Are you stealing your competitors’ customers using social media like Twitter and Facebook? Should you? What’s to prevent a competitor from friending, contacting and promoting to your clients on your social media lists? Is this stealing or smart social networking?
Social Networking or Stealing Customers of Competitors?
LizardFishGraphics is a firm that converts unsuitable images to printable vector art, saving companies from the burden of high printing-related artwork charges. Owner Brian Satre recently emailed me this question:
I’m planning to prominently link my new website to our Twitter and Facebook pages, but I’m a little concerned about putting this information within the grasp of my competitors. The list of friends/followers is essentially a partial customer list. My dad’s company Impro Graphics was listed in the testimonials section of my old site, and he was pummeled by spam from my competitors. I’ve done a little research, and I don’t see any way to prevent my Twitter followers and Facebook fans from being spammed. What do you advise?
Web 2.0 Marketing Advice
“How to Steal Customers from Your Competition Using Twitter” treats his question directly. Ash at Adpoppr.com makes the point that in all marketing, you hope to reach your competitors customers: “Each time you do a marketing and/or advertising campaign, you are hoping your message reaches not only customers who have a problem and need a solution but also the people who are currently your competitor’s customer.” He concludes that as long as you are not sending repetitive tweets or updates, which is spamming everyone, you are using social media properly.
Chris Rollyson of CSRA is a business strategy consultancy that helps business and government leaders use disruptive phenomena like social networks and Web 2.0 to improve competitiveness. He indicates that opening up your friends and followers to competitors is the nature of this Web 2.0 world. He refers Brian to Increasing Customer Transparency: Real Threat or a Paper Tiger for Marketers?, which concludes that transparency is more efficient and good for customers. However “for many businesses, though, this will mean disruption and adjustment. The good news is, opportunity and threat move together, and the businesses that understand this shift and act on it first can grab the advantage.”
And from Larry Brauner, of Online-Social-Networking.com:
“This method of prospecting for business isn’t new or unique to the Internet. For example, print advertising sales teams find many of their leads by scouring ads in competing publications.
“Even if your client isn’t being prospected by a company who found them following you on Twitter, for sure they’re being prospected as a result of having been found in another fashion, such as through a reference book at a local library.
“I’m not saying that you must connect with your clients on Twitter. That’s up to you. However, do give up the notion that you can shelter them from your competition. Instead, shower them with the kind of attention and service that they deserve, and that will make them loyal to you.”
After digesting this advice, Brian decided to link to his Twitter and Facebook accounts for his upcoming ArtworkIQ business, in which he will have fewer competitors and can provide high-end services. On the Lizardfish Graphics site, he is not going to display followers and friends because this is a commodity business where competition is fierce.
Stealing or Smart Social Media?
What do you think? Should you contact and “friend” the followers and friends of your competitors? How about your opinion in a comment.