
First and perhaps foremost, beBee has responsive ownership and management who are growing and evolving the platform in accord with the perceived interests and preferences of its user base.
I don't know about you guys, but I have never, ever heard personally from Jeff Weiner, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, or any other social media mogul. I have, however, several times received personal and direct messages from Javier Rica and Juan Imaz. That is not a big difference; it is a HUGE difference.
Second, beBee's Producer sub-platform comes about as close to being true "volkspublishing" as you can get.
As I see it, the publishing sub-platform is the heart of contemporary social media, which is one reason why LinkedIn experienced geometric growth following the introduction of its long-post self-publishing feature -- and why, by the way, it was driven to the folly of not allowing Pulse to grow and thrive organically, but instead to seek to control and direct it algorithmically.
Javier beBee and Juan Imaz have committed to the stable organic growth of the Producer publishing platform. And indeed have committed publicly to delivering 100% of a writer's posts to 100% of that writer's followers 100% of the time -- another HUGE differentiator for beBee versus LinkedIn and the other platforms such as Facebook.
A third big plus on beBee's side of the ledger is its policy of nurturing the organic growth of personal and business networks on the platform, rejoicing in their development, rather than treating them as a threat -- the latter being something I long suspected LinkedIn of doing.
The fourth and final point in this string of differentiators is the fact that the "conversation" on beBee is on average more literate, colorful, and intellectually lively than what I've seen on LI in all the years since I first joined in 2009.
BeBee implicitly encourages all manner of creativity and does, in general, live up to its claim to have a place for everyone -- even the likes of Jim Able who delights in taking satiric pokes at beBee, its ownership, and its buzzing bees.
BeBee may "bee" able to differentiate itself from the competition, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...
Yea, I know, I know. Here's where I defend myself against the frequent charge that I am too positive.
As I've said several times before, I am an early-adopter of beBee, as well as a friend and ardent supporter of the platform. And I believe that friends don't let friends drive off the road -- at least not without trying to set them straight. So, here are a couple of marketing points that have been rolling around in my head for a while and which are presented at this time for what they may be worth.
If I had my druthers, beBee would move to structure some hives in the way that LinkedIn used to structure its groups, but abandoned.
Initially, the owner of an LI group could optionally designate it "closed" and/or "private". Closed meant membership in the group had to be approved by the group's management team. And private meant that the exchanges in the group could only be seen by group members. This enabled the creation and maintenance of groups based on professional or industry affinity. And those in which frank and open discussions could be conducted.
Even in "open" and/or "public" groups on LI, owners could opt to have postings of discussions and articles to the group subject to moderation. This enabled group ownership and management to keep the group postings free of extraneous articles and discussions, unrelated to the group's raison d'etre. And would be a big advantage in growing Affinity Networking in a truly meaningful way.
This is not a suggestion to restrict membership or postings in all beBee hives, only a recommendation to provide an option to hive owners and managers. The result would be attractive to a large number of LinkedIn group owners, who built major groups on LI with tens of thousands of members, only to find those groups effectively destroyed by LI's changes to group management capabilities. Moreover, in the current market circumstances, the move would provide beBee with still another exceedingly strong point of differentiation.
A final thought: if you're marketing coal, you don't do it in Newcastle...
The United States has a U.S. Ambsassador to Canada. And a U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. And one to France. And Russia, China, and so on. Even a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
But what the United States doesn't have is a U.S. Ambassador to the United States. Why not? Because you don't preach to the choir. Or -- to put it in terms that might make sense to beBee fans of Jesse Kaellis's writing -- you don't get all full of yourself for managing to bed a Las Vegas call girl.
When beBee first announced its Brand Ambassadors program, I thought it was a marketing masterstroke. Whether one saw it as a variant of "influencer marketing" or a version of "advocate marketing", it appeared to have the potential to place brand boosters out into the hinterlands not only to sing the praises of beBee, but to cross-post cracker-jack content on competing platforms and, thereby, pull potential users in large numbers over to beBee to look around.
But speaking bluntly -- perhaps, too bluntly for some who may read this -- the reality is that only a relatively few ambassadors are actually laying their "honey traps" in the woods, while most are spending their time in concierge services and in boosting each other on beBee itself. Which may make for a warm, fuzzy environment, but is reminiscent of hunting for bear in the barn. IMHO. -- Phil Friedman
Author' Notes: If you found this post interesting and worthwhile and would like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile. Better yet, elect there to follow my blog by email. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.
As well, you comments, likes, and shares are always welcome, whether you agree with what I've said or not.
This post is part of a series on beBee-related issues. Should you be curious about the other posts in the series, you can find them at:
About me, Phil Friedman: With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation.
In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.
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