What Happens When You “Like” The Competition: How To Safely Spy On Facebook

wall of radio stickers

wall of radio stickers

[twitter]I’m using radio for this example, but it is not a specific industry situation. Liking a competitor is an important marketing tool, but it can cause problems. Perhaps you’re a car dealer, marketer, or whatever – simply replace the word “radio” for your field of business and I think you’ll get some very important advice:

Radio is a competitive business, but it’s also a friendly one. We borrow, and steal, and spy, and admire each other all the time. Jocks will watch other jocks in other markets and frequently take their good ideas.

I confess, I spy on out-of-market radio stations all the time and will take their viral Facebook photos, and have, at times, copied a status word for word to post on my radio station status.

But there’s a problem with liking a competing brand. You are outed by Facebook.

Facebook’s “Related Stories” could really turn into a nasty piece of business. This is where brands purchase referrals from people who have liked a page.

Let’s say I have liked “Big Hit Radio” which is a competitor in my market. If “Big Hit Radio” then purchased referral ads, people who are my friends on Facebook would see “Buzz likes Big Hits Radio, here’s a related story” in their stream. I would be endorsing the competitor and my core audience would be seeing the endorsement.

It’s like Britney drinking Coke while on a tour sponsored by Pepsi.

Forbes has a great article summarizing how related stories work. Craig Condon has done a screencast showing you exactly how the process works and how users are unaware of the endorsements they are serving to their audience.

My simple spy tool has now been turned in to an endorsement by my competition that has them marketing to my direct audience. Woah. Not cool.

I get why you want to like other radio stations, and other personalities. Perhaps you are a real fan of that station, or you’re friends with the personality… but you can’t let that friendship or admiration be turned on its head as an endorsement for a competitor.

So here’s how to do keep an eye on the competition, and keep in touch with your friends on the sly:

1. Create a faceless/brandless Facebook page.
You could create an Alias Profile, but then you’d need another email address, and you’d have to log out / log in to switch between your real account and your spy account. Creating a Facebook Page, makes it much easier and it just takes a couple of clicks. I made one called “Radio Pages.”

create a facebook page create a facebook page create a facebook page how to use facebook

2. Use Facebook as your faceless/brandless page.
Facebook lets you use the site as different users. Grab the little gear icon in the top right corner of your page to see the different profiles you can access. You’ll see I can use Facebook as my personal profile, my professional brand, my radio station, my community association, or my parent site. Any page you are a manager of can use Facebook to like pages and interact with brands.

3. Go around and like all the pages you want to keep tabs on.
Once you’ve switched users, you can now go around and like all the pages you want to keep tabs on. In market, out of market, competition or not, this is a simple way for you to aggregate all your content in one spot. Instead of radio messages messing up your personal feed of news from friends, you can now have all your radio content in one spot.

Now, when you want to see what’s happening in the competition’s field, just switch users and your stream will be filled with all the content that can’t be used against you (or your audience) in a marketing war.

radio stream

It’s a few extra steps, but if you want to at least keep the appearance of a competitive edge on the outside and not let your audience see you endorsing the competition, it’s a good way to keep things on the down low.

**UPDATE** Peter offers this tip as well: