Are You a Commodity? Foursquare > Facebook Location

Are You a Commodity? Foursquare > Facebook Location

I don’t care if you run your own business or work in a small corner cubicle kissing your boss’s ass everyday. Ask yourself this: “Am I a commodity?” Better yet, ask yourself: “If I was replaced by joe schmo person or product, would anybody know?” If the answer is “yes,” then you’re in trouble…

Don’t Be a Commodity

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. When Reflect7 asks itself if it’s Mobile Sports Fan software is a commodity, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” That’s right, we’re just like Walmart’s “Great Value” brand. We deliver almost the same amount of content for much less. Have you ever bought the Great Value brand Salsa? It fucking sucks. It’s a watered down version of Paste Picante and if you eat it two hours before you go to bed you’re guaranteed nightmares about the Spanish inquisition. How do I know this? I am a cheap ass. What has this taught me? Don’t be a commodity.

When you’re a commodity, you compete on a single value proposition: cost. You are exactly like your counterpart, but you’re cheaper. This is a bad position to be in. For one, someone will come along with cheaper labor, parts, better technology, etc. and undercut your price. Number two, and more importantly, nobody will give a shit about you.

The one thing that Reflect7 is doing right is answering customer feedback with vigor and empathy. We care what people think about our apps and getting back to our customers makes us fell warm and tingly inside. Especially JP; he gets a hard-on just thinking about customer service. But that’s not the point. The point is to have a value proposition that is unique. What can you offer your customers that nobody else can? I’m about to tell you what. And if your knee-deep in the technology world, get ready for the biggest schooling of your life…

Social Status

The answer is some form of Social Status.That’s why Foursquare > Facebook Location. Whoops, I said it! Contrary to popular belief, Facebook will not crush Foursquare or any of other the annoying check-in, location-based apps. Why? Because facebook hasn’t built a dedicated community around location.

If I check-in to Patty’s Pasties with facebook on a hot summer night, what does that get me? Nothing. Now, if I’m on Foursquare, I might become mayor of Patties Pasties. Now you’re asking, “Well who the hell cares about being mayor at some place?” Here’s my answer: Imagine your most favorite place in the world that you like to go. For me, it’s Denny’s (I love the grandslam breakfast). Now, imagine that you’re VIP status at your favorite place. You get the best seat in the house, they know you by name, and everyone else there knows that you’re the grandslam champion.

Although somewhat exagerated, this is what Foursquare has done. Foursquare has given people status at their favorite places. At clubs, VIP status sells for a reason. Foursquare realizes this and has created the corresponding game mechanics to extrapolate and share status in a space where it used to go grossly unnoticed.

Being the mayor of a downtown Starbucks might just make you the biggest douchebag in the city. But inside your head, it means something. It means that you “own” the place. Your spending habits might have been Starbucks-crazy for the last five years, but ever since Foursquare, you are now attaching an emotion to it.Being the “Mayor” gives you a sense of pride, winning, being the best, etc. Whatever it is, it’s created an emotional link in an hypersensitive space: a social network. That’s what Foursquare and company have done that Facebook cannot easily replicate.

Facebook is the Platform

My business partner Corey put it best when he said that Facebook is “A glorified photo-sharing app.” Zuckerberg and friends do a little bit more, but for them to encorporate any uniform game mechanics wouldn’t make sense. They’re a platform for games, not a game in itself. Focusing in on a singular reward system would create inbalance with their platform ecosystem. It would create a chasm between third-party developers and the host. Besides, they already have a subtle built-in game mechanic: how many friends you have.

It’s better for Facebook to just hand out Facebook game credits for participating and let users define their own subgroup (third party app) to game status from. This is exactly what they’re doing. I just noticed today that I have 10 Facebook credits to spend on games. I can purchase more through credit cards, paypal, or my mobile phone bill. Facebook is encouraging it’s platform as an avenue to game just as a gift card to iTunes would encourage you to buy a song from the thousands of artists competing for your ears.

Build a Social Community

So here’s what I hope Reflect7 is going to do. I hope we’re going to create a Sports Fan community that gives people status based on their participation. A community where people are emotionally attached because it’s fun, involving, and gives them a chance to express themselves. This way, when ESPN or some other Sports giant decides to move in on our space, people won’t go for the cheapest product that delivers the most information (the commodity). Instead, they’ll stick with a social community where they have an established reputation and persona. A community where they have a VIP status.

What will you do to make sure you’re not a commodity?

If you liked this post, you may like:

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​2) Give Your Customers a Story to Tell

​3) Steve Jobs Lesson on marketing and values and belief

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-Brian Lambelet

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