Most people think of “competition” with a negative aftertaste, something scary that they either need to fight or run away from. But what if you looked at your competitors from another angle, looked at them as leverage for you to embrace and rise above them by capitalizing on their authority, needs and weaknesses?

With a simple shift of perspective, you can stop being intimidated by your competitors and instead get leverage from their success. Here are five ways to do it.

1. Social Media

Are your competitors more popular than you on social media? Do they have more fans on Facebook, more followers on Twitter? That’s actually a good thing! By joining their networks, interacting with them, and commenting on their updates you will not only establish a relationship directly with them, but also gain exposure to their audience. This can open the door for future opportunities such as joint ventures, guest blog posts, interviews and more.

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2. Commenting

If your competitors write a regular blog, make sure you subscribe to it. By commenting regularly on your competitor’s blog you can start building a relationship with the author, which again might lead to further opportunities. If they use a plugin called Comment Luv you can even get some direct traffic from your competitor’s readers, since this plugin allows you to display a do-follow link to your latest blog post in the comment.

3. Guest Blogging

Once you have established the basics of a relationship via social media & commenting on their posts, it might be a good idea to reach out and inquire if they would be interested in a guest post from you. Demonstrate that you understand their audience and present some topic ideas which you think might be a good fit. A guest post gives you great exposure and provides the blog author with fresh content. Your chances of getting accepted are much higher if you have previously established a rapport via social media.

4. Joint Ventures

Rather than thinking of other people as competitors, think of them as colleagues. In the online world the market shares are huge and there’s enough room for everyone. So instead of fighting each other, why not join forces and create joint ventures? For example, you could create a workshop together, where you cover one subject and your colleague covers another one.

5. Interviews

Interviews, either audio or video, are another great way to establish relationships with your competition and at the same time leverage their reach and authority. I host a monthly expert interview on my blog. Not only does it provide valuable content to my readers, it also puts my “colleagues” (or competitors) into the spotlight and gives them extra exposure. In return I benefit from it since my name is mentioned in combination with theirs and they will hopefully share the interview with their community. It truly is a win-win situation.

Once you start looking at your competition from this new angle, you will realize that instead of being intimidated by their success, you can leverage it to your advantage. And you won’t really be competing with them, but finding ways to collaborate and work together rather than against each other.

Work together, rather than against each other

I believe there really are no true competitors in business, only a lot of potential colleagues. Yes, some people will offer similar services as you, but when you really analyze it, you’ll always find small differences. For example, I’m offering email marketing services but mainly focus on the Aweber tool, where a colleague of mine also offers email marketing support but works mainly with Mailchimp. Well, when I get a prospect who is on Mailchimp, I refer him to my colleague and vice versa. Rather than working against each other, we work together.

Sarah Santacroce helps small business owners and solopreneurs find their place in today’s online world. She is on Twitter.