3 Steps to Combining Social Media & Competitive Intelligence
“Competitive Intelligence is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence…needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization.” (Wikipedia)
As a VP of Sales, what is your biggest fear when it comes to competitors? “Being beaten” should be your answer. You need to maintain a competitive edge over them, or at the very least hold even. As a result, it’s crucial you maintain strong competitive intelligence.
When it comes to competitive intelligence, there is one worst-case scenario. Your competitor rolls out a new groundbreaking feature / tool, and you had no idea it was coming. All of a sudden you’re months, or possibly years, behind. Your pipeline and ability to make your number are both at risk. You’re at a clear competitive disadvantage.
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While traditional forms of Competitive Intelligence are still critical, times have changed. Using social media for competitive intelligence provides another viewpoint into competitor activity.
An article written by Jenna Cheng cites the following:
“Several research studies reveal the growing importance of social technologies to competitive and marketing strategy.
- McKinsey Quarterly: Among 3,103 respondents, 75% use social networking or blogs to scan the external environment for new ideas.
- Forrester Research: 82% of 150 companies that monitor social media are primarily searching for competitive intelligence.
- Altimeter: From a survey of 180 social media managers, corporations have an average of 178 business related social media accounts.”
Keep up with the field in terms of competitive intelligence, and you’ll naturally keep up in other areas as well.
How to Maintain Competitive Intelligence
Keeping abreast of what your competitors are up to is no small task. You need to apply significant time, energy, and resources if you hope to keep up. In order to succeed, competitor tracking will need to be a regular, ongoing process. As a result, you should include it as part of your Sales Cadence. Include it as a part of your agenda during regular sales meetings. Otherwise you risk losing track of it.
There are multiple ways to gather competitive information:
Internet Surveillance and Monitoring – Chances are, if your competitor is worth tracking, they can be found on the Internet. Social media channels and news sources are great ways to monitor competition. Some of the most widely used social media modes are:
- Seeking Alpha/Yahoo/Google/MSN News
- Salesforce.com- Radian6 / HootSuite / UberVu
- LinkedIn Groups and Connections allow for:
- Following Specific Trade Groups (ie: Sales / Marketing Executives)
- Following competitors’ company pages for major updates and product launches
- Connecting with competitors on LinkedIn (just be cognizant and don’t give away organization info comparable to what you’re trying to attain)
- Marketing Software – HubSpot /Eloqua/Marketo/Alexa
These initial resources don’t even touch on the opportunities that exist outside the cyber world. For instance:
- Trade Shows
- Current Customers you’re conducting business with
- Active Opportunities in the Pipeline
- Customers that you lost or were left with a “no decision” status
- Candidates from competitors that are interviewing to join your team
- Mystery Shopping (conduct by a third party)
As you can see, the options are plentiful. Today’s we’ll just focus on one form of competitive intelligence: Social Media.
Monitor Competitors on Social Media
This section on Social Media will exclude LinkedIn. LinkedIn provides a whole slew of additional opportunities outside of the traditional social media vane. It will be covered at a later time.
The 3 Things you must know about Social Media competitive intelligence:
1) Social Data Collection: The act of gathering data about your competitors.
a. Data you should be collecting includes:
i. What keywords are your competitors using?
ii. What content and sites are they linking to via social media?
iii. How many pageviews are they getting? From where?
iv. What is their online speed?
v. What emerging trends are occurring on their site and/or social channels?
Access to this data is available, but obtaining the important information can be a difficult task. Using a tool like Google Alerts is a good start.
2) Social Listening: The act of monitoring conversations across multiple channels to gain competitor insight.
a. Data you should monitor includes:
i. What are your competitors' customers saying?
ii. What are your competitors' suppliers doing or saying?
iii. What tweets, blog posts, Facebook comments, YouTube videos, etc. have been posted? How are customers reacting?
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3) Social Media Interpretation: The act of taking this data and turning it into intellignece that provides insights and actions.
This step is the most complex of the three. Anyone can join social media channels and follow competitors. Not everyone can take social interactions, turn it into meaningful data, and generate action items. If you're unsure of where to start, drop a note or call us to get started.
Do you have other insights, another idea, or even a different view? Then please keep the conversation going by commenting below.
Author: Tony Albachiara
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