Swimming in a blue ocean
For those familiar with the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Kim & Mauborgne, you will know what I’m talking about. For those who haven’t read the book, and I have and it’s a slog, a blue ocean is where you are out in a new marketplace/industry. Think of Uber vs taxis and when self-check in came in on flights vs heading to a counter. It’s revolutionising an industry with a new way of delivering the same outcome. I don’t want to regurgitate the book, what I want to chat about is what it’s like to be swimming in a blue ocean, because that’s where I am.
Back in 2014, or sometime before then, it became clear to me that Facebook had psychologists on staff and that they were using social psychology principles on their platform; and I wrote about it. I wasn’t working as a social media coach or consultant then, in fact I was working as a proof reader but I had my qualifications and I was managing 2 of my own Facebook pages. So the psychology of social media was a side interest. The following year I wrote about it more and by then I’d started coaching on some ideas around how to leveraging how psychology works on social media.
I was full of self-doubt about whether niching myself to the psychology of social media was the right thing to do. I turned to a business coach who told me not to speak about psychology because it would just confuse my followers. Try as I might, I just couldn’t. I had to be genuine and transparent to my audience that this was what sat behind it all. That this wasn’t just some other cock & bull, get rich quick scheme and that it was solid science. So I stayed true to me and told my truth my way.
By the middle of 2016 it was clear to me that I was alone in teaching Facebook this way and I got scared.
I was plagued by comparison-itis, where I constantly checked in with what my competitors were doing. It was awful. It filled me with such self-doubt! They were doing so much more. They had more clients. They were successful and I wasn’t. They were making money and I wasn’t. I sucked! Or so I believed.
I told myself that it was ok, I was a relatively new business and it was just the fact that people didn’t know me and that it takes 7 years for a business to really take off. But my competitors weren’t 7 yet either?! I looked at their messages and saw glaring holes in what they were teaching. I saw the same bad advice being passed around by various coaches. Heck, I even got on a webinar on how to be a social media coach to be told, “all you need to do is follow Social Media Examiner and you can do this”! I was a failure!
I have to be honest, up until 2016, I had a constant internal battle between the pull of having to teach people what I saw about psychological theories being manipulated and used on social media platforms and the need to get a J.O.B to help pay the bills. The pull to expose and teach the truth was too strong and the needs of my family came first. I kept treading water in my blue ocean.
Now I’ve told you that in 2017 I hired a business coach, not the one I mentioned earlier. Now one session I was in tears over this and she told me that I had to let go of the shore to cross the sea. I had to stop looking at competitors, stop worrying that what I was doing was different, stop trying to sell what I think my clients wanted but didn’t align with the path I needed to take in my blue ocean. So I let go and swam, not drifted, deep into my blue ocean.
It was lonely.
It was stormy.
Occasionally I saw a distant boat or shore (customer).
But I was living my blue ocean, true to myself and my message.
Here’s the thing. The blue ocean is exactly this. Nothing worth doing is ever easy! When you’re out sailing, all alone, no landmarks, out in the middle of the ocean, you’ve got to set your course and stick to it.
The other thing to remember and to research is diffusion of innovation theory by E.M. Rogers. The theory sits that until you have at least 16% reach into your marketplace, you will be in the blue ocean. That doesn’t mean that your idea or market isn’t worthwhile, it just means that they’re not ready for you.
You have to be patient and persevere. It pays off. The world will catch up to you or your market saturation will hit 17% and it will start to tip and like a boat with wind in its sails, you will take off.
You will take off, at first it might be a small breeze, but it will make those landmarks close in & that is good. I am taking off, unfortunately it has been as a result of some pretty shocking revelations around Facebook & Cambridge Analytica, all the same I am grateful that these things have opened people‘s eyes to the fact that psychology is part of social media. It has meant that I have needed to speak on how this can be done ethically and I worry that when the majority marketers catch on that there will be a flood of them teaching the psychology of social media without truly understanding the mechanism or more importantly that they are talking about people and not technology. I can see that this will become my new blue ocean, but that’s ok as I’ve now become accustomed to being alone & I’m ok with that.
To hear more about how businesses have succeeded, or failed, because of the law of diffusion of innovation, I suggest watching this video from Simon Sinek.