One of the first things any good SEO does when reviewing a site and developing a strategy is competitive research. Looking at the competition can spur ideas in link building and content creation. In addition, when a client embarks on a new venture with their site, we always recommend looking at what their neighbors (competitors) are doing to see best practices. Watching what your competitors do is a good way to see a specific tactic in action before implementation on the client's site.
There are some down sides to competitive research though, especially when a competitor "steals" your linking ideas. It sucks when it happens to you, so you have to do things that are not easily copied. But like I said before, it is a nice way to mitigate risk ... letting a competitor put something in action before you put it into place.
However, keep in mind that you never want to copy exactly what your competitors are doing ... for many reasons. One being that you don't know if that tactic is actually working. You don't want to implement a contest idea if the last company that did it lost thousands doing it and didn't actually gain any good customers.
And two, you are not thinking for yourself. Who remembers a copycat? People do remember those that do something better and faster than before, but you have to be able to one up the last implementation. Look at what Dell did with the PC market. There are many others that followed suit, but Dell is the one that will always be known for the low cost personalized PC. The best way to stand out in this world is to be the first or the best, but the best can be harder to do sometimes.
Upping the Ante of Online Marketing
One campaign I've seen recently is from Lionsgate. They were one of the first to utilize the online phenomena that is Chatroulette. In short, they used a clip of a young, sensual, teasing female ... who goes crazy and demon-like after pretending to undress ... to promote their new movie The Last Exorcism.
I've personally never used Chatroulette (read:I'm old and a wuss) but this was a great use of an online application. Lionsgate perfectly targeted teenage boys with this ad. Now, I will admit that they are not the first to use the medium, French Connection gets that award it seems, but they are the first movie to do so.
There are so many other online applications that could be used like this to get attention online, and I am not just talking Facebook. Social media and online marketing is so much more than Twitter, Facebook, Google and Bing. While those are the big dogs of the online world (and where the bulk of US internet users hang out), it is not going to guarantee you business by just being there.
For your next campaign, start by identifying your target market and figure out where they hang out online (and offline even). This background research will open up a wide variety of platforms you can use to target your market. But don't do what everyone else is doing.
March to a different beat and make people talk.
P.S. Remember that different countries/regions/locations have their own popular social networks, so don't assume that because it's popular in your country, it will be in Iceland too. Do full research on your target market and be specific.