Using Social Media for Competitive Monitoring

It’s amazing what people share on social media, and not all of it is racy or inappropriate content. People often talk about day-to-day activities that provide a glimpse of competitive strategies. You can use this to your advantage if you know what they’re saying.

When it comes to competitive monitoring, using social listening to hear what’s being said in the public domain can uncover useful information about your competitors’ actions. Keep up with competitors by tracking their corporate and employee posts to learn what’s going on at the company, such as potential partnerships, vendor changes, and key new hires.

For example, if you know Joe Jackson is a key account rep at Widgets Express, you might be interested to see he has recently connected with the CTO of your client, Acme Company, on LinkedIn.  This could be a sign that some defensive moves are needed to protect your client relationship.

A simple way to manage the flow of all these conversations is to set up notifications using tools or applications designed for social listening.  Google Alerts is free and works well for getting regular email notifications on a company, individual names or specific topics. You may find more sophisticated enterprise solutions are required, depending on the scope of your social media programs. Some options include Trackur, which provides trends over time and LinkedIn Signal for monitoring on LinkedIn.

Once you’ve set up your monitoring, you’ll need a process to manage the information. It may be as simple as setting aside a few minutes each week to review news and updates. Larger firms might send competitive media mentions to a monitoring team to aggregate with other data.

Because patterns developed over time can hint at changes or competitive actions you want to watch – such as new products in development – create a filing system to store your alerts and reports. Use keywords or topics to group data points so they can easily be retrieved when you need them.

Consider developing competitive dashboards to track month-to-month metrics for key indicators like hiring or product price changes and promotions. You can pick up on subtle shifts by watching employee posts as well as public data provided by your competitor’s PR team or recruiting staff.

Sentiment is another strong leading indicator of competitors that are improving or declining in stature. If your social media monitoring exposes a growing number of negative messages, complaints or just expressions of frustration, pay attention. These concerns may hint at problems the company would prefer to keep under wraps, like late deliveries due to component shortages or a floundering implementation of new technology.

Understanding your competitors’ pain points will help you sell against them in the short term, while informing your competitive strategy for long term planning. For example, if you see that a company is struggling with employee retention, you might want to step up recruiting to entice top talent you’d like on your team. At the same time, you might explore the reasons employees are leaving to get at deeper issues.

This level of exploration goes beyond social media, but what you learn online can help you focus your offline efforts. Take advantage of social media to keep your finger on the pulse of competitors, and you’ll discover plenty of useful information to make your own business more competitive.

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