Our REAL Competition – not who you think…

The VERDICT is in – Social Media and Social Networking are here to stay!! In case you didn’t already know.

Now, that may not be news to many of you or even most of you, but I just wanted to be clear on that one point before going forward. Being involved in the “social media” space for the past 4+ years (and beyond if I count my time spent in the customer experience space), it is interesting to see how this space has grown and evolved. I have to admit, it has grown faster than I would have ever predicted 3 years ago. That is a good thing overall but as with everything that grows fast, has its dangers as well.

One question I have been asked many times over this time that I thought would be interesting to answer is, “Who exactly is your biggest competition?” Great question and one where the answer has changed over the years. Let me start by saying it isn’t who you think it is.

Most people think it is one of two types. The masses of marketing and ad agency people who are out on the loose and who understand the “Tools” such as facebook and twitter and myspace and… If you guessed this, you are dead wrong. Granted, these folks are certainly annoying and distracting and generally waste the time and money of unsuspecting companies but that is not our biggest competition. They don’t understand “strategy” and that is their biggest downfall – but that is the topic for another day.

The second group most think are the ad agencies, PR firms or traditional marketing firms – wrong again. Yes, they are doing everything in their power to delay their clients to fully engaging in social media because they haven’t figured out a way to replace the massive revenues they would lose if they actually recommended a true social media strategy. It’s going to take them a few years to get there but they can keep their clients on the hook for quite a while since their clients are reluctant to change anyway. But they are not even the biggest threat out in the market.

Nope, our biggest competition is the “uninformed CEO or other executive” inside their very own organization. Why? Because they look at social media more as a “toy” or “something to explore” or “something to test out” or “some new and shiny technology” and as such it doesn’t command the attention of the “executive suite”. What ends up happening is they ask around and find the 28 year old (or someone they think is young enough to understand it) who happens to know how to use facebook or twitter or foursquare or any of the other 265 tools (approximate) in the marketplace and assign the responsibility to them. That is who we compete most against.

What they are now starting to find out is what they have done is entrusted their BRAND, and their IMAGE and their CUSTOMERS and their BUSINESS STRATEGY to someone who has no clue what these things are about or what they should be doing to enhance all of them to increase their market presence and revenues. Yet, over and over again it ends up in their hands and goes nowhere. The comment from the top then becomes, “See, I told you this new fangled media doesn’t work”. And you know what, in that situation, they are exactly right…

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