One of the primary reasons you should be monitoring social media is to better understand your competition. Your marketing strategy must address the competition. Large organisations have long had competitive intelligence teams or functions that often tend to focus on feature / function comparisons for products and services. But Social Media and Big Data transform this process too and put real competitive intelligence within reach of every organisation.

We’ve previously posted a variety of posts on social media monitoring, including “Social Media – 5 Tips on How to Gain Insight from Monitoring“, “Social Media Monitoring Tools – 5 Key Features” and “The 5 W’s of Social Business Intelligence – An Introduction“.

In this post we are talking about assessing the competition. Here are our 5 Key Tips on using social media monitoring for competitive analysis:

1. Understand Why You Should Assess the Competition

There are really two sides to this – why do it, and why use social media? Differentiating your brand and your products or services presumes you know your competitors are doing – how they are positioning their brand and products and services. You won’t stand out from the crowd if you don’t know where they are, how they are behaving and what they are saying. And you need to know what, if anything, they are saying about you or to stand out from you. This will determine a lot about your overall marketing strategy and also how you integrate social into that strategy.

Why use social media? Firstly, there is a wealth of data there. Secondly, its in context to the markets and customers your business is trying to serve. Third, it contains unfiltered and unbiased data if you analyse correctly. One of the big problems in organisations is that competitive analysis usually starts from a view of ‘having the best product or service so lets focus on our features to compare’. It contains customer sentiment regarding these questions rather than an analyst’s view of the competition. Plus, social data is immediate, scalable to any level and unique. Competitive analysis should be a key component of any social media monitoring program and is integral to your social marketing

2. What should you monitor at the Competition?

A great starting point is to consider the 5 P’s of a Marketing Strategy – Product, Placement, Price, Promotion and People. Let this be your guide to start the process of competitive monitoring. So, at a minimum you should be monitoring the competitors brands and key products; mentions of their key executives, their key partners and you should be running that social media monitoring across every social channel. You really want to understand their marketing strategy and to do that you need to understand what channels they are most active in.

3. What to Assess at the Competition

You are trying to understand what your competitors are doing on the social web; what they are saying and when they are saying it. You want to know who their key people are and who they are engaging with. If possible you want to find out who influences them and more importantly, their customers. And most importantly, you are trying to understand what their customers are saying about their products and services – providing you opportunities to not only differentiate but potentially engage their customers directly. Your social media monitoring should reflect that.

4. What Results are you Looking for For?

Unlike non ‘social’ elements of your marketing strategy you are primarily trying to find people as a result of monitoring the competition. You are trying to find key people at your competitors and their names. The names of their customers and partners. The names of the people who influence them. You trying to find the names of users, contributors, influencers … as well as the issues they are talking about. Social business is about people first and foremost. This element of your marketing strategy needs to reflect that and focus on people who you can engage with in the future.

5. Social Media Presence Analysis

We recommend not just using social media monitoring for competitive analysis. You should also undertake a social architecture review of the competition to see what you can learn from their presence in LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and so on. There is much to understand by looking at how well your competition is leveraging the various social networks and how much engagement they are achieving. This may provide important ideas on how to improve your own usage of the various engagement platforms – and also traps to avoid.

In the same series, read also:
-> The 7 advantages of Social Business Intelligence
-> The 8 Challenges of Social Data Streams
As well as:
-> Social Media Monitoring Tools – 5 Key Features
-> Social Media – 5 Tips on How to Gain Insight from Monitoring
And more…