If you were planning to take on the industry leader in any marketplace you would need to have a very solid strategy. However, strategy alone could only scratch the surface if you didn’t have something disruptive to offer. What you would need is something equal to Kryptonite. Something that would hit your target at its core. Meet Tsu.co, which is looking to square off against Facebook and knock it to the ground. (You can view my profile on this new social site by clicking here. Feel free to join my tree, by the way.)
So you haven’t heard of this new social network yet? I’m not surprised. It only launched a week or so ago. I am lucky enough to know its founder and visionary, Sebastian Sobczak. When I first learned of the concept, it kind of blew my mind because of the simplicity of it. Not knowing what the site was, I clicked on the link and almost instantly I realized what he had come up with. It was so intuitive and simple that it was staring everyone in the face. That is the sign of a true visionary, seeing what is right before everyone else’s eyes and acting on it. I liken it to great food – it’s not complicated, it’s always simple and fresh. That’s why it tastes so good.
Anyway, the Tsu.co concept goes a little something like this: Implement the shared economy concept and pay the entire social user network on your site for their content and actions. The Tsu concept is to share 90% of advertising revenues with its members, literally paying them for their content. When you post personal photos, comments, likes, shared stories, whatever, you earn bank. It might sound a little crazy to think the company would give away 90% of its ad revenues, but there is capitalist genius behind the concept. Just like Amazon.com and other audience-building sites, Tsu knows that once you have a registered audience, the opportunities for expanding and growing revenue opportunities have just begun.
Successful expansion of the Facebook concept has always been the fear behind those that did not invest in Facebook. Yes, it was groundbreaking and changed the way we think of the “social network.” But its appeal was limited almost from the first. The term “Facebook Bored” is actually a thing. If you know any teenagers personally, you know they think Facebook is “stupid” and is not important in their lives. Instead, it is the 35-54 year-old users that are Facebook’s largest demographic.
(By the way, this is just a blog, not a treatise or AP news story. Since it’s my blog I get to say what I want and cite what I find. I am not using my journalism degree in this instance to the manner in which I once practiced as a paid journalist.)
Anyway, back to the lecture at hand. Facebook is losing its younger audience because Facebook does not practice sharing. That’s right, the social network that literally made the word “sharing” mean something completely different in our society does not share at all. I am sure they are aware they are out of touch with their next generation audience and how that generation views the term “sharing.” Problem is, Facebook just can’t do anything about it yet in the face of what Tsu.co is offering up to that same audience. They sure can’t share ad revenues. Can you imagine the repercussions if they did make that move? That sucking sound would be the hole left by investors running out the door.
To understand why I believe Tsu.co will be successful is simply to understand the trends we are seeing in the shared economy market with that audience.
With the advent of Uber, Airbnb and similar applications that allow users to monetize what they own with others, a new economy has emerged. Okay, that is not really new news, but how it is being applied with every new site or application is fascinating. Bottom line, this concept appeals to that younger audience that is Facebook bored – the audience that Facebook has identified as the next generation of users that will not be using Facebook. To that age group, the concept of helping each other by sharing their home, apartment, car, whatever, is the essence of what sharing and “being cool” is with your stuff. They believe in saving the Earth, helping others, buying retail items that give back, i.e. TOMS.com and getting rich. If they are not rich on their own, they expect others to figure out a way to help them. Enter Tsu.co. To the generation growing up in a shared economy, paying to “share” someone’s apartment in San Francisco for an overnight trip instead of going to a fancy hotel like their parents do is waaaaay cooler, as well as a better experience. They like knowing they have helped someone strapped to the same financial reality as them. It gives them hope.
To my mind, inventors like Sebastian and Brian Chesky are enabling everyone to be a kind of venture capitalist. They allow their users, through the sharing economy, to invest in what appeals to them on a level beyond greed. They actually get to feel good about “sharing” their money after they have booked it through Airbnb. That is a pretty damn cool concept, if you think about it, you old capitalists. Personally, I get no satisfaction after checking out of a W Hotel or the Ritz-Carlton. I just feel lighter in the pocket and a little full of myself, perhaps. I think I would like feeling more a part of my world by sharing and helping those that need it or want to share. (Please, let’s not get into the open debate of job loss and the numerous other ramifications of the sharing economy. Like I said, this is not a treatise. It’s a blog. Call me and we can discuss the issue like Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler might, if you wish.)
Alright. So Sebastian might have figured out the Facebook slayer. Personally, I hope he has. Not for any other reason than “sticking it to the man,” so to speak. I admit to being an idealist still, at age 48. Facebook has “jumped the shark” in my mind and is now just another corporate parasite. Knowing that the younger generation coming up is interested to sustain and grow its resources by being part of a “shared economy” is very idealistic. That appeals to me.
I am sure some will call it a socialist movement and use the President’s name in vain and accuse him of trying to destroy our economy by shoving Tsu.co down our throats, though he likely has never heard of Tsu.co. Generally, those folks will be the hoteliers, taxi cab company owners and investors into those enterprises. Those are likely the same kids that did not listen well to their elementary school teachers on sharing day. Personally, I think that these new inventors, like Sebastian, are great capitalists because they have opened up a new opportunity for wealth, just like Sir Josiah Child, J.P. Morgan, and Joseph Kennedy. (Alright, those guys were greedy and corrupt, but you get my drift.)
At the end of the day, only time will tell if Sebastian’s brain child will really overturn the Facebook apple cart. I honestly believe Tsu.co has one heckuva chance. I plan to do all I can to contribute because I really like enlightened thinking, sharing and tilting at windmills. If you like those things too, then join my family tree and let’s be friends that make money together by grabbing on to some Kryptonite.
Eric J. Hirschhorn is a principal at bloomfield knoble. For 17 years he has helped lead the Dallas-based advertising agency from start up to becoming a premier, full-service agency whose clients include some of the most influential companies in America. Eric lives to spend time with his family, to work and to travel the world in search of unique fishing adventures.