Social media to me is about sharing. It's about giving your best goods. It's about collaboration. It's where friends, partners, clients and even competition come together for the good of the whole.

Today I had something strange happen in the world of social media. Something I had never really thought of or dealt with before.

We received notification on one of our social listening reports that one of our local competitors had “blocked” us on Twitter.

Have you ever thought about what you would do or what you would think if the same happened to you?

Note: I don't care about this person's tweets.  The statement the action of “twitter blocking” leaves behind is a very interesting conversation in my opinion.

What is one Tweeter really telling a fellow Tweeter when they block them on Twitter? Is it equivelant to sticking your tongue out in an immature way and then running and hiding? I personally have only blocked a couple folks on Twitter. One was sending yucky porno type DMs to me and the other was a complete spammer.

I had never thought of blocking a competitor. I am a believer in collaboration. The universe is big. Twitter is huge and there are plenty of fish in the sea to keep food on the table for our families.  I am also quite confident in my ability to differentiate my skills and services.  We have many competitors and pseudo competitors who we communicate with regularly, share ideas, share leads and genuinely help. Business is about partnering and relationships. What would we be online without friends anyway?

This particular person hangs in the same networking and business circles we do. We see the person often. They've also been known to have content very similar to ours. Seem to always follow what we launch, how we package services, what we say and do. Has been somewhat entertaining to watch in all honesty. So the Twitter blocking though surprising is really not a big shocker. Probably the only one in our neck of the woods who I could see doing such.

The part that bothers me is that we have genuinely reached out to this person in the past. We have leads we could share today. Leads that aren't right for our company but could very well be right for theirs. We also have several very strategic relationships launching in early 2011 that could put a wet damper on this person's biz in a big way. We were trying to initially help this person and align appropriately before the strategic launches kick off in 2011.

My thoughts:

  • Twitter blocking competition of this sort breaks all rules of social media etiquette and business common sense.
  • Business and life 101: Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.
  • Twitter is an open platform. If you don't want your tweets to be public then you shouldn't be tweeting.
  • Twitter blocking in reality is a joke as you can search for tweets.
  • If you want to hide from competition, don't tweet. Pretty straight forward!
  • Social media is about collaboration.
  • The greatest benefit of social media is what we can do for the greater whole with collaboration. When collaboration and communication is stomped it is the charities, the small biz's who get hurt.  They need us to work together for the goodness of the whole.
  • Relationships are key to success in business, social media and life.
  • Cherish each and every relationship and think twice before burning a bridge with anyone, including your competition!
  • I know I have many competitors following me, subscribed to my email list, Linked to me on LinkedIn, fans of my Facebook page.  In reality I love it. Most of them engage, we share best practices and we build authentic relationships.
  • Yes, we probably all have spies and lurkers watching us.  I say WHO CARES! If they want to spend all day reading my tweets, lurking on my site… go for it! I'm happy to be a thought leader for their biz and their customers.  I am also genuinely happy to help someone else build a biz and a life for themselves!
  • If a social media consultant is behaving in such a way for their own business, what are they doing when managing client Twitter accounts? Will they also start blocking their competitors?  Will they start blocking me from their client accounts? I could be a potential client for their clients?
  • The blocker misses out also on my competitive information. I have an open door, open blog and open tweet policy! I can guarantee she has much more to gain from my tweets and content than visa versa!
  • If you are feeling the need to block a competitor on Twitter, I encourage you to think twice.  Instead focus on differentiating yourself.  Take the same time you're worrying about and blocking your competition and instead focus on your own business, the unique value you offer your audiences.  If you do this, you'll probably find the competitor could be your friend, your ally and someone who you could do lots of social good with for the greater whole of your local community!

Obviously I am not going to give this a second thought after the initial shock. When I saw it on the report today our team had to laugh out loud.  What I don't like is the uncomfortableness it puts in a relationship that could have been something positive. Something positive not only for us and individuals or individual business. What it hurts the most is the bigger whole. The charities we could have supported together, the small biz's we could have helped with collaboration and the list goes on.

Relationships are key to life.  Burning one bridge over a tweet stream is not something you'll ever see this nut doing.  I hope that my friends, family and fellow tweeters follow the same ethical values and never fall to the playground tactics of how some think they're engaging in social media.  If a client of mine ever decides to resort to such behavior they will also probably find themselves in need of a new marketing and social media agency.

Your Turn!

What are your thoughts? Has this ever happened to you? What will you think if it does?

You can also join our LinkedIn discussion!