Being in the web marketing consulting business we get to hear many stories. I actually had a business owner tell us recently that he saw no value in social media, other than a waste of his already limited resources and that he had been there for over 30 years, so he must have done something right!

What he and other decision-makers don’t get is the fundamental shift in buying processes.  Today prospective customers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers, of many types know a lot more about you, your products and services, before they ever engage you!  If social networking for business is about your presence, and social media is a platform to extend your reach, then leading in the social marketplace is about purpose. This will require both a defensive strategy (to protect your brand), as well as an offensive approach (take your message to the market) toward driving growth opportunities. One cannot score and win, playing defense alone.

The fear in embracing this new medium has been referred to as the “cozy complacent syndrome”, which requires a mindset change. The comfort in cozy complacent syndrome is that these ‘Followers’ allow others to take the innovation risk and think that they can swoop in, copy their ideas and still end up winning the race!

A ‘Follower’ strategy is a losing one when it comes to being recognized as a leader in the social marketplace. Here are five reasons why:

1. You start by taking a reactive posture!  As a ‘Follower’, you’re intentionally sitting back to see what the rest of the market does. Your ideas, processes, and operation are trained to react.  You limit our ability to attract as you’re positioning yourself as letting others explore innovative ideas and approaches.

2. You require a highly optimized decision-making and launch practice in the world! As a Follower, given the fast-paced nature of social media, you’ll need the infrastructure to decide exactly when to enter the market with a social media campaign, re-design a competitor’s campaign in a way that the target customers find them hard to differentiate from you. Yet, still drive the marketing pull from your efforts. In the digital marketplace we’ve yet to meet a successful ’Follower’.

3. You’ll need a lengthy social leader marketplace strategy. As a Follower, you’ll need time to ramp up, imitate the innovators and get a strategy, a plan, and a campaign put together before the competition does the same. This kind of thinking may have been successful in the past, but the pace of change and speed of conducting business online has increased to the point where influencing today, wins market share tomorrow.

4. You’ll need the right people to follow!  As a Follower, you’ll need to listen to the right people online, follow their every move, and hope like crazy that they have good insights. Being in the Social Marketplace requires quickness and dexterity to move and respond quickly, and learn from one campaign for the next one, if a particular approach doesn’t yield the desired results.

5. You’ll need to adjust your focus. As innovators, leaders are constantly in the front exploring new territories and unfamiliar marketplace opportunities. If you struggle to make, recognize, or respond to marketplace changes that struggle may be an indicator that innovation no longer has a place your world. Isn’t it time to look forward with a new view rather than look back or side-to-side?

It’s time to leave the cozy complacent Follower mindset and be recognized as a social marketplace innovator. You can attain that status as you work on your three ‘P’s’; your web presence, your social media platforms, and most importantly your web purpose.

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