Why You Need Enemies

Recall law 2 of Robert Greene’s 48 laws of power:  never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies.   The idea of using enemies is something most never even consider, but using enemies as part of your web strategy can be potent.

Many reading this may be uncomfortable with the idea of playing your enemies for desired outcomes.  Yet, as strategists we cannot be closed to any possibilities simply because they carry taboos or risks.  Just the opposite, we must be comfortable and experienced implementing all of them.

I’m not going to tell you how to use enemies today, we’ll leave that to you to orchestrate.  But I am going to tell you why if you have none, you should make some (and then learn to use them):

Enemies can and will link to you

Simply put, if you have an enemy, they are going to be watching you closely to wait for their moment to pounce.  On the web, this means links.  So if you push their hot buttons and have already consciously created a group of enemies, they’re going to link to you and pick apart the details of what you say.  This is a great thing, links are the lifeblood of the web and if you can create enemies of those within your niche that have authority, you’ll benefit greatly by their links to you.  Search engines are agnostic why someone is linking to you, so they play right into your SEO strategy.

If you have an enemy you can engage in ongoing debates, you both win

Notice the digital banter between A-list personalities in any niche that happens so frequently.  In actuality, from this banter both sides win.  The rest of the people within the industry follow suit, the conversions reference both cases (even the side they disagree with) and both parties ride the wave.  It is irrelevant who is “right” or “wrong” because in the end they both will break through the clutter.  I’d rather have attention – even attention from those who disagree – and figure out what to do with it than be lost in perpetual obscurity.

An enemy turned-friend can be a powerful ally

As Greene notes, a former enemy will be more loyal than a friend, because they have more to prove.  After any stretch of time where two people disagree, rapport is still being built between those two individuals.  And by channeling that disagreement and ill-will in a new direction, an enemy can flip to an ally quite easily – it’s just part of our nature.  With this new-found camaraderie, that enemy is likely to become an extremely powerful ally, now willing to work tirelessly for your cause.

Enemies keep you laser-focused

Having a nemesis is one of the better motivations to stay heads-down on producing the highest quality results.  If you have enemies who keep you focused and motivated,  consider yourself lucky.  They provide balance to an equation which can otherwise go unchecked when you have none.  After stretches of time unbalanced, it’s possible to become complacent and suffer stagnation.

Having enemies is a social proofing signal

If you have made it to the point you can have an enemy, you should for the social proofing benefits.  It’s a signal to others that you are worth paying attention to.  People will be compelled to pay attention to you since someone else worthwhile is paying attention to you (even if it’s negative).

Enemies will help you cause controversy

And controversy, artfully directed, can lead to some seriously powerful outcomes.  With being resourceful the strategy of so many these days, controversy is a way to position yourself against others and stand out.

Pull those to you who have opposing viewpoints

Naturally between enemies there will be a division of thought, with people drawn to both sides.  By being the known enemy of a certain persona or even viewpoint, you position yourself to capture  the attention from the other side.

Despite what you’ve been taught, enemies are a positive.  And as stated at the beginning – if you have none, find a way to make some.  Also a warning:  careful of the way you go about which making enemies.  For example, you don’t want to pick the wrong enemy, or create one without any sort of desired outcome (having an enemy without a design on them can be a dangerous game).

I know the social web for many of you is all warm and fuzzy, but the reality is it is a reflection of our physical world where power hierarchies are very much a reality.  Learn to play the game, or ignore it at your own risk.