Risk, your competitors and social media

"Slug from Atmosphere eavesdrops on Lucy?" by Joe Howell on Flickr

Great question from the audience at yesterday’s Asher Agency social media seminar:

Should I be concerned about my competitors accessing information about my customers on sites like LinkedIn?

The answer is yes–but not so concerned as to avoid connecting with your customers via social media. It’s important to protect prorprietary information, of course, but it’s even more important to be where your customers want you to be. The simple truth is that if you don’t serve as a resource to your customers online, someone else will. Today, social media offers one of your best opportunties to provide your customers with the free, timely, unsolicited information they need to make decisions–and to understand your capabilities and expertise. If you’re not willing to share what you know, your competitors are standing by, ready and willing to help.

One other note: few companies have ever lost a customer because of social media alone. If your customers choose a competitor over you, it’s likely because you either a. weren’t a good fit for them (that’s not necessarily your fault), or b. you weren’t providing them with what they need (that one is your fault). LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter aren’t to blame.

Instead of worrying about your competitors, focus on yourself. If you use it wisely, social media can help you serve your customers even better. If you do that, it’s going to much less likely that they’ll look to your competitors for help. And if you’re truly doing your best for them–including when you can’t be together face-to-face–you’re doing exactly what you should to protect yourself.

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