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Social Media Competition – 3 Things To Watch For

by James Ball on December 21, 2009

It’s about community and cooperation, so how do we conquer the competition? It’s my opinion that we don’t…besides, it’s just so “yesterday”. If social media has taught us anything, it’s that those to the left, right, ahead of, and behind us can teach us something in this space. In this present economy, and with these tools, an empathetic understanding and a sense of camaraderie can open doors like never before.

Business and competition can’t be separated, and I wouldn’t want them to be. I’m just not sure that old attitudes have much room to navigate on the social web. This is not to say that there is no competition here, I’m just stating that there also exists great opportunity within the old framework. If your sole purpose within social media for your business is to out-do your competitors, I fear you are missing more than just a few key points. You may be stunting your own growth.

If you are only here to compete:

1.)    You can’t listen effectively and adjust.

Let’s face it; those who are doing it better are, well, better at this! Maybe it’s best to follow along and watch closely than to try and out-shout these, don’t you think? How are they succeeding? What are their strengths and weaknesses? We need to be doing something different, better, or both in order to separate and define ourselves. First we need to know what this looks like! We’ll need a basis for comparison. Watching closely and learning about a competitor has never been easier than with social media.

I feel like competition is a noisy sport with lots of shouting. To me, it also seems pricey…what, with all those big shiny ads and banners! Listening and learning, by contrast, is quiet and inexpensive. Put plainly, you’ll gain and grow more effectively by listening and watching closely. I myself am never drawn in by the sound of a battle cry or by the constant bad-mouthing of another. Don’t be “that guy” out there. It’s a lot easier to listen and watch if you’re not blocked/unfriended/excommunicated for being a negative and loud mouthed annoyance.

2.)    It stops you from thinking horizontally.

Some of the strongest campaigns in social media are collaborations among those who would be competitors. The time and effort that it takes to constantly try to rob someone of their thunder would be better spent trying to create and foster relationships. Social media thrives on transparency. If you are strong in certain areas, it is quickly discerned. The same applies to your weaknesses. Finding a person or a company that has a different (also read: stronger/weaker) product or approach and similar clientele is like finding a key to a locked door. Together you could be a formidable force!

A shoring-up of one another and a unified strategy here can be very beneficial for all involved! Within your vertical are those that perhaps understand you and your business the best. Don’t allow this space to be a vacuum. Each competitor, to me, is one of two things. They are either:  A.) to be watched closely and therefore to be learned from. Or they would B.) Make a great partner/ally in social spaces. Seek out opportunities to align with others who already understand your aim and goals.

3.)    You’ll foster a bitter community:

It is just as easy to build a community of miscreants as it is to foster a strong and credible movement. If your goal is to build an army set on destruction, that’s just what you’ll have.  If you foster and equip a helpful and engaged community, your message will be carried and help will never be far from you. This type of community will grow and stand behind you.  I imagine that if you seek to conquer, your army will dwindle as they leave to join the more effective majority. If what you are trying to do is grow and edify and army only to have them behave poorly on your behalf, these too will wise-up as they travel the social landscape, what you’ve offered is in fact a disconnect. You may win a few battles but the campaign will wear you down.

If you seek to build a community, what are your thoughts about what I’ve said? If you’ve aligned with a “competitor”, will you let me know how that’s working out for you? If you’ve learned something and grown by watching your competitors, please share that story here in the comments. I can’t possibly have said enough today!

Billy Mitchell December 21, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Excellent advice James. As someone that consults B2B marketers on how to "outhink and outperform their competition", it wasn't easy for me to let down my guard when I first began exploring social media as a marketing tool.

heathersebi December 21, 2009 at 4:59 pm

You hit it dead on! I love the community of it all.

and I really love the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.

James Ball December 21, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Thanks Heather! I know you are a big fan of community, it's evident on your blog and on Twitter. I had no idea about the robots though. I'm glad I'm not the only one! :)

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