Once upon a time social media was just for people who wanted to catch up with college chums or trade pictures of their lunch. Now it's a treasure trove of opportunity for brands who want to connect and engage with customers. Today 77 percent of Fortune 500 companies manage at least one Twitter account and 70 percent are on Facebook. A whopping 93 percent of marketers turn to social media to enhance their marketing strategies.
If your brand is on social media, chances are your competition is too. Don't worry, though, there's plenty of room for everyone on social networks. The old adage, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." is good advice but who says you can't do both? Here are some tips to managing your competition across social channels.
Don't be afraid to engage. If another company mentions you kindly in a tweet or Facebook post, be sure to thank and acknowledge them in return to build goodwill between both brands and customers. Naturally, you won't want to respond if a company makes negative comments about your brand but don't ignore their attempts to acknowledge you in a favorable way. Make sure to return the favor at some point down the road.
Companies don't typically competitors to their followers but a well-placed shout-out to a tangentially related brand is a great strategy to keep in mind. Take this Tweet from Charmin, for instance, that acknowledges a job well done by Tide, who shared the same advertising space during a televised football game.
Help customers comparison shop. You don't have to mention your competitor by name to highlight the ways your product or service is better. If your sales data shows customers prefer another brand over yours in certain instances, use social media to combat the issue. If the perception is that another company's product works better outdoors than yours, launch a social media hashtag campaign encouraging users to post images of your product in action out in the elements.
Check out the competition's followers. As you create social media campaigns, check out the followers and fans of your competition to see what they respond to best and what they ignore. Feel free to follow or friend their customers, but don't intervene in social conversations between a competitor and its followers. It's disrespectful to the brand and awkward for the customer. If you feel funny looking at your competitor's public friend list, remember they're almost certainly checking out yours.
Play nice. Above all, keep all direct and indirect engagement with your competitors friendly and light-hearted. Social media is not the place for negative advertising or unfriendly tactics. You'll earn yourself an unfavorable reputation with customers and industry leaders alike. No one likes negative campaigning in advertising any more than they like it in politics.
The most successful brands on social media know that the key to making the best of your competitors' presence is to form a good policy about how, when, and if to engage them. After all, you're all in the same boat so you might as well make the best of it.