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That Guy’s Tips for Corporate Success, #13 December 29, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Tips for Corporate Success.

If really great technology exists to do something, your company will try to build or acquire a competing version, rather than making a deal with the really great company, so they can have a stranglehold. As a result, your product will suffer.

I was sitting in a meeting* last week about some social networking software that we acquired. Now, keep in mind that about two years ago we acquired a different social networking company and integrated it into all of our web products.

a really great idea is easily sold

a really great idea is easily sold

It’s terrible. Truly awful. The functionality doesn’t function, the scripts slow down our sites to a crawl (so much that we’ve built code into our pages that shuts it off unless it needs to be actively used on load, because they didn’t build that code in when we bought the software), and it’s not nearly as full-featured as… um… any other social network.

Well, when we rolled out our new crop of site features, we used this other company. It seems to work fine; I haven’t had much interaction with it because I’m not part of that group. But now we’ve acquired that company, and we’re going to use this new technology to replace our old social networking.

In the aforementioned meeting, the person leading the conference call** said:

The software does a lot of really neat things to integrate with Facebook.

First of all, Facebook is not the be-all-end-all. Everyone’s integrating with Facebook, but soon enough something will supplant it and then where will we be?

Secondly… why didn’t we just deal directly with Facebook? Why didn’t we take the millions of dollars we invested in this new company and say, “hi there, Mr. Zuckerberg. We’d like to use Facebook Connect as the social networking platform for all of our sites. Here’s some money. Let’s make this happen.” Then Zuckerberg would say, “thank you very much for your money. Here’s some support in integrating Facebook Connect into your CMS software. Let us know what else you need and we’ll be glad to work with you. We’d also like to put ads on certain parts of your site, but we’ll handle all that scripting and targeting, so you won’t have to worry about it.”

See? Easy.

But no. Instead of using what everyone thinks is the best thing out there, we’re acquiring other companies and trying to start up our own competing model. And, what’s worse, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot because we’re just creating more things people have to log into, more passwords to remember, and more functionalities to use. The more options people have, the fewer they will use.

This new company acquisition is going to be a failure, unfortunately.

Companies will never figure out that the only way to build a new social network is to either:

  • Fail several dozen times before having even slight success, or
  • Use an existing one that people already are familiar with and know how to use.

They’d rather spend the money and fail. Sad but true.

By the way, I find it interesting that more companies aren’t just using OpenID, which is free and works across many, many websites.

This example perfectly illustrates that, despite there being a better and established option, companies will always try to recreate it and always come up short.

* A huge shocker, I know.

** It’s always a conference call, isn’t it.



1. the folly of allowing employees to use smartphones « corporatespeak - December 30, 2008

[…] was in the same meeting I referenced in yesterday’s post. Very little useful information came out of it — it was mostly stuff we’d all covered […]

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