be your own social media frogFollowing in the footsteps of others is something many people and businesses do without thinking. We know we need best practices. We know there are many things in business and life that have already been done. I have always said “if you can't be number one, then be number two.”

However, where do you draw the line? How do you know when to follow the leader versus be your own frog?

For one it depends on what it is you are doing. If you are crocheting a blanket for your aunt or son then yes, you should follow best practices. You should buy a book, download a guide from the internet, watch a video, whatever you need to do to learn how to crochet.

On the other hand if you are running a business, you can't just download a bullet proof “how to guide” and follow it step by step  to make it from concept to revenue and selling of company for billions. Of course there are best practices and leaders you can follow. There are blue prints, plan templates and the list goes on.

My point is at some point you must be your own frog. You must lead with results. You must roll up your sleeves and embrace the work required to drive real results for your products. You need to know who your target customers are, not just the customers of others in your niche or your competitor you want to be when you grow up.

You must learn who the players are in your industry. You must then build a strategy for how you are going to build, launch, market, sell and deliver your product or service. Of course there are best practices for doing all of the above. However, you are not going to learn them from following your competition or the niche leader on Twitter.

I am seeing many small and large businesses simply copy what others are doing with social media. They are short on time, resource and knowlege. They don't know where to start so they figure they might as well save some time and start the same place they assume their competition or others in their niche started.

This is a recipe for failure. If you want real results in business, it is imperative that you be your own frog, duck, rabbit, puppy or whatever your animal of choice may be!

15 Reasons to Be Your Own Frog: 

social business development1. You need to build YOUR business.
Bottom line you are building your own business, not the business of your competition or a leader in your niche. Only you know your strategies, tactics, resources, budget and other requirements for success. You need to build a plan that will enable YOU to succeed. You don't need to base your business success of what you think is reality by other businesses you know little about compared to what you know about your own business, market and products.

2. Sit and spin.
Remember those fun toys, the sit and spin? The sit and spin toy is the best analogy I can think of for describing what copying others in social media does to your business.  Without your own plan you are sitting on a sit and spin toy. You are going round and round yet are getting nowhere. You aren't building your own community, brand or business. Get off the sit and spin toy today if this is you.

3. Attraction marketing works.
If you build your business based on what your competition or other businesses are doing you are ignoring the most important feature that could be organically attracting loads of customers to your business…. you and your brand. Building a brand based on your business, your features, differentiators and market positioning will organically attract people to you. The more you let the real you shine, the more the right customers are going to be attracted to you,

4. You needs goals and objectives.
Bottom line you need your own plan. You need your own goals and objectives. If you focus too much on what others are doing, you are going to miss your own boat for what you should be doing. This is another recipe for disaster. You need a plan that is going to help YOU inspire and connect with YOUR target market, not the target market of leaders or competitors in your niche.

social business innovation5. You need innovation!
Innovation is the rocket fuel for social business success. When you copy others you lose innovation, period.

6. Following crazy ducks leads to wild goose chases.
Those who worked in high tech during the dot com era can probably remember the days of fud. The days of big brands purposely pushing out content and vapor press releases just to get competition spinning. Well folks, it's even easier to do this now. With just a few simple tweets or blog posts your competition can have you on a wild goose chase taking you down some tangent you wind up researching for weeks to catch up with them. This is all happening while they are moving ahead on their own plan that has little to nothing to do with the content they have you chasing, researching and building your business around. Sad but true. The reality is this is happening everywhere. The only way you can avoid the wild goose chase is to be your own duck, period!

social business market research7. You don't really know your competition.
Although you may think some of your competition is your competition, have you ever thought that maybe they really aren't your competition. Do they think about you at night? Do they really want your customers? Or are they marching to the beat of their own drum while you are trying to figure out theirs 24/7. The truth is many businesses we work with have defined their top competitors. Yet, when we start working with them and really peel back the onion, we find the businesses they identified are not truly their competitors or they are too different they aren't even targeting the same markets. Yet the business has been following their tactics and strategies to no success for one, two or more years.

8. What you see online is not the future of the business you are copying.
Any smart business leader and marketer is usually working at least 12-18 months ahead. So what you are seeing on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are what they are working on now. It is the output of what they planned 12-18 months ago. They are now executing those plans in the social world. What you are missing is what is happening behind closed doors. What are they working on to be launched in the next one to two years? What platforms are they launching? What new products are they taking to market. This list is likely very long and if you are only copying them today you are falling further and further behind.

9. Your competition leap frogs you when you copy them.
Because of #7 and #8 above, your competition is going to easily leap frog you over and over again. Just as you think you have caught up to them because you now have the same social profiles they do, the same platform or whatever it may be, they then execute the plan they were working on for 18 months and yikes, once again you fall behind, far behind.

10. Copying leads to Random Acts of Marketing (RAMs).
When you copy others it means you are not following your own plan. You are not implementing tactics or strategies within a business or marketing plan. Bottom line if you are doing this the chances are that at best your efforts are filled with randomness. We call them RAMs. RAMs will eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner before you little frog wake up for coffee. Before you know it RAMs will kill your business, brand and any innovation or market lead you may have obtained. Stomp them and stomp them fast. The best medicine to kill RAMs include a social media plan integrated with your business inclusive of goals and objectives. Check out this post for tips to get started. “20 Tips to Tame the Wild Social Media Beast.”

11. You lose credibility.
When you are unable to be your own frog, people notice. When your tactics and strategies change with the blow of the wind, your audience, customers and partners notice. We see this a lot with our niche. There are agencies and consultants who a year ago bashed agencies who were pushing that businesses developed a social media plan with goals and objectives. They said we were over complicating the implementation of social media into business. However, a year later these same consultants are now experts on planning, goal setting and integration. Yet when you look at their experience, their LinkedIn profiles they haven't spent a day in real business doing such.

Think of the credibility they have lost with their audiences, markets and customers. The same customers who spoke to them a year ago didn't forget what they told them. They remember being told a plan was a waste of time. Yet, now they state a plan is required and that they are the perfect agency or consultant to implement. Seriously? Another recipe for disaster. All they have done is endorse their assumed competition who has been consistent in their strategies, messages and approach since day one.

12. You need to fall down.
You need to learn from your mistakes. If you only copy others and it fails you lose the greatest learnings and understanding of why it failed. If you are only copying others then it is easy to blame the business you copied on why it failed. Often time the greatest success comes after the greatest failure. Taking time to create goals, objectives, execution plans, metrics will enable you to understand where and how you fell down. Getting back up is half the fun and the greatest reward. Don't be afraid to fall down.

heartbeat of social media community13. You need community.
The heartbeat of social media is people. Communities are the water for social ducks. It is critical that you build your own community of people who are organically attracted to you, your brand and what you have to offer them.  Relationships are the life raft to technological changes. It won't matter if Facebook goes away next week if you have solid relationships. Your community will follow you to the next best social network if your “likes”, friends and community is based on real relationships.

14. You need to build your own brand.
When you follow others,  you reinforce their brand versus build your own. Did you know it takes a minimum of 6-7 brand touches before someone will remember your brand? Every touch counts. When you don't take time to differentiate, create clear messages that describe you, your offerings and how you can help your target customers then you are missing out on opportunities to truly connect with the right folks. When  you focus on copying others you are simply reinforcing their message, particularly if you keep changing yours to follow them. Embrace and enjoy the time spent in building your brand. Brands are not built over night. Don't expect instant results. Read these tips for “How to Build a Brand that is a Sweet Orange in a World of Bitter Apples.” 

social media plan development15. This is your journey.
Embracing and enjoying the journey is half the fun in building a business of any size. When you try to cheat the system and only copy others, you miss out on the greatest and best parts. A real journey includes setting goals, developing plans, executing tactics, measuring results, succeeding, failing, building community, making new friends and the list goes on.

The journey is what builds you. The journey is what attracts awesome people to you and your brand.

The journey is where you find true friends who pick you up when you fall down. Falling down is where you see the brightest flowers planted on the ground beside you.

You need the journey. Your community needs to take the journey with you. Don't be afraid to grab your backpack, map and head out to the wilderness of brave frogs! You can do this!


What You Say? 

What are your thoughts? Are you your own frog? Or have you fallen to tactics of copying what others are doing? Does this post remind you that you may need to go back to the drawing board on your brand, messaging, social strategy, planning to ensure you are building a plan for your business, not the market in general? If you have been thru this process and once use to be a follower but are now a proud, unique duck, what tips can you share for others just starting out on this journey? We are all better ducks, frogs and business leaders working together than we are as one in a pond alone!


Additional resources: 

Worksheet: Download Content Inventory Worksheet to maximize to monetize your content!

Worksheet: Download our POST audience analysis worksheet to help you identify and prioritize your top audiences. It is based upon the Forrester POST methodology.

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