If you were starting a site in a competitive field like search engines or social networking sites what would be the first question you would ask about your competition? Today I was thinking about search engines and how so many new sites are popping up claiming that they do X better than Google, but to the average person what doesn’t Google do well? Maybe you do have better blog search technology, but does it matter if your cousin thinks that Google does just fine?
Why don’t we ask ourselves more often what someone doesn’t do well? Instead we like to sit and analyze what we think we can do better than the competition. Yahoo has this problem as well as Technorati. They both claim to do something better than Google (ads and blog search), but then again do their target audiences (marketers and blog searchers) believe that Google isn’t doing those things well?
Let us look at Social Networks now. Virb has a couple of people interested because it allows you to customize the CSS on your profile and admittedly looks better (not hard). However, to a MySpace user what doesn’t MySpace do well? Many are comfortable customizing their profiles on MySpace through premade templates so to them MySpace does this very well. Others don’t see any problems at all with the exception of outages.
When Friendster was at the top of the social networking world all you had to do is sit back and think what they didn’t do well. The answer was simple, they couldn’t keep the site up. That’s what MySpace did better. Sure you could customize your profiles and add annoying music, but Friendster had the people and yet they didn’t have the uptime.
What didn’t Yahoo do well? They didn’t let people cut right to the chase and get their search results. Google did and they won. So as you can see sometimes it isn’t about finding what you can do better, but understanding what your competition doesn’t do so well.