How One Business Used Google Plus to Fight Their Competition

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Conversations happen all the time and everywhere in social media.  Not all of these conversations have any value to most businesses, but if you can pinpoint the type of people you have your conversation with and ask them for relevant advice, the business value of the conversation can increase exponentially.  Participating in conversations is one way to develop business on LinkedIn.  There are also sites like Quora, Focus, or even public forums such as LinkedIn Answers and Facebook Questions where professionals (and others) are looking for the answers to their problems.  In fact just do a Twitter advanced search query for questions and you’ll see that there are people looking for answers to their problems everywhere.

While the conversation that I am going to share below could have happened on any social media website, the stickiness, immediate responsiveness, integration with Gmail, and limitless character count at which you can input your thoughts makes Google Plus a great place to have deep and serious conversations.  Assuming you’ve created a Google Plus circle of, what I would call in my first LinkedIn book your “Trusted Network of Advisors,” you can now filter out who gets your message and only target those business people and colleagues that you trust to give you a solid answer.

Nowto  the story of how one business used Google Plus to fight their competition.  The below conversation took place in the course of 24 hours.  No names are given to protect their privacy.

Trademarks used in metatags: I noticed a competitor listing our company name (registered trademark) in their blog post metatags. Any thoughts on Intellectual Property precedence to discourage this/force them to take down?

Several comments follow, and then 11 minutes later these two comments:

Here’s an article that addresses the issue: http://www.tmprod.com/blog/2009/online-trademark-infringement-law-brief/

Another: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/two-conflicting-judicial-opinions-on-using-a-competitors-trademark-in-metatags

My following comment was 90 minutes after the original question:

On legal issues, always best to talk to a trademark lawyer, especially if there is no precedence. They can always send a cease and desist letter on your behalf which may make them twice about doing that.

Followed by another comment 4 hours later:

I agree with Neal. The first time I ran into this was back in 1997 – the law at the time was weak, but precedence has grown since then.

My unofficial, “I’m-not-a-lawyer-nor-do-I-play-one-on-TV” opinion is that the cease-and-desist is certainly in order – use of a competitor’s mark in meta tags might create a “likelihood of confusion” sufficient to support a trademark infringement claim under the Lanham Act. Reference cases:

Deltek, Inc., v. Iuvo Systems, Inc.

Brookfield Communications Inc. v. West Coast Entertainment Corp.

22 hours after the original comment was posted the following message was received by all of the participants:

I found that case too! We cited this case and others and sent email to competitor citing confusion in marketplace and how it could result in legal action trademark infringement… it worked. All metatags were removed and no lawyer fees paid. Cool. Thx all.

While the conversation could have happened on any social media platform, no doubt that the functionality of Google Plus made it a perfect place to consult and receive advice in a private conversation in an efficient manner.  As the subject of this post commented after the fact,

I was equally intrigued by the value of Google Plus in this situation – I posted comments in ecommerce groups in LinkedIn, also asked question on my profile in LinkedIn but no responses – in Google Plus I got immediate relevant feedback from my Marketing Professionals and Social Media VIP circles.

Businesses invest dollars in social media monitoring software to see when their brand names or companies are mentioned for a wide range of objectives including, reputation management, customer support, and even finding business development opportunities.  Perhaps a similar investment in educating your employees to use the same communication tools that social media provides to consult with their own trusted networks could help your business in more ways than you can think – including finding ways to fight back at your competition while saving you money.

Have you had similar experiences with Google Plus or other social media platforms where a question you asked or answered had tangible business benefits?  Please share your experiences with us!

About the Author:

Neal Schaffer, Founder and Editor-In-Chief

The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

@nealschaffer

Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker | 日米ソーシャルメディア専門家|G+: https://t.co/BqaJvubiP8
14 #SocialMedia Marketing Tools Recommended by the Pros - http://t.co/ne5ezDIys0 via @Ingostoll - 37 mins ago
Neal Schaffer
Social Fresh West

Comments

  1. says

    Not like this Neal as most arent on it yet but… I think it behooves an savvy company to develop a presence there and start testing the waters… even a tiny bit. 

    Ivan

  2. says

    A great argument for how G+ may find a real place for itself in the social media landscape. This sort of conversation couldn’t easily happen on Twitter due to the char limit and difficulty of following conversations and it wouldn’t easily happen on Facebook due to “type” of people most have in their Facebook networks.

  3. says

    Interesting that not being able to use in tags another companies name & trademark as it seems a legitimate way to be found for similar products or services, #justsayin  Love ot hear more specific conversations around that one ;)

    • says

      While it might be a legitimate way to be found, it could also confuse the consumer as to who owns the authentic brand they are looking for ;-) I’m not a lawyer, but if the opposing party can prove confusion in the marketplace…

  4. says

    That seems like such a dirty tactic, but then, I’m not aware of the specific circumstances that this happened in. I imagine, when a certain brand is synonymous with an entire type of product, it might be acceptable. For example, “Hoover” for vaccum or “google” for search or things in that vein.

  5. says

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