The Enemy Mine

When you report your social media metrics to your boss or a client, naturally you focus on your “fans” and how many you added/lost in a given period of time, right? You added “this many” for this promo but “lost a few more” the next day because you promoted a little too much. Or, say, after a rather provocative point of view or miscue by your parent company, the fans evaporated or showed up in droves to support. Either way, you can’t help but take it personally when someone clicks to either “join the party” or “walk away.”

However, how closely are you looking at those “fans?” 

I run social media for a very large, nationally known brand in a hard vertical of very particular fan types. (In other words, very opinionated, self-important types.) This brand has grown exponentially, virtually overnight with hardly any spend or promotion. It’s an anomaly, actually. Weekly and monthly, I am both enamored and aghast at the cavalcade of fans and foes that come and go with each new announcement.

However, upon closer examination of fans and followers, I discovered something shocking!

Many of my so-called “fans” are actually my competitors and people associated with my competitors and rivals! 


Yes, it’s true. I actually pulled down our entire fans list from Facebook (no easy task) and pruned through all of our followers on Twitter and Instagram. Holy cow, I recognized more names on there than I care to admit, and while I am momentarily flattered by their interest and (hey, let’s face it) their jealousy of our overnight success, I am struck with panic on the metrics we have been reporting as “growth.”

Yes, I am a victim of “The Fake Inflate.”

So while I “deflate” and step aside to check my shorts in utter shock I realize that this “enemy comb-thru” is much like what you do when you scrub your email lists. Have you looked at your email lists lately for “friendlies” and “frenemies?” Look for how many of your emails are actually (blatantly) being sent to competitors, rivals and industry types. You will be amazed at how many names (actual real names people foolishly use) and also email address exchanges ( you recognize in your list.

While you count those up how about digging through your social media carefully. Look closely at the names of fans and even the other businesses that follow you on Twitter and Instagram. Notice any names that stick out to you?

For the heck of it, we pulled our entire email database down and stripped away the so-called “frenemies and friendlies” list and came away with a shocking statistic that nearly 14% of our email database was either internal “friendlies” or competitors or industry (that we could easily identify.) 

So does this mean we should recalibrate our “growth” and other KPI such as “open and clicks?” For social media does that mean I need to harvest a recount of “real fans” vs. “spies?” Is it wrong to assume all followers and fans really care about my brand?

It all came full circle for me when I saw my client’s social media being discussed in an industry blog by a competitor/hater very recently. In fact their disdain and vitriol for the brand spoke volumes but the message was crystal clear to me; they are hanging on our every word, reading every promotion and post like it was gospel and, chiefly, they are scared!

Can I classify that as an “engaged” user? You bet I can and multiply that by five.

When they are re-posting your every word (either pro or con), what they are also unknowingly doing is giving my brand additional buzz and attention. That means possibly another four or five people will pop on over to Twitter or Facebook to read, to “like” and to “follow” to see what all the fuss is about. Clearly, the viral venom just spurs another migration of new fans.

Look, if you are going to “cruise” a competitor, at least be somewhat smart about it and use an anonymous email or Twitter account so you can get off the radar and continue to lurk. But if you are going to throw a little shade at the spotlight on a competitor, just remember you are possibly only making that spotlight a little bigger and a little brighter.

As for me, I just count the fans and consider them all mine!

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