Ah, social media – it’s hard to remember how we once managed to live without it. These days, social media is one of the most important tools that a business can have; why?
Because 49% of the world’s population now has a social media account and a huge section of these people use their platforms to check out the latest brands, contact customer support and ask for recommendations.
While a lot of businesses were surprisingly slow to jump onto the social media bandwagon, in 2021, it’s almost impossible to find a website which doesn’t have those telltale logos on its home page.
Why do you need to have a social media account for your business?
If you’re still not convinced by the importance of social media, the following might just change your mind:
Figures show that 95% of adults aged from 18 to 34 are extremely likely to follow a brand on social media and, 71% of these people use social media to recommend brands, products and services. Furthermore, 63% of the world’s customers expect to be able to contact a brand’s customer support through its social media platforms.
When you take these hard facts into account, it’s easy to see how missing out on social media means missing out on potential sales. These days, most of the world’s businesses use social media pages to market their brand, conduct advertising and to engage with their customers.
However, while your brand is benefiting from your social media presence, you might just be helping your competition out at the same time. Many brands are unaware of the fact that, while they’re working hard to gain new followers and engage with their audience, their competitors are equally busy trying to steal those hard won customers.
So, how are they doing it and, what can you do to put a stop to their dastardly plans?
The Social Network
So, you’ve been super-focused on grabbing yourself lots of great new followers and, you’re doing your best to keep them engaged with your brand. Well done you – your competitors send their heartfelt thanks. Unfortunately, it’s really not that difficult for your competitors to swoop in and start wooing away your followers and this is how they’re doing it.
Your competition will usually begin by looking for authority competitors within their own niche, and this is as simple as performing a Google search. They’ll then go on to check out the social media presence of each of the results, looking for the number of followers, the frequency of posting and how much interaction is going on. From there, it’s a simple matter of plucking off your followers and getting in touch with them by offering them a discount or incentive to switch allegiance to their brand.
What can you do about it?
Although it’s probably not possible to completely eliminate this threat, there are a few things that you can do to help mitigate the risk and, these are:
Pay attention to settings – Most social media platforms allow you to change your privacy settings and, you should absolutely do this in order to try to keep prying eyes away. Where possible, set your platforms so that only members can view any content and, always vet new members to try to week out competitors posing as customers.
Loyalty program – A great way to keep your customers onboard is to offer a loyalty program or scheme – and make sure that it’s attractive enough to keep your customers interested.
Communicate – The best way to retain customer loyalty is to provide the very best customer support that you possibly can. When customers are satisfied, they tend to stay loyal. Simples!
This is quite possibly the biggest threat to your social media pages – and is so common that there are even online tools available to help with this. On any given day, your Facebook pages will show a fair bit of activity including posts, comments, shares and likes and, all of these are up for grabs.
Picture the scene – your hard work has paid off and you now have tons of Facebook followers who start out being super loyal to your brand, great huh?
These followers are also so keen that they become fully engaged and, as a result, start to ask you lots of questions. The problem is that you’re now a victim of your own success and your pages are so busy that you struggle to get round to answering every query. In the background of this scene, you’ll hear the evil chuckle of your competitor.
By using simple tools like Fanpage Karma, your competitors are able to help themselves to lots of information about your pages. They’ll get hold of lots of useful stats such as ‘20% of users are currently talking about this subject’.
Competitors can then take this a step further by using tools to find out when you’re posting and, when you’re getting the most engagement. From here, it’s pretty much plain sailing.
For example, your competitor can view follower questions and posts that you may have ignored due to being too busy – you can guarantee that your competitor won’t be too busy to endear themselves to your followers by sweeping in and answering the question or post under the guise of helping out.
What can you do about it?
Engage – the most effective weapon in your arsenal here is to make sure that you respond to all posts and questions in a timely manner. These days, social media users expect companies to be super-responsive and, if you’re not, you’re leaving the door wide open to your competition.
Notifications – Make sure that, in your settings, you’re geared up to receive notifications from your social media pages as this will focus your attention on making sure that you’re getting back to your followers.
Max Babych CEO & Founder at spdload.com says, “A lot of brands are honestly surprised when they find out that competitors are creeping in and answering questions that they haven’t bothered to answer themselves. Any business which has a social media presence, must be prepared to committing to investing time and effort in it, particularly when it comes to responding to queries.
We all know how useful hashtags can be – particularly within the Twitterverse where a great tag can mean the difference between success and failure. Because of this, I bet you’ve spent loads of time coming up with some fabulous hashtags for your accounts. Good for you.
Twitonomy is a tool which allows people to find their competitor’s hashtags – it’s actually so easy to do this, it’s not funny. Once they’ve got their sticky mitts on these, it’s a simple case of using them on their own pages.
They can then scoop up the followers who are using these tags and, as with our last point, take the opportunity to answer questions and queries which were meant for your brand.
What can you do about it?
Not a great deal, unfortunately. It’s perfectly legal for a competitor to nick your hashtags for their own use and you won’t get anywhere by complaining about this. What you can do is:
Switch it up – Make sure that you regularly use new hashtags on your pages as this will make it more difficult for your competition to keep up.
Brand it – One way of discouraging the competition from stealing your tags is to use your brand name in them – in most cases, the competition will be reluctant to share your brand name, even if it might ultimately benefit them.
Accept it and Share the wealth – There are plenty of fish in the sea, and this holds especially true in the social media world. Take advantage of popular hashtags and join the fun with social media holiday hashtags. Consider your competitors’ imitations as a form of flattery and keep creating awesome content!
Andrew Martins, senior associate at LVbet.com says, “Hashtag hijacking was a major annoyance for us and one that we struggled to control. Thankfully, we hit on the idea of using our name, or parts of it, in our hashtags and this seemed to, thankfully, put the competition off”.
Social media advertising is a brilliant way of reaching a massive number of people on social media at a relatively low cost. I’m pretty sure that you’re already aware of the fact that your competition is using social media advertising to gain new customers but, what you might not know is that they’re using your customer base to do it. Sounds sinister, I hear you say and, you’d be right – here’s how they do it:
This underhand tactic is known as targeted ads with interests and happens a lot more than you might think. It works like this:
- The competitor goes to their Ads Manager and chooses Power Editor
- They create a new ad campaign and set
- They go to Detailed Targeting and select YOUR fan page
- They set up the ad for publishing
And, voila, it’s that easy. Just like that, your competition has hooked your customers into their new advertising campaign and have started wooing them away from your page by promising them the world – and more.
As we’ve already discussed, they’ve already been able to find plenty of insights about your pages including how often you post and when and, who your followers are. This makes it incredibly easy for them to build entire campaigns based solely on nabbing your followers. Amazingly, this is not only permitted within social media guidelines but is considered an acceptable practice.
What can you do about it?
Sadly, you don’t have much recourse against a competitor doing this and there’s not a huge amount you can do, except:
Make a bid – A little controversial but, by bidding on your own brand keywords, you can create authority and make it more expensive for your competitor to bid on these words.
Play them at their own game – While your competition has been happily grabbing your followers for their ads, they probably won’t expect you to respond in kind. Chances are that they’ll find out that you’ve done this and won’t much like it – which may be enough to convince them to find other ways of gaining followers.
Patrick Mazurkiewicz CEO at WirEntsorgen.de says, “We were driven mad by a competitor who used to do this all the time. At first, we politely asked them to stop and they declined. So, we then decided to see how they liked it by doing the same thing to them. Although I didn’t particularly enjoy doing this, it did work and this is, happily, no longer something that we have to deal with”’
Prevent competitors from stealing your customers
You won’t always know which competitors are using these tactics in order to steal your followers, which can make stopping them something of a tricky proposition. If, however, you do know who they are, don’t be shy of naming and shaming them on your social media pages as this is usually a pretty effective way of nipping the problem in the bud.
Unfortunately, as technology continues to advance at breakneck speed, it opens up a huge number of opportunities for those who are looking to gain benefits without putting in too much work.
As we’ve said, there won’t always be a lot that you can do when it comes to competitors stealing your followers. Having said that, it’s always a great idea to pay close attention to your privacy settings in a bid to make it as difficult as possible for your competitors to sneak in through the back door.
If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find that there are pages and pages of results which will show you how to steal a competitor’s followers – which is a little disheartening to say the least. Try to combat this by protecting your accounts and by offering the best, most responsive customer support that you can in order to make sure that your loyal customers have no reason to go elsewhere.