Over the past few weeks, the social media world has been set aflame by the emergence of the mobile live video streaming movement. First came Meerkat, the mobile live-streaming video app that made a big splash at SXSW, then came Periscope, Twitter’s own platform that enables people to live broadcast their lives via a mobile device.
It’s the latest battle for control over a fledgling industry which has raised the age-old question of the value of being first to market. Is it better to be first, or is it better to follow, learn from your competitors’ experience and launch a different product?
For all the emphasis we tend to place on being first to market, history is littered with forgotten brands and failed technologies that were quick out of the gate, only to watch a competitor swoop, launch a new product and redefine the marketplace.
Just ask the creators of Sony’s Betamax video tape technology, or the founders of MySpace or anyone who made an MP3 player before the iPod. Being first into a market can provide you with an advantage, but it’s the brands that never stop innovating, who aren’t afraid to take risks, and who listen to their customers that ultimately succeed.
Anyone who owned a Creative Nomad Jukebox or a Diamond Rio PMP300 knows full well that Apple Inc.’s iPod was by no means the first MP3 player to reach the market. What Apple did differently with its iPod was make its device easy for music lovers to understand and operate. It featured a simple value proposition users could understand – put 1,000 songs in your pocket – and Apple’s iTunes software made it easy to upload music.
Apple has built an empire on identifying markets where the company can identify user pain points, then improve and simplify the consumer experience through innovative technology and design.
Facebook wasn’t the first social network. When Rupert Murdoch shelled out nearly $600-million for MySpace in 2005, he likely never envisioned a day where his newly acquired company would be relegated to a footnote in the biography of Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook wasn’t first, but the site improved on the revolution MySpace had started, and ultimately understood the site’s success would come from consistent improvements to remain the best. From GIFs to video, to the addition of chat, mobile properties and a robust advertising engine, Facebook exists in a state of constant evolution, helping to move with and shape the shifting dynamics of the social age.
Today’s consumers have come to expect that they can get whatever they want, whenever they need it. Brand loyalty can be fleeting. You may be the first of your kind into a market, but if someone comes along that serves your customers better, being first isn’t going to matter for long. Pivot, adapt and adjust.
In order for any organization to be able to do this, the right structure has to be put in place to make it happen. Are your employees close enough to the consumer to have a firm understanding about their experience with your brand? Are you listening to your customers? Are you standing still or continuing to refine your service?
Competition breeds innovation, and with the pace of business today, that has never been more true. Consumers aren’t willing to wait for organizations to tell them what updates are available, they are two steps ahead searching out the next best thing.
You can bet that Songza and Spotify are both looking at what should be their next steps in the wake of the release of Tidal, Jay Z’s latest music streaming service.
The battle between Periscope, Meerkat and what will undoubtedly be a number of other entrants is far from over. In fact, it’s just beginning. The winner will be determined over time as both brands fight for users by launching new features and services.
Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.