Follower Envy? How to Leverage Your Competitors’ Social Networks

Opinion: Stay active online to stay relevant

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So, you checked out your competitors’ LinkedIn and Facebook pages and noticed that your own company’s social following pales in comparison? Naturally, that might freak you out a little. But take it from someone who helps businesses maximize returns on their social media marketing investments every day: You can relax.

A larger social media presence doesn’t always signify a major competitive advantage. However, it does mean that your competitor stands to engage and build relationships with more prospects and customers on those platforms. So, while your concern about missing out on such an opportunity is legitimate, in reality, looking at social media marketing as a numbers game is the wrong approach.

Here’s why: Your competitor’s larger network can actually be a boon for your business.

When a company similar to yours is attracting attention online, it means that there’s a market and a need for your product or service. You don’t have to convince people they need what you offer—they already believe it. They’re just currently getting it from someone else.

Plus, at the end of the day, there’s a lot of business to go around. Operating in a scarcity mindset and thinking that your competitors have the market cornered just because they have a large social media following—well, that’s just silly, especially considering that there are so many ways to leverage these assets they’ve built to your advantage.

Leveraging the competition’s reach

As a best practice, we tell our clients to follow their competitors on social media to see what they’re posting, who their audience is comprised of and how their audience is responding.

On LinkedIn, for example, if you’re connected to them, in many cases, you’ll have access to their connections, which can be really helpful when it comes to mining for prospects. Just be sure to change your LinkedIn settings to hide your connections from your contacts so that the competition can’t mine your database.

That’s just the beginning, though. Here are four more ways to effectively leverage your competitors’ networks:

Let them do the work

There’s a concept in racecar driving called drafting. When you’re directly behind another car, you face less wind resistance, allowing you to pick up speed and propel yourself around that car.

Likewise, if you’re entering the market as a lesser-known business with a unique approach to solving a specific problem, drafting on that momentum is a no-brainer: Your competitor has done a lot of the heavy lifting in finding and attracting your ideal customers. Now, you have the opportunity to show them how you can solve their problems even more effectively.

Your differentiator doesn’t even have to be a function of your product or service. It can be as simple as a customer rewards program. 49 percent of customers say that a rewards program would influence them to switch brands.

Capitalize on their missteps

With tools like LinkedIn, you can use Sales Navigator to follow your competitors and see all of the content and updates they put out, even if you aren’t connected to them. You can also pick out their most active followers—people who like and comment the most on their posts—by simply reaching out to them and engaging them with your own content.

The most common mistake made on LinkedIn is being inactive. Simply by being active, you can quickly pull customer attention away from someone else’s brand and onto yours. This can be even more effective if you’re targeting a niche segment of a competitor’s total customer base.

For example, rather than targeting all PC users, for years, Apple simply went after a core market of educators, students and creatives. Those ardent early adopters became brand evangelists and helped the company expand into a much larger market.

Copy what works

Sales Navigator is great for this, too. Follow a competitor’s content and updates, and see what kind of stuff gets the most traction. With a bit of research, you’ll be able to understand how to develop more engaging content and frameworks for distributing it.