Should You Connect With Competitors?
Welcome to this weeks digest of all things LinkedIn.
Today I want to address and issue which has always been a tricky question for LinkedIn users to answer…Should you connect to competitors?
More of that later but first…..
Interesting Stuff I Saw This Week
- LinkedIn Member number exceeds 645 million
- Iran-Linked APT34 Invites Victims to LinkedIn for Fresh Malware Infections
- Help clients discover your services with a new feature on LinkedIn
Engagement Can Prove Costly!
I recently saw this post from my fellow LinkedInLocal Manchester organiser Alex.
Alex was expressing a view and offering advice to his followers. I personally think he had a point but that’s not important, the key thing about this post is how others reacted.
Somebody clearly took offence to Alex’s post and reacted in what can only be described as a highly emotional and unprofessional way.
To make the situation worse, this individual’s followers (or tribe) rallied in support. The overall impression I got was that it reminded me of a gang of kids bullying someone in the playground!
These people are presumably trying to use LinkedIn to win new customers, yet they cause themselves damage by publicly supporting such behaviour! Sometimes we really need to sit back and consider the wider consequences of commenting on LinkedIn. If you read something annoying, take a breath and some timeout. Consider your response and carefully think about how others might interpret it.
You can disagree and gain credit for doing so in a mature and credible way…that is good LinkedIn practice. Rallying in support of an abusive and unprofessional user is not!
As for the person who was abusive I would say this: Commenting on posts is a key activity for anyone on LinkedIn who wishes to be more visible. Disagreeing with a post is also OK, everyone is entitled to their view but lashing out and making it personal is unprofessional and frankly bad for business. How many people saw this post and felt driven to want to do business with the person who was being abusive? As far as I can see the only supportive comments came from her tribe (as demonstrated by using the words help or helping in their headline).
The good news is that this type of thread is still pretty rare on LinkedIn where the vast majority of people behave like adults…..let’s hope it stays that way!
For the record, I don’t advise using ‘helping’ in headlines. I prefer bullet point headlines that clearly state what you do. Help and helping and to be honest, all the other words Alex listed, are somewhat wasted, they are not keywords and add little value to educate the casual viewer (who doesn’t help? It’s assumed anyway).
All that said, I also don’t think it’s a grievous sin either. If you are most comfortable using ‘helping’ then you won’t be doing anything wrong and I’m sure it works well for some people. – it’s certainly way better than the standard job title headlines.
Connecting to Competitors
This subject was motivated by a comment made by a listener recently who invited someone to connect and had a polite reply saying that they did not connect to competitors. In this instance, he didn’t consider this was a competitor but the recipient obviously felt there was enough of a crossover to warrant the reply.
This reminded me of the comments I have received in training and coaching sessions where people often state that they would never connect to a competitor. I always explain that I do but not with every competitor and I have found great benefits in doing so. This often kick starts an interesting debate which I thought might be interesting to feature on the podcast.
The first point here is this;
There is no right or wrong approach
Every market is different and every company has it’s own ethics and business strategy to consider. It is, however, important to make a decision based on facts and I often find that many people don’t fully understand the dangers or conversely misinterpret the dangers.
Fact One – Competitors can see your other connections (including customers) if you connect with them
You can prevent this by adjusting your settings. Simply go to ‘Me menu’ > Settings & Privacy > Scroll down the privacy section > Select ‘Who can see your connections’ > Select ‘Only you’
Whilst this secures the visibility of your connections (they will still see mutual connections) it’s worth noting;
- Being connected to someone is by no means an indication that they are a customer
- Once you have adjusted your setting, your connections are not visible to everyone – including contacts who might be able to introduce you to prospects. You might be able to see their connections and you can ask for an introduction but they would be well within their rights to feel that is inappropriate given your secrecy about your own connections.
Fact Two – Connecting with competitors might make your content more visible to prospects.
- This only happens if your competitor engages with your content but if your post is good enough, they may well do that!
- This is, of course, a two-way street!
Fact Three – A first-tier competitor might notice in their feed when you connect to a prospect or customer
- Only if you have not adjusted your privacy settings
- Your competitor may use this as a ‘hot lead’
- This is dependant on their settings not yours
- This happens very rarely in my experience.
Fact Four – A connection is a follower and may see your posts, comments, likes and shares in their feed.
- This is only likely to happen if you continue to engage with them – dormant connections are rarely seen in your feed.
- Your activity is clearly visible in your profile anyway, the only way of preventing a competitor from seeing this is to block them.
- You can prevent competitors from following you by selecting that only connections can follow you (see below)
Fact Five – Competitors are likely to improve your network
- Competitors are likely to connect to the sort of people you may wish to do business with
- This makes you and your content/activity more visible to a relevant audience
- This also works both ways!
Fact Six – It’s very difficult to prevent!
- Whilst you may not target competitors and invite them to connect, it’s still possible that your first-degree network contains competitors;
- Ex colleagues from current or previous employers
- Ex customers who have joined a competitor
- Any individual from your market who has subsequently joined a competitor
So why do I connect with competitors?
Firstly let me be clear, I have competitors who I would never connect to!
I have also built strong, collaborative relationships with several competitors who match my ethical values. I would happily refer work to them and they have referred business to me.
Being seen to be collaborative with competitors on LinkedIn can be interpreted as a sign of confidence.
Strong competition can help the market grow. When I was one of a handful of LinkedIn Trainers, new business was much harder to find than it is now!
I have always seen competition largely as a force for good. It improves me and it helps to keep me on my toes – complacency is a business killer!
A good contact of mine recently asked me why this post had not generated as much engagement as he had hoped.
Roger has been kind enough to allow me to share my feedback with you;
It’s a great pic and I’m a bit surprised it didn’t do better. Some possible reasons;
‘Scaling up a business can be a hell of a balancing act, with a million things demanding your attention, how do you keep your eye on what will drive your growth?’- How do I answer this? I’m concerned the viewer needs to think about it too deeply and therefore won’t bother! Questions that are more simplistic often work better.
The structure doesn’t work…there is a ‘see more’ but no strong reason to click on it the above 31 words is all we see, ‘see more’ works best when a sentence is incomplete.
Could it be timing? What day and what time was it posted?
If I do click to read it all, it becomes promotional and so the reader feels less inclined to get involved
Some new research plus directive from LinkedIn suggests that you should use a Max of 3 hashtags. Post visibility can be boosted by using highly popular relevant hashtags. #strategy is the only one you used that has a high following. #management and #entrepreneurship might have been better than the others used. OKR is best added as a keyword (just drop the #)
Maybe you need a more direct approach to this one – the subject reminds me of the famous GB rowing quote “if it doesn’t make the boat go faster….” I wonder if this might work better?
“STOP WASTING YOUR TIME ON LESS RELEVANT THINGS”
if it doesn’t make the boat go faster….
After many years of not winning any races at all, Ben Hunt-Davis and the GB Men’s Rowing Eight won gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
I would then go on to comment on the challenges of keeping focus on growth etc
Maybe a mutiple choice question would work such as “which of these techniques have you utilised to keep your eye on growth;
– Working closely with a mentor
– Visible memos throughout the office
– something else
Obviously, I’m just making up examples but you get the point..
I haven’t experimented exactly where the ‘See more’ cut off would be but probably somewhere near the start of the 3rd line above.
I would also send the post (click Share and select ‘send as message’) to Brett and ask him to comment
NB, Roger is achieving much better results with his most current post;
It strikes me that this could become an interesting and helpful regular feature of the show. If you want me to do the same for your post, drop me a line at mark@linkedinformed or send me a free message on LinkedIn
Well done to Charlie for this one. I saw it and felt unsure about using it because I know Charlie and didn’t want to be accused of favouritism…fortunately it was subsequently nominated by a couple of listeners!
3600+ likes and over 500 comments – amazing engagement!
This is near perfect for a text-only post.
- Topical and controversial subject
- Asks a question
- The headline in caps expresses emotion and grabs attention
- Nicely structured and easy to read
Reza sent this in 2 weeks ago so let’s look at his engagement stats from then;
Last 9 posts he gained an average of 15 likes and 5 comments
The previous 9 posts achieved 35 likes and 18 comments
So he is not imagining it!
I think the number of times you post per week can be a factor. I don’t think it’s the algorithm so much as your audience seeing too much of you. I personally experienced a growth in engagement when I reduced my posting to 2-3 per week.
In addition, the recent algorithm changes may be playing a part here. Reza was using 4-6 hashtags on average previously but since LinkedIn announced that we should use less hashtags he has dropped to 3 hashtags per post. This is only for 3 posts but his numbers do seem to be increasing again (26 likes & 10 comments average).
Pages are changing and LinkedIn is committed to making them more effective;
- What would you change about pages?
- What puzzles you about pages currently?
- Why don’t you use your page more?
That’s all for this week, remember to get in touch at Linkedinformed.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org