Social Media Question #1: No, We're Not Competing

by francine Hardaway on March 17, 2009

I just came home from SXSWi, where I sat in a blogger lounge full of social media colleagues.And then I came home and saw this week’s Social Media Club Question about how we can support those colleagues even though we are competing for the same client dollars and money. Jeez, I never thought of that.

And after I thought of it, I still don’t agree with it. I mean, are we really competing? It’s like running marathons used to be for me. I never thought I was going to win, and I always ran with friends because it made the long race tolerable. We’re just at the beginning of this thing, as Charlene Li pointed out at SXSW, and we probably need to keep each other company so we all get to the finish line rather than try to race each other.

After all, social media is a set of tools. I use them. I may help others learn to use them. Why should I even think of myself as competing with my colleagues? There are about 25 million small businesses in the United States alone, all of whom can benefit by learning to use social media. I will never reach them all. I will never reach all of the Fortune 1000, or the Inc. 500, neither of which overlap. So what do I care if another social media “teacher,” (I don’t use the word expert and I hate the word consultant) helps them. That’s like saying we’re going to run out of third graders to teach to read. I’ll be able to make a good living forever helping evangelize social media.

As for the advertising dollars for my blog–well, I have never put ads on my blog. It isn’t worth it, it ruins the look of the blog and destroys much of its value as a communications tool, and it’s by far the worst way to monetize, especially now.

So what money are we all “competing” for?

Whether I am teaching social media, using social media, or investing in startup companies, I’m always trying to do the same thing: be helpful. If someone else can be more helpful than I, I recommend them. Most often, I recommend Beth Kanter, because she’s so good with nonprofits that that’s who asks me most often. But I’ve also recommended Chris Brogan and Hugh McLeod. And yesterday at the conference, I ran into Ethan Bloch, who has just started a company to put social media components on the web sites of small businesses. Am I competing with him? No way. In fact, I’ll recommend people to him. He moved my blog for me from Typepad to WordPress, and I KNOW he’s better at that than I am.

The reason I feel so comfortable in the social media environment is that I’ve always been a collaborator, perhaps because of my Yoga practice, which teaches me the value of the “energy in the room.” I expect to spend the rest of my life using the energy in the room to motivate me and help me motivate others. Not to be snarky, but I suggest you do the same and quit worrying about the dollars.

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