The Hazards of Success

Is social media becoming too good for its own good?
Everybody loves an underdog. When Silicon Valley companies like Myspace were started in basements by college dropouts with big dreams, everyone wanted them to succeed. But after unbelievable success, Myspace’s traffic dropped from #1 in the world to #138.

There are two valuable lessons here: You’re never too small to succeed – and you’re never too big to fail.

Now Facebook is approaching one billion users towards August – but you don’t make a billion friends without making a few enemies along the way. Some users worry that it will become so massive that the individual customer’s concerns will simply be ignored or diluted. This provokes an intriguing question: when does “lots of success” become “too much success”? When does “becoming part of our lives” become “taking over our lives”? Where do we draw the line – and have you already crossed it?

From a user perspective, there will always be customers who don’t choose the market leader, because they want to be unique and not just ‘follow the crowd’. That’s why many left Myspace for Facebook and Twitter – until those became the giants. Now there’s a new sweetheart in town: Pinterest, the fastest growing social media site, with 12 million visitors a month. So why didn’t Facebook suffer the same collapse as Myspace? Among many reasons is the 125 billion friendships made on the side. That reveals another secret: if you form an emotional connection with your users (and facilitate bonds between one user and the next) you’ll gain their loyalty for life. So don’t worry: Facebook isn’t going anywhere. You don’t have to be a Harvard genius like Mark Zuckerberg to crack the secret code: deliver the right service to the right people at the right time.

Here’s another example of “too much of a good thing”: globally, TV viewers are getting enormous varieties of channels. That’s a good thing, right? Not if you’re battling past hundreds of channels to find one you enjoy. Sometimes less is more. So an innovative media company can capitalize by offering apps that narrow down channels matching the viewer’s tastes.

From a psychological viewpoint, underdogs show us that our own dreams are possible. But when your underdog becomes a giant, make the “little people” feel like they’re worth as much as all your other customers combined.

Never underestimate ‘old school’ or technologically-challenged customers. Even in America, surprisingly less than 20% of people do banking via mobile. And believe it or not, many people have never tweeted. So show them it’s not as complicated or intimidating as they fear. If you ignore them as old-fashioned ‘dinosaurs’, it’s your business that will end up in a museum.

So what’s the bottom line? Users always look for ‘the next big thing’, but that doesn’t mean they must constantly migrate to new brands. If you keep innovating, you can be ‘the next big thing’ continuously. You simply can’t afford to sit on your success because right now as we speak, another genius kid is working sleepless nights in his basement to take over your market share…