Social Media

How to Avoid a Social Media Arms Race

Brad Smith
December 27, 2011

By the end of the late 1980’s, the Soviet Union’s economy was collapsing.

The country’s income was dropping because their natural resources were losing value.

And their expenses were through the roof as they were caught in an arms race.

Stuck in the middle of the Cold War, the Soviet’s were trying to match the American’s Defense spending.

The threat of nuclear weapons, and the fear of another World War spurred the Soviets to try and keep up with the Americans.

But it also eventually led to the country’s collapse.


Who Needs Customers When You Have Fans
Images courtesy of Intersection Consulting



How “Game Theory” is Creating a Social Media Arms Race

Today, an arms race refers to:

Any competition where there is no absolute goal, only the relative goal of staying ahead of the other competitors, essentially the goal of proving to be “better”.

The problem is that focusing too much on external factors will cause you to make incorrect short term decisions… which could be fatal in the long term.

You will begin to prioritize things that are really meaningless. Like say, for instance, your Klout score.

Recently, Seth Godin talked about the Social Media noise trap:

If we put a number on it, people will try to make the number go up.

The “game theory” pushes us into one of two directions: either be better at pump and dump than anyone else, get your numbers into the millions, outmass those that choose to use mass and always dance at the edge of spam (in which the number of those you offend or turn off forever keep increasing), or

Relentlessly focus. Prune your message and your list and build a reputation that’s worth owning and an audience that cares.

Only one of these strategies builds an asset of value.

Game theory makes people look at numbers, and want them to go up.

But that’s shortsighted. You might start prioritizing activities without thinking about how they influence your overall goal.

And missteps in the short term will set up your long term outcome.

Some tech companies like to say, “We don’t worry about our competition”. That sounds nice in theory, but let’s dig deeper.

What they mean is that if you focus too much on your competition, then you’ll make bad decisions because you’re trying to “keep up”.

They argue that you should focus more on your own company. You should look inward and figure out how your product or service can be better than everybody else.

You should be aware of your competitors moves, but you shouldn’t try to keep up.

It doesn’t matter how many Twitter followers your competition has. Don’t set stupid benchmarks to match their levels.

Instead, figure out how you can be different, and better. You’re not just another commodity business.

Focus on building a real marketing asset, and your ultimate goals will be fulfilled.

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