If you aren’t, it probably won’t! As a work psychologist, that was a subterranean text that I was hearing at the Oxford Social Media Convention on Friday.
Matthew Hindman, for example, a political scientist from Arizona, tracks how the internet is used in politics in the US. While we are raving about my.barackobama.com, Matthew is noting details that pass us by.
For example, Obama won Ohio through marginal gains in Republican states which, in turn, were made on the back of careful statistical analysis of voting patterns. I live in a small town in rural England, and RSS’ed or not, putting my hands on his book, The Myth of Digital Democracy, over the weekend is not a possibility.
[If anyone knows how to efficiently read 200 page pdf files on a screen, please doooooo tell me the secret]
Internet politics is not for the faint-hearted
What I gathered of the overall message is this.
The internet is a powerful tool in the hands of people who understand statistics, who understand politics, and who are motivated to get out there and do the work.
What can political scientists (who watch the way we use the internet) teach those of us in business?
Without benefit of the book and not knowing how to read long pdf documents efficiently on screen, I’ve been thinking about what I heard against what I already know.
- When the barriers to entry are low, as they are on the internet, “every man and his dog” is able to enter the space.
- Because so many people are in the space, competition is fierce, and profits are low.
- Because profits are low, consolidation and scale is important.
- And people who have already invested hugely (think TESCO’s for example) will protect their investment and are going to play hardball with we ‘noobes’.
Porter’s 5 factor model and my internet business
I like messing around with numbers and seeing what they can tell us about what we are doing and where we are going. So I look forward to seeing the data Matthew has put together and seeing what analyzes we could do here in UK in both the political and business arenas.
The progress that I’ve made so far, is that I am hearing the principles of Porter’s 5 factor model of business conditions.
- The internet is an unattractive industry precisely because it is easy to get into. [Barriers to entry are low]
- When we work in the internet, we have to organize our work to “take care of the pennies”. [Cost leadership]
- We also have to get quite big to have enough volume to make a profit.
Can I conclude from this train of thought that in the internet world, organizing and organizational skills are critical? Have we even thought about the challenges of “taking care of the pennies”? [Not a lot! Time to begin!]
And am I RSS’d to do the work involved?
Which of my ventures can I be RSS’d to do ALL the work it takes to win?
[I am trying to remember who made the RSS joke. Iain Dale! Politicians do not know their RSS from their elbows!]
Parallels with running a psychological practice
This isn’t a new problem for me. I am a psychologist by trade and I’ve spent countless hours over the years talking about exactly the same issues in our businesses. . . oops!. . .professional practices.
We have exactly the same ‘problem’. Anyone can dispense psychological advice – and they do. My profession tries various tricks like protecting the name and putting up artificial licenses to stop other people using various procedures.
We do all that to escape the the hard reality that we need both organization and professional knowledge to run a profitable practice. The amateur sees our interaction with our clients. They copy that. They pinch our materials and copy what they see us do. What they don’t see and don’t copy is the back end.
That infuriates us because the back end is expensive.
When we get over being annoyed, we can turn this relationship around. Our back end is worth what we pay for it because it allows us to answer three questions consistently and better than the amateur who trying to copy us without sufficient investment in the ‘going concern’.
- Do we understand our clients deeply in ways that they care about?
- Are we there for them when they need us?
- Does our analysis of their issues and concerns help them act and act effectively in the mess, rough and tumble of their own lives?
It feels so ‘wrong’ to have to compete with amateurs. And ‘noobes’ deeply resent the cost of the the organization structure to deliver a competitive service and the time it takes to put it together. Oh, the conversations I’ve had and the time I’ve spent getting my head around this.
But that’s business when barriers to entry are low. It is part of our professionalism to know that. Porter’s Five Forces does explain that – in every first year business text. We should know that we need a professional organization to give our message efficiency, effectiveness and edge. Sadly, the internet is not easy pickings in politics or business.
Our RSS’d about boxes
So we’d better know what we are RSS’d about! And hang out with people who are RSS’d about it too.
Maybe we can have two boxes?
Hobby – enjoy it, but can’t be RSS’d to win.
Profession – sooo committed that being RSS’d to do the details comes easy.