Community Management, Convince and Convert, Social Media Case Studies, Social Media Book, Social Media Monitoring, The Now Revolution

3 Ways to Capitalize on the Opportunity Economy

Social media isn’t all about planned campaigns and editorial calendars. In some cases, the best way to make an impact – to win the hearts and minds of customers and prospects – is by being timely, hyper-The Opportunity Economyrelevant, and individualized. This is contextually appropriate, just-in-time marketing where you find a chance to engage authentically, and you take it. This is the Opportunity Economy, and social media lets you tap into it like never before.

There are 3 primary ways you can capitalize on the Opportunity Economy:

1. Opportunities Via Geography

Jay was in downtown Flagstaff, Arizona, and used Foursquare to check in at a local restaurant. Immediately, a message popped up on his iPhone, saying “Since you’re so close, why not visit Tinderbox Kitchen? Named One of Arizona’s Top 25 Restaurants by Arizona Highways Magazine, show this message for a discount on an appetizer.”

Imagine owning a restaurant and then sending a staff member to the adjacent restaurant, where he or she would stand in the bar area and offer coupons to patrons. That type of rifle shot, competitive marketing would be unthinkable in the “real world,” but it happens every minute of every day on Foursquare and elsewhere. The best and most relevant place to interact with your customers is when they are actually transacting with you.

2. Opportunities Via Inquiry

Flint Communication is a full-service advertising agency based in Fargo, North Dakota. One of their clients is SunButter , a spreadable food product made entirely from sunflower seeds. Most of SunButter’s customers have a disproportionate hankering for the taste of sunflower seeds (baseball players, Australian ex-pats that can’t get Vegemite). But another significant potential customer base for SunButter are people with peanut allergies.

A quick check of Yahoo! Answers for “peanut allergies” finds thousands of questions on the topic, with many asking for alternatives. SunButter could credibly answer those questions and introduce their product in a helpful way. That’s the Opportunity Economy at work.

3. Opportunities Via Context

Search engine guru Danny Sullivan describes contextual real-time opportunities as the “anyone know” phenomenon. Searching for the phrase “anyone know” on Twitter unveils a bouillabaisse of inquiries, numbering as many as 1,000 per hour.

“Does anyone know any Volleyball camp or clubs available during summer?” reads a tweet from @scubbasteviee

“Does anyone know where to get cannoli in Tokyo?” asks an evidently cross-cultural @melobubu

“Anyone know a cure that actually works for the hiccups?” wonders @esso, who is subsequently retweeted a dozen times

This is the low-hanging fruit of the Opportunity Economy. Set up search queries for your company on a real-time search engine that reports Twitter and public Facebook results (at a minimum). If you ran a volleyball camp, you could set up searches for “anyone know + volleyball” and “recommendation + camp,” as well as a few other combinations. Then, when it’s appropriate, you can carefully and tactfully engage in a conversation, as long as you’re actually adding to it, not butting in like a bull in a china shop.

Taylor Guitars Seized an Opportunity

Musician Dave Carroll has been widely lauded for his United Breaks Guitars YouTube video that has now been seen nearly 10 million times and takes United Airlines out behind the woodshed for a musical ass-kicking. And while Carroll’s demonstration of the power of a single, scorned customer will populate business textbooks for decades, there’s another, better angle to the story.

Just four days after the United Breaks Guitars video launched, Bob Taylor and the folks at Taylor Guitars in San Diego (the brand played by Dave Carroll and broken by United), launched a “video response” on YouTube. Titled “Taylor Guitars Responds to United Breaks Guitars,” it features an unedited Bob Taylor (co-founder) in the company’s factory service center unspooling an array of helpful tidbits about airline rules, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines, and the protective qualities of guitar cases.

Useful and appropriate, the video wraps up with a reminder from Bob that Taylor Guitars’ factory service center can repair all makes and models of guitars, not just Taylor’s. This two-minute video about guitar repair is at 522,000 views on YouTube and counting. How’s that for the Opportunity Economy?

According to Chalisse Zolezzi, Public Relations Manager for Taylor, the company was an early adopter of real-time principles.

“We use social media to provide an inside look of what’s going on at Taylor, and to have a dialogue with our players” she says. “It gives our fans and players a sense of how alive and dynamic the company is, as well as providing an opportunity to connect with us”

The company wisely repackaged content and expertise it already had (a relationship with Dave Carroll, knowledge of TSA rules, and so on) to engage in a valuable, contextually appropriate manner

“We weren’t trying to market,” Zolezzi says. “It was just Bob speaking from the heart. We wanted to offer a video in a timely manner that addressed the issues of interest to guitar players.”

What are you doing to find opportunities in real-time?

(image by Shutterstock, a Convince & Convert sponsor)

This is the fifth in a 7-week blog post series covering themes included in The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social – my new book with Amber Naslund, debuting February 1 (pre-order now and win prizes!).

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    After reading David Meerman Scott’s book Real-Time Marketing & PR, I am obsessed with real-time digital communications. It is one of the most trans-formative aspects of the internet, and I experienced this a couple weeks ago when asking you about Objective Marketer. After asking your opinion about OM, another engagement/analytics service popped into the conversation, and I set up a demo that same day.

  2. says

    You never know when the next opportunity is going to arise and being able to capitalize on it quickly and effectively is key. An associate I work with had his personal site mentioned in a blog and now he is getting tons of traffic and inquiries and can barely keep up. Being able to seize this is important

  3. says

    You are so right Jay and thanks! We often don’t see what’s obvious. Social Media, Blogging in particular really keeps you on your toes! I had a controversial Twitter experience a day or two ago and it inspired me to write an article entitled ‘Facebook groups and Social Media etiquette, who gives a Tweet?’ This was NOT planned, but the more I lay awake in bed thinking about my experience, the more convinced I was I couldn’t ignore it! To me, it’s one of my best and most spontaneous articles.
    ALL Bloggers, ALWAYS keep a pen and pad by the side of your bed, you may wake up to find nothing but scribbled nonsense, but on the other hand, you might find brilliance in the early morning gloom!

  4. Anonymous says

    Great post with tremendous real world examples. Thank you very much for sharing Jay. I knew of the United Breaks Guitar video but had not seen the response from Taylor. Brilliant.


  5. says


    There is so much opportunity that for some, it is a learning curve, for others it is almost overwhelming so they are unable to use social media effectively. I think also the teaching brands the change in trad adv vs social where in social it is not talking to customers, it is talking with. This change involves all departments and not just the marketing dept. The other difference is finding the business where previously we saw run an ad and wait for the phone to ring. Very different mindset.

    The opportunities are there for those who wish to take them. The rest will lag behind and say that social media does not work.

    • Jenwhaley says

      Suzanne, I completely agree! Last week, I had a client say to me, “Facebook is only for teenagers.” While my first response (in my head) was…”NOT,” I proceeded to give the standard examples of how Facebook can help brands interact and build genuine relationships with their customers (but only if they truly participate and offer immediate responses). I work mainly with small businesses and I think its the “fear of the unknown” that motivates many owners to dismiss the possibilities.

      Great post Jay! My husband heard you speak at ExactTarget’s Sales & Services Kick Off, and directed me to your site.

  6. Anonymous says

    The real time web provides marketers with limitless opportunity to hyper-target valuable messages and inject them into social spaces. The organization that is stifled by the scale of the conversations and variability of quality is not prepared to train or equip their employees with the tools for branded engagement.

    This was a very well written post. Thanks for sharing it.

    • says

      Thanks Leslie. You nailed it. The key is employee(s) not employee. We have to make social a skill, not just a job. No single person can find all these real-time opportunities. We need more people with antennae up.

  7. says

    Opportunity Economy… very interesting post. Personally, I have doing these for quite some time now, but after you have actually attached a name to it and defined it..what more can I say…excellent!

  8. letstalkandchat says

    I just found a great company that builds websites for info products. To keep your costs low, they’ll mentor you on how to create your site, design a marketing funnel (one of the guys works in Hollywood and makes really slick videos), and the other guy programmed Myspace. If you’re looking to have professional web design for your small business and not waste any time or money then check their site out. Check them out:

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