Social Media and Simplicity, Part 5: Differences
Muhammad Saleem is a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.
This post is part 5 of 10 in our groundbreaking series on how freelancers can use social media and the principles of simplicity to build their business.
Day 5 – The Fifth Law of Simplicity: Differences
Simplicity and complexity need each other.
Maeda perfectly captures the necessity of acknowledging the importance of differences and contrast. “Even a child that is allowed to eat ice cream three meals a day will eventually tire his sweet tooth.” Thus, to prevent yourself from falling in a rut, and to prevent your audience or clients from getting bored with you, your content/services, it is important to create differences, and help them appreciate these differences. I have previously extolled the virtues of narrowing down your goals and having a laser-sharp focus on what you want to do, and this is not in contradiction to that.
If you continue down the same path, using the same strategies (or the same voice if you’re a writer), there will be some people who will get comfortable with it, but many others will think it to be trite and grow tired of it. Doing something different can provide a unique enough experience to rejuvenate the interest of your existing audience and at the same time pique the interest of new visitors.
Know the Difference Between Yourself and the Competition
One of the worst things that can happen to a new startup is for it to be labeled as a “me-too” service. Similarly, the worst thing that can happen to you is people considering you to be largely redundant. Every individual has only a limited number of hours she or he is willing to devote to an activity each day, and as more and more people embrace the internet as a means of reaching an audience, or to extend their businesses/services, the audience is facing information overload. Whether you stand out or get lost in the crowd is up to you.
Whether you are a writer, a designer, a consultant, or provide any other kind of online service, there is a sea of competition out there that is gunning for you, and the internet only makes it easier for them to set up shop. The first step is to understand your competition and make sure (and be aware) of the difference between yourself and the competition. The next step, of course, is to tell your audience what that difference is, and why they need to come to you rather than going to someone else. Setting yourself apart is the easy part. Finding exactly the right balance between similarity and contrast is the hard part.
Conform enough so that you are a part of the crowd, but be different enough that you stand out.
Know the Difference Between Your Audience and Your Potential Audience
Social media doesn’t make it incredibly easy for you to leverage it for yourself. There are so many ways to do it wrong and only a few ways to get it right. For example, not every picture you take should be posted to Facebook, not every thought you have should be posted to Twitter, and not every piece of content you create should be submitted to social news sites (Digg, Propeller, Reddit, StumbleUpon).
Based on the steps covered in previous parts of this series, once you have determined which platforms work best for you, and understand the differences between the various sites in each platform (eg. MySpace vs. Facebook, Digg vs. StumbleUpon), and have made your decision regarding which specific sites you will use, it’s time to apply the same principle to yourself.
While it is perfectly fine to write for the social media audience, it’s absolutely wrong to pander specifically to that audience at the cost of your loyal readers. Know the difference between the content that is generally useful and relates to your regular audience, and the content you are creating to target an audience you don’t currently own.
Most importantly, know the difference between your existing audience and your potential audience, and the relative importance of each.
For simplifying the rest of your life, check out John Maeda’s Blog.