Thursday, June 7, 2012

The digital age – a new world?

The following is a guest posting by entrepreneur Ben Blomerley


I read Hayden’s last blog post about innovation with interest. I was fascinated by the line ‘adaptation and change are just business-as-usual’. It is absolutely true – okay, maybe the pace of change is faster than it used to be, but there are more tools and skills out there than there used to be that help you deal with that pace. But businesses have always had to adapt and innovate to survive – I’m sure Thomas Edison wouldn’t recognise GE now, and what Charles Flint would make of IBM is anyone’s guess!

It’s interesting to take a few examples. Pinterest is fascinating for me, given the way that it seemed to explode from nowhere (it didn’t – it’s over two years old). But what did it do? Revolutionise a business model? Create something completely unexpected? No – what it did was look at the market and realised that social networks massively underserved bored Midwestern housewives. They wanted a way to share, in an incredibly easy way, the things that interested them. And that’s Pinterest – social media for an under-served category. 

And let’s look at that, too – the idea of successful social media (or social media campaigns). Every day I read a story about how people can’t get their social media campaigns moving. Corporations big and small throwing money at it because they have to be ‘in’ social media – or even worse, not throwing enough money at it, leaving it to the interns who, being young, must ‘get’ it. But the principles of social media are easy –something that someone wants to share, someone who wants to share, someone who wants to listen, a call to action, and monitor what’s happening.

A final thing I find very interesting is that I see people who are worried about barriers to entry in this new digital age. If any kid with a laptop can knock up a website, how can established players protect their markets? Whilst it’s true – and fantastic – that you have punchy upstarts shaking up the established order, looking at competition is not a new thing. And there’s plenty than can still be done – punchy upstarts can’t build quality content, for example. And people still want to see something on a website, they need a reason to be there. I found this post by Mark Schaefer fascinating on what the new careers in social media will be (and no reason to think it stops with social media!) 

So – what do these three examples say? Is Pinterest a revolution? Is social media an alien concept? Can nobody defend themselves against an engineer with an idea? No. These are three age old concepts of business. You need to look at your customers. You need to execute well. And you need to look at what your competitors are doing, how you can entrench your position. 

Is innovation new? No. 

Are the fundamentals of doing business in this new world different? Well, what do you think?

Bio:
Ben Blomerley is the founder of AskHerFriends (www.askherfriends.com), which aims to apply some digital age solutions to an age old problem – how a guy can get better gifts for the women in his life!

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