Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery, Unless You’re Filing an IPO

It was revealed last week that Facebook is experimenting and planning the wide release of a stories feature similar to Snapchat. Haven’t we been here before?  But count me out amongst the many who criticize Facebook for it’s lack of creativity and imagination.

Snapchat’s IPO roadshow will likely reveal just how well Facebook’s strategy is working, but my guess is the impact will be significant especially with customers who prefer the comfort of the Facebook / Instagram platform. Truthfully, Facebook can leverage this familiarity to build a product that is functionally the same but not as good and still likely re-capture a significant share of user engagement from Snap.

The reasoning is simple, take a look at Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report from last year.  Facebook was DRAMATICALLY better than Snapchat when it came to user engagement (even with Millennials) in terms of AUM’s and time spent on the site, the only place Snap excelled was video.  Since most people visit Facebook first and more frequently, what happens when Facebook is just good enough to keep Snap’s users from needing their feature?

 

Silicon Valley, and the tech community as a whole, can sometimes become an echo chamber.  However, it’s important to remember the majority of users live outside of the Valley and are more concerned with convenience and utility than originality.

I’m a proponent of listening to the market over building a feature that is “different” or the latest tech.  I’ve personally made this mistake, and have seen it made more than once.  We’ve focused on extra features, design, and new shopping UX’s when customers craved simplicity that competitors provided.

The key to unlocking new business was accepting the market feedback that was so visible all around us. We spent time and resources on building for the sake of building when the customers really wanted optionally of enrollment, an update that took little time and provided a high ROI.

Even when you are building tech that is advanced, always do so with your users in mind.  Never underestimate your competition, if they are growing by leveraging a feature you don’t provide, consider building it or risk losing the customer base you’ve worked so hard to capture.

 

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