Image copyright Facebook Image caption Cedric recently spent thousands of dollars on a purchase of fruit.
“I will never forget the look on my face when the buyer told me to ‘move in a little closer’. He was saying this to show me that my position was too close to his seat. Yet, for me, his chair and my seat was one. It was just so hard for me to grasp this fact!”
This message was posted on Facebook by a former employee of Cedric, a fast food restaurant franchisee in Maryland. The letter was published on KIK, a social media platform that allows users to share real-time responses with friends. The message has been shared nearly 30,000 times.
When KIK launched in 2007, it was designed for group text messaging. Despite KIK being overtaken by Facebook, it still received approximately 160 million unique visitors per month, according to figures from Crowdtangle.
Cedric had, as his Facebook friend, a person he would regularly text about the quality of his food and its sound. It was his social base. He thought the customer’s idea of “moving closer” was impossible.
However, I spoke to Edward Esteban, Professor of Social Media at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, who gave me some perspective on the issue.
After checking Cedric’s KIK user interaction, which shows more than 90,000 members, I focused on two characteristics. It seemed that, while Cedric might not have used all of KIK’s features, he could easily communicate with thousands of other KIK users in real time, without ever seeing their names or being able to tap into their digital existence.
Image copyright Pixabay Image caption Cedric says he needs a way to “invite my target market” when he enters a store
Then, along came the problem with exposure. KIK received its first billion page views in 2012, says Alexa Radouz, publicist for KIK. The technology had a crucial, momentous year.
What made KIK interesting was the fact that it wasn’t a product that needed to be bought or downloaded. It worked out of a cell phone’s phone book, too – except it told you how much your friends cared about it. It had an atmosphere of “things” and it made things happen.
When it was launched, it brought all of that goodness to a platform that, as professor Esteban says, “newcomers shouldn’t have to battle to find”.
I think we can say this about a number of new technologies. Even if they are built to be different, they are also very easy to create. In this case, given the opportunity to be on the bottom of the pyramid of KIK’s social graph, Cedric could have made a lot of money with it.
Why choose to spend money on KIK when he could post a note on someone’s wall or send a message through the app. It would be a little bit quicker, the experience would be familiar, and the return could be even higher. Yet, he chose to invest less money and more time and thought into a different option.
Image copyright Pixabay Image caption Academics have suggested that Cedric could have spent that money to invest more time into his business
Psychologist and performance expert Brett Savant says that, in general, most people spend a lot of time competing with everyone else – but not all of us are like Cedric, who get all of the benefits from KIK – without investing any of the time. He, too, has said he would have liked to spend that $20 an hour on his business.
And, if you go back to that customer’s interaction, it’s clear why he didn’t want to spend any time on the phone: as he says, “He didn’t like how I operated as a manager.”
A question of prioritising
Just as so many companies struggle to say what they’ll do when they get millions of users, we need to ask the question: should Cedric focus on what has worked well, or do something completely different with his money?
The question wasn’t once directed at him, but he acted on it with the best of intentions – not at the expense of someone, but for the benefit of his business. He tried to get his message across, making his customers happy.
He had a platform to reach thousands of people, and because he put time and energy into it, he received the best return. The