Yesterday morning, someone posted a comment on a post I wrote at the blog of the company I work for. This person, named 'Tom', said that our site was filled with lies, and that we had false advertising all over the place. Of course, I don't get angry about negative feedback, and you shouldn't either. I politely reply to the comment on the blog, letting this person know that we apologized for any misunderstanding, that what we claim on our site is true, and provided our support E-Mail address in case he has any questions or inquiries. We're more than happy to listen to what people have to say. Well, Tom replies a while later saying that it's "not my job to make sure your advertising is true." Well, obviously he doesn't want to open any sort of dialog with us.
I show this to my boss, and we started looking around. Obviously, we look into our site, using the IP address from where the blog comments originated from. We notice that there's a user who registered to our site, named 'Lucy', registered with an E-Mail address different to the one used to leave the blog comment. It was a free Gmail address, and of course, the IP address could be the gateway address for a larger company. But we decide to continue looking on, with the E-Mail address of the registered user in hand.
Upon further sleuthing, we notice this person has left comments on blogs and newsgroups, under different names but mostly using one name, Mark, more than the others. He was also touting a particular site in all of his other posts. When searching for the name we found, it turns the perpetrator who left the negative comment on our site: the co-founder - and now VP of marketing - of a competing site. We decided to leave it there, since it's obvious by his comments left on our blog that this person is trying to hurt us. Plus, it's hilarious that our sleuthing was sort of akin to a South Park episode, where the boys discover some criminals by searching all major Web 2.0 sites.
I can't help but laugh at this turn of events. I mean, here you have a co-founder of a competitor, and instead of focusing on how to actually make his product better than ours, he decides to take a stab at others who are competing with him, apparently in hopes of inflicting some damage. To make matters worse, he does it under different guises. To be honest, if this person came forward from the get-go and told us he was from that competing site, and that he thought our site was misleading in any way, I would've been happy to open the lines of communication towards him. I'm sure we both would've gotten something positive out of it.
I'm not saying that you should be totally oblivious to your competition. Like the saying goes: Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. You need to know what others are doing, so you can get a leg up on them, do things they're not doing and make yourself better. That's the point of having and running a business. But to spend actual time making baseless comments to the competition leads nowhere. Even worse, it makes you seem afraid and desperate to even consider attempting such stunts. And we're not even close to mentioning something called "professionalism", which this person seems to be seriously lacking.
I can offer some bits of advice from all of this. Make sure you know who you're competing against, but don't spend your time on them. Spend your time where it matters the most: your product. If you're sure of yourself and the work you're doing, then you shouldn't worry at all about someone else. And even if someone is doing better than you, instead of wasting time and energy worrying about someone else, take it and make yourself better. Like I've heard before, "A dog in desperation will leap over a wall."