Skip to content
All posts

Competitors, community, and controversy

"Now, this looks like a job for me
So everybody, just follow me
'Cause we need a little, controversy"

Eminem said it so eloquently.


Not everyone agrees with my view that competitors should be welcome in community-led efforts. If this were your own community (meaning product or company motion), I could agree that competitors should mind their own business.  

On the other hand, there should be no barriers to entry when it comes to true community-led efforts.  For example, suppose your team is working with other community members in the cybersecurity industry to build a conference. In that case, competitors should be welcome to speak, moderate or even help organize the event.  I'd place this thing in the same realm as a meetup. When you gather in the community, all are welcome to participate.

Of course, as marketing professionals, here is the rub: when leading product or company-specific marketing campaigns, no marketer appreciates participation by their competitors. You don’t want the competitors on your mailing list, attending webinars, or participating in user conferences.

When it comes to community-led initiatives, welcome everyone. It’s a community; if they are part of it, access should not be restricted. Expect your competitors to join, but like everyone else, make sure they play by the basic rules of engagement. If you are leading the community properly, your competitors will likely be jealous of the trust and relationships that you have established. 

The All Day DevOps community I co-founded had no restrictions on participation. If our competitors in the market applied to speak at the community conference, their topics were evaluated on the same criteria as everyone else. There were a number of times that competitors spoke at the conference and contributed excellent value to others in the community.

Once you erect walls or velvet ropes, you restrict value creation and knowledge sharing. 

An important rule to remember regarding the competition is “commit 1000 hours”. If you contribute 1000 hours or more to the community effort, you are likely putting in more time than your competition. Community efforts take time. Trust and relationships are built through that time. So is value for the community.

The more time your community-led marketers put into the community, the more your leadership and influence will shape it. If a competitor does come to participate, they will likely never eclipse the effort or influence the impact of your 1000-hour contribution. As long as they are playing by the rules, welcome everyone. Your community will respect you more for it.