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What to Do When Someone Says a Competitor Is Better Than You on Social Media

Welcome to my first social media-related post! Since I work in social, I decided I should probably start writing some educational stuff. So sit back, relax, and enjoy!

A couple weeks ago I had a pretty interesting experience on Twitter with a brand I was considering doing business with, and it got me thinking – there’s a lot of tricky situations that happen in social every day, and there’s a lot of different ways to deal with them. I want to share MY methods of working through this particular situation, in hopes that it can be a help to others.

All Companies are Not Right for All People

When someone is comparing your product or service with someone else’s saying they’re better, your first reaction is probably to get defensive. After all, this is YOUR company they’re talking about. You’re the best for everyone, right?

WRONG.

Generally, all companies are not right for all people. Unless you’re a bacon factory. In which case, carry on. You’re fine. But in most cases, what is right for one customer may not serve another. That’s why we have competitors – they (usually) offer something you don’t, or claim to do whatever you do, better.

So what should you do when someone says, “I think that X company is the same if not better than Y,”? First, take a look at the actual conversation. If it’s on Twitter, look at the previous tweets. Is this in response to what someone else said? Usually tweets or comments like this are part of a larger conversation. The original tweet tends to be someone asking an opinion of their followers, or advice from other people who use yours or a similar product or service. Stepping back and taking a minute to survey the landscape can can help save you from a faux pas in your response.

What Might Happen if You Call Out a Competitor

When you see someone comparing you to another guy, your first thought may be, “They’re so wrong! They don’t understand my company! I need to change this!” That’s basically what happened in my exchange. They called out their competitor by name, and asked their community to try and change my opinion.

Oh boy.

Oh boy.

How did it turn out? It started a FIRESTORM. Customers of this brand were tweeting at me left and right, and some of them weren’t so nice. Not helpful, not constructive. Is that really how you want your business represented to potential customers? Didn’t think so.

The one positive point of the situation is that this company clearly has a really passionate community. Harnessing that passion can be a great tool, if you use it correctly. In this case, it wasn’t done so well.

So, How Could This Have Been Handled Differently?

In this particular scenario, I have a two-pronged approach.

1. Leave your competitor out of it. – I am VERY against calling out a competitor like that. It isn’t helpful, and it’s bad form. Like I said before, what you provide isn’t right for everyone. So don’t make yourself look bad by trying to put down other companies who are also in your industry.

2. Let your community help. – Any time someone is looking to do business with you, the best thing you can do is BE HELPFUL. Instead of trying to change someone’s opinion, direct them to your community in a way that encourages constructive conversation.  After all, they’re the ones who are using your product or service!

For example, you can retweet someone and say “Can anyone help Joe?”, or “Anyone have experience with this?”. It will be far more well received by the potential customer, and your audience, and is more likely to lead to a sale.

The one thing I want to drive home here is that your first interaction with a potential customer is the most important one. How you treat their questions and comments really reflects back on you as a company, and can really influence their decision one way or another. Taking a few minutes to step back, take and breath, and create a thoughtful response can really make a huge difference.

What’s your strategy for dealing with this type of situation?

 

“Please Advise” Is the Worst Phrase Ever.

I was going to write a post about my disdain for the phrase “Please Advise”, but we had a little round-table discussion at dinner the other night and I found two other phrases that are equally nails-on-the-chalkboard-sound cringe inducing.

But first, let me start with the title phrase: Please Advise.

 Please Advise

It may be one of the worst lines I’ve ever read in emails. Here’s an example: “I’m having trouble understanding your expense report for 8/11/12. Please advise.” What I actually read then I see that is, “I’m having trouble understanding why I’m such a douchebag. Please advise.” It just sounds so condescending to me. Like, I already know what you’re talking about, I just want to make you feel like an idiot for not explaining it in the way I want you to. Well, guess what? You sound like an idiot too. Next time you want to write please advise, consult your phrase thesaurus (if there isn’t one of these in existence, let me know. I’ll create one.) and choose a better phrase. Let’s eliminate please advise from our vocabulary forever.

It is what it is.

This is another phrase that seriously irritates me. While “Please advise” is mostly used in business settings, “It is what it is” can be used in either. It’s one of my mom’s favorites. She has it on a shirt and on a plaque in the kitchen. I’m pretty sure that’s just to piss me off, though. Anyway, not only is it annoying, it doesn’t really make sense. I mean, of course it is what it is. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be what it is. Duh. This phrase goes along with “It’s whatever,” but that doesn’t irritate me enough to make it into this post. Just a side note. If you say it is what it is to me, you run the risk of being throat punched. You’ve been warned.

Your thoughts?

This was my dad’s contribution. Someone makes a statement (usually in an email chain with more than one recipient), and then ends with “your thoughts?”. To me, this is a really passive-aggressive way of saying, I’ve told you what we’re going to do and I’m just asking your opinion to make myself look good to the other people in this chain. They aren’t going to take your input and apply it to the situation. They’re probably going to say, “That’s a great point, but blah blah blah.” A virtual slap down, if you will. If you’re making a statement of what’s going to happen, and it’s already been decided, don’t ask for other people’s thoughts just to be politically correct. It just makes a really long email chain that I don’t want to read, that really isn’t getting anything done.

Well, there you have it. A short and sweet (sour?) list of the top three worst phrases someone can use. If you hear someone use this, please politely point out that they sound like an asshat, and suggest some other phrases they could use. Until those get on my nerves, too. But I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens.

(Image taken from someone else who also takes issue with please advise)

Networking is Hard.

And I discovered I’m awful at it.

Oh, right. I’ve been gone for a while. Sorry about that. I got a job in social media (yay!); but it’s part time so I’m also still working as a waitress (not so yay). Needless to say, I’ve been kind of busy. But I’m back.

So anyway, I went to a social media networking event today called Bridging The Gap (#btg12 on Twitter) which was an awesome experience. I learned a lot, and I met some cool people. But not as many as I’d like. But I think today was a good learning experience, and of course, I want you to learn along with me. So, networking advice I took out of today follows.

1. Have business cards
This is probably the most important thing you can bring with you. I got mine yesterday. For $30. They’re not the best quality, but for instant printing at Staples, I’ll take it. Okay, it was 4 hours. But that’s still better than waiting a week for super shiny ones. And they did the trick.

But I’m not in a business, you might say. Get them anyway. You can get networking cards specifically. They have all your information, and its a fast way to give your info to someone else. Pretty key in making connections.

2. Have your elevator pitch ready.

If you haven’t worked in sales or marketing, an elevator pitch is your 30 story you tell to someone about who you are and what you do. Basically what you would tell someone if you only had an elevator ride to talk to them. Personally, I try to avoid all contact with people in elevators, but that’s neither here nor there. If you want to make your rounds and talk to as many people as possible, you want to make sure you know what you wanna say and that it’s short and sweet.

3. Don’t be afraid to start conversations

This is where I struggled today. People have name tags with their names and where they work. Even if you go up to them and say “Oh, you work at such and such? What do you do there?” People loooove to talk about themselves, so if you open with a question, you’ll get the interaction you’re looking for. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself, either. That’s what you’re there for.

Finally, exchange cards and follow up with the person. Email them, follow them on Twitter, connect with them on linkedin. You never know where you’re next job opportunity might come from.

If anyone has any other networking tips, share them with me in the comments or on Twitter: @marymallard

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