How to Deal with a Social Media Copycat Competitor
Inspiration vs Imitation
True, genuine originality is an illusion. In this day and age, everything is a remix of something that came before and that is okay. In marketing, we draw inspiration from various sources and funnel it into our efforts in a way that amplifies the brand message. However, in this profession, there is a clear line between inspired design and blatant imitation. Unfortunately, some companies choose the easier route - imitation.
Dealing with a marketing copycat is...well, frustrating. You’ve spent countless hours researching, designing and implementing your marketing strategy, just to have your competitor follow every step on the road you’ve worked so hard to carve out. But I’m here to tell you a few things:
#1. You’re ahead! If you’re leading the strategy, your competitor is always one step behind. For any current or potential customers following you both, they’ll soon realize who’s the real deal and who’s just a cheap imitation.
#2 You’re Smarter. If they can’t create an original strategy on their own – there’s a reason. Find it. You can out-smart them!
#3 You’re Classy. Imitation is tacky and I applaud marketers who do not go this route. Take pride in your knowledge and ability to create, not imitate.
Here’s a few tips and tricks from my experience on how to deal with a Copycat Competitor in the realm of social media.
Do not engage. I repeat – DO. NOT. ENGAGE!
The first thing you want to do when you notice a competitor is copying or taunting your social media strategy, is address it. Let them know who they’re messing with. Right? WRONG. Take a deep breath, and smile and wave. Engaging your competitor is not worth the trouble and looks unprofessional. We’ve all seen the not so subtle feuds between popular brands like Sprint and Verizon, Xfinity and Dish, Samsung and Apple and so on, but in the end – they both lose.
When you address your competitor, subliminally or otherwise, you’re drawing attention to them and the last thing you want is your follower base searching for who you’re “talking to”. They can pick up on subtle feuds – so let your competitor’s followers do just that. They may search for you and when they do, use that opportunity to generate interest in your product or service – not your competitor.
Find Their Weakness
If your competitor is copying or addressing your social posts, it suggests they may not have the resources to create a competitive marketing strategy of their own. Take advantage of that! Create a quick assessment of their posts vs your posts –you may find that there are certain communications or media types that they don't duplicate. Posts that link to white papers, videos, infographics, articles or that use intricate design may be something they can't counteract due to lack of resources.
This will give you the upper hand. Many copycats are only capable of saying the same things online but are not capable of doing the same things. Find their weakness, leverage it and their copycat strategy will quickly run out of steam.
Set Up Safe Guards
If a competitor is set on copying you, it’s on you to make it harder for them to do so. Here’s a few ways to do just that:
Put valuable insight and resources behind lead forms – only the boldest of competitors will input their information to get a copy. Also, on some marketing platforms, you can input code within your forms to reroute competitor email domains.
Block their IP address from your site. Most websites have a security section where, if you know your competitor’s IP address, you can blacklist them from viewing your website.
Have your social posts encourage newsletter or email sign ups and send the meat of your most engaging content through email rather than posted on a public page for your copy cat to see (only if it works for your audience, of course).
Keep in mind, these tactics don’t guarantee that your competitor won’t get their hands on your collateral. There are ways around this like “going incognito” in Chrome or using a personal email address. But if nothing else, you can say you’ve done your part in protecting your resources (and generating leads in the process) rather than just handing it out to competitors like free candy.
Seek & Enforce Trademarks
You may have slogans, colors, hashtags or icons that you consistently associate with your brand, so take the steps to protect this type of intellectual property. Register trademarks with the USPTO(®), or use ™ and © to let your competitors know you mean business. If you believe their imitations have gone too far and is causing confusion in the market, talk to a lawyer. No one wants to go to court, but some things are worth enforcing.
“Copy and You Die”
In the words of Jack Ma, billionaire and creator of China’s biggest E-commerce company – Alibaba,
“You should learn from your competitor, but never copy. Copy and you die.”
That may seem a little drastic, but in all reality – being a Marketing Copy Cat could lead to the death of your brand integrity and credibility. Just don’t.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve found this article helpful as you counteract a Copy Cat competitor. If you need assistance with social media marketing services, Ace Media & Marketing can help! We specialize in digital marketing and events for OEMs, suppliers and manufacturers in the print industry. Contact our team today for a free consultation.