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Is It a Bad Idea to Link to Your Competitors on Social Media?

Matt Bentley
Matt Bentley
Marketing Lead at Snip.ly

Curating your competitor's content can be done to your advantage, if you know how to do it right.

Social media is one of the most significant technological developments of the 21st century. Not only does it connect people globally, but it allows you to showcase your creativity to a worldwide audience, network with people with interests similar to yours, and bond with friends over mutual interests no matter how obscure. The internet is built on niche communities, and those communities thrive on social media.

Social media has just as many applications for businesses as it does for consumers, but it only works for you as a business owner if you're using your social media presence properly. You can't just plug your own product – if you do, people will ignore you. No one likes being sold to all the time; you have to offer something of value beyond your sales pitch. For your social presence to work for you, you must: 

  • Establish a two-way relationship with your prospects and customers based on trust

  • Demonstrate that you want to help them, placing their needs above your own

  • Provide useful, helpful and reliable information 

Contrary to what you might expect, sometimes achieving the above goals means sharing content from competitors on your own social media feed.

Why you should share competitor content in your social media feed

There are three key benefits to sharing competitive content: 

  • Social media marketing is inbound: Your content should humanize your brand in a way that builds trust in your audience.

  • By sharing your competitor's content, you position yourself as a go-to source of information about your industry and give your audience a reason to follow you.

  • There's a right way and a wrong way to do this: Keep it within limits, only share relevant content, don't plagiarize other people's content as your own, and use tools to redirect that traffic back to you.

Social media marketing is inbound

Social media marketing is differentiated by traditional marketing in that it's inbound in nature. The traditional marketing of previous generations involved pushing a message outward to a target audience by way of billboards, TV advertisements, radio spots and newspaper ads. It was unidirectional – that of a brand pushing a message out.

Social media marketing works the opposite way. Instead of pushing a message outward, you draw them in by starting conversations with them. In other words, social media is inbound. It's how you have two-way conversations with your audience.

In an abstract sense, a business has a personality just like a human has a personality. A business looks, speaks, feels, and behaves a certain way, these, and other elements, comprise its brand. Some may argue that not all businesses have a brand, or personality, pointing to corporate behemoths with stodgy, unengaging messaging. While that type of messaging might be boring, that's still a brand choice, though it may not build a loyal, engaged audience easily. 

So whenever you post to your business's social media feed, a key concept to remember is that your audience – the people at the other end – want to engage with another human being, not a logo. This should be the purpose of your content, on social media, on your blog and elsewhere: to humanize your brand to the extent that your audience feels they can interact with it like they can with a person.

Curating third party content is standard in social media marketing

The objective of your social media marketing is to humanize your business to your audience, so how does sharing your competitor's content accomplish that?

People are continuously bombarded with information. Attention is one of the most important resources we have as individuals, and it's finite. By curating the content produced by other brands, including that of your competitors, you're signaling to your audience that you're there to help them. You are sharing content with them not because it directly benefits you, but because it makes their lives easier, better, more financially sound, or more convenient. In other words, you're telling them that you prioritize their needs over your own and that you're there to help them rather than promote your own product or service.

Many of the most well-known people in the digital marketing space do this all the time as an act of good faith to their audience. Author and online marketing expert Neil Patel links out to his direct competitors in his blog content several times a week.

So how does sharing content from your competitor's websites or social media platforms help you as a business owner? Doesn't that drive traffic away from you and to your competitors? Not necessarily. If anything, content curation should be a part of your social media strategy.

A business that does nothing but post their own product or service is going to be ignored. At the same time, it's extremely difficult to produce all of your own content with enough volume so it shows up in the platform's algorithms. Writing copy, taking and editing photos, and designing graphics that are tailored to each platform is incredibly time-consuming – particularly when you are managing a robust posting schedule.

The right algorithm is about a 70/20/10 ratio: 70% is your own content, 20% is content shared from other sources, 10% is content that directly promotes your product or service. This is known as the 70/20/10 rule, and it's one of the theories behind content marketing.

Benefits of linking to competitors

Here are a few of the benefits you can get when you curate your competitor's content:

Your audience perceives you as more trustworthy.

Brand trust takes time and effort to build and often takes months or years to happen. When people use social media, they're not doing so with the intention of buying your product, or even your competitor's product, but to gather information. They're learning about world news, information about their industry, sharing with family and friends, and talking to people with similar interests.

If you can provide them with the information they're looking for, you'll win them over from your competition. By positioning yourself as a source of information for your followers, you're essentially treating your brand like a media company. You're choosing the articles, photos and clips that you think your audience will enjoy the most.

Sharing your competitor's content for no other reason than because you think it benefits your audience positions you as a go-to source of information for them. This amounts to a good-faith demonstration of trust, and trust is ultimately what leads to sales.

It establishes you as a thought leader.

Consumers will put the time in to do their own research to make the best decision possible. They're probably using tools like Owler and Trustpilot to compare you to other businesses that provide a similar product or service. It's highly likely that your audience already knows about your competitors and their offerings. 

Sharing your competitor's content gives you an opportunity to control the conversation. Be selective about the content you share, and add your own spin on it.

It demonstrates confidence in your brand.

Sharing your competitor's content with your social media followers can demonstrate that you're confident in the value of the content you provide to your followers. You'll project confidence that you aren't threatened by competition.

The right way to curate your competitor's content

There are risks to sharing your competitor's content, and it can backfire if you don't use a strategic and methodical approach. You can't just share anything. If you're sharing the content that your competitors produce, then it needs to be very closely related to who you are as a business and what you do.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you're considering sharing some of your competitor's content:

1. Ask yourself these questions.

Before sharing your competitor's newest blog post on your own Twitter feed, ask yourself:

  • Whom should I share this with?
  • How does this content help them?
  • Is the information reliable? 
  • Has it been fact-checked?
  • Is this content unique and worthy to be shared?

If the answers to all of the above questions are yes, share it.

2. Add your personal take.

Content that's shared with your competitors requires context. Posting your competitor's content may come across as confusing if your audience doesn't understand why you're doing it. Write a sentence or two explaining why you're sharing it with your audience. What's new about it? How will this information serve them?

3. Be sure to link to and tag them.

Taking your competitor's content and passing it off as your own is a no-no and will come with weighty repercussions, like damaging your reputation and negatively impacting your trustworthiness. 

When you post your competitor's content, link to them, and tag them on whatever handle they use. This is also a good way to get on their radar. 

4. Use tools to get that traffic back to you.

Most business owners are hesitant to share any content made by their competitors, and with good reason. Sending your audience to a competitor's content would give business to your competitor and not to you.

There are many ancillary benefits to sharing your competitor's content, but ultimately, you need a way to redirect your audience back to you, lest they be lost to your competitor. Social media tools exist that add a call-to-action button on whatever page you share on social media and redirect that traffic back to your website. This way, you can use the content you curate from your competitors to increase your conversions.

Image Credit: nortonrsx / Getty Images
Matt Bentley
Matt Bentley
business.com Member
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Marketing Lead at SaaS.Group. Founder of CanIRank? and Growth.Ai. Passionate about helping startups and online businesses grow online.