“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.” — Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu was a 5th century BC Chinese war commander whose wisdom, summarized in The Art of War, reaches us through the centuries. Sun Tzu’s teachings have been applied to politics, culture and business, as well as warfare.
In social media, you need to know your competition (“enemy”) and yourself if you are going to be successful. The first step is to understand who your competition is, what they are saying and where they are saying it.
For example, if you blog about food, you’ll want to research the various categories that are being discussed online such as recipes, ingredients, organic food, pairing food with drink and so on. These may all be specialist areas your competition is blogging about. Can you compete head to head, or can you exploit a gap?
Next, research who are the influencers and thought leaders. Get onto Technorati and look for bloggers who have the highest authority and page rank. You can use compete.com to check on the monthly traffic of these websites. Compare with your own stats. You can use the difference to set some goals. No goals, no success. Remember to research forums. A lot of conversation takes place on discussion boards. Use Boardreader to look for prominent websites.
From there, observe. Take time to figure out what tactics your competition are using. Are they focused on content? Are they highly networked through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn? Try to understand what makes them tick.
Correlate your knowledge of the competition with what you can and can’t do. By comparing your abilities with competitors tactics you can position yourself where you are likely to have the most impact.
(Excerpted from my forthcoming book: How to win on the social media battlefield: Lessons from Sun Tzu)