As I read various online discussion boards and chats, I see a growing number of people checking with their competitors to see if they are using social media and if they are using it, they want to know how others are using it. These are mostly friendly discussions among friendly-competitors who look to each other for best practices. I have to tell you that I am bothered by these discussions as I see them as fearful. I see them as people and companies who are afraid to try something new unless they know that someone else tried it first.
Guess what? There are many, many companies and people using social media to create real business opportunities. However, there is no magic formula. There are no special ingredients for success. If you are a marketer, can you tell me the perfect way to produce an advertisement? What about how to design the most effective direct mail piece? What type of event is going to get people to buy from you right away? The most experienced marketers know that a lot of success has to do with the right combination of experience, understanding your marketplace and that little thing we like to call luck (or trial and error).
Integrating social technology into your marketing strategy is no different. Sure, it helps to know the competition. But it’s more important to understand your target audience and what they need. If you are spending all of your time worrying about what others are doing, you might miss a real opportunity to be creative and to stand out in a crowded market.
Instead of asking the question, do I need to be there because my competition is there, why not ask, do I need to be there because potential clients and referral sources are there? And if your competition is not there, why not be the first? Then ask yourself, how can I be different? What risks can I take that might pay off in the end? How can I meet the needs of my clients and prospects in a creative and innovative way?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the importance of doing what the competition does and if you agree or disagree with my assessment. Does this lack of original thinking bother you or is just me?