Using Social Media to Get a Leg Up on the Competition


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Social media has altered how we communicate, where we get our information, and how much opinion data is openly available to anyone with the right tools. If you’re not currently using social media insights to gain a competitive advantage, I can promise you that your competitors already are, and for your business, there’s no better time than right now to begin.

However, even if social media listening and intelligence are already integral parts of your company or the services you provide for your clients, there might be even more you can be doing.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a single dime to get started, and with the right guidance you can set up a highly functional social media competitive intelligence stack in one afternoon.

Approaching Competitive Intelligence Using Social Media

We live in a world where word-of-mouth is everything for a brand’s reputation. Failing to quickly and effectively respond to consumer complaints and negative feedback online can prove catastrophic for a brand’s reputation.

However, understanding and leveraging the positive, negative and thematic nuances within consumer comments about your brand, as well your competitors, provides the basis for a significant competitive advantage.

From lead generation, expanding market share through acquisition of your competitors’ unhappy customers, product development, marketing messaging and strategy, the information you can glean from social media monitoring has the power to impact the entire organization.

Free and Simple Social Listening

One easy way of keeping a pulse on your competition is by using free tools like Google Alerts, Hootsuite or TweetDeck. While you won’t get in-depth data or metrics, you can get real-time competitive intelligence by listening to what they’re saying and what customers think.

With Google Alerts, you can set up advanced queries to get information on any recent news from your competitors. For example, if you want to know every time your competitor opens a new store, you can set up an alert for the company name AND “store opening.”

Similar to Google Alerts, you can use specific queries in TweetDeck and Hootsuite to follow conversations around a competitor. You can even pinpoint a specific location if you want to get regional conversations. Additionally, Twitter has a ‘private list’ feature where you can monitor competitors without following their accounts.

Advanced Analytics That Give You Context

Popular – and free – social media monitoring tools like the ones above are great for tracking what people are posting about, but there is even more data you can leverage for competitive intelligence not captured by these.

To really gain a competitive edge, there are more advanced tools that provide deeper insights from more channels and for longer or specific periods of time that capture emotion, sentiment and popular topics.

These social media intelligence technologies can provide even greater detail on how consumers feel about a brand, how passionate they are, what demographics are being activated, and what attributes of a product or service matter most.

For example, if you’re about to open a new fast casual burrito restaurant, you can target specific attributes like cost, health, rice or guacamole to compare how consumers rate each competitor on each attribute, how often the attributes are referenced for each brand and what demographics each attribute resonates with the most.

Insight to Action

Leveraging social media for competitive intelligence should be a no-brainer and there are plenty of great tools to get you started. If you’re intrigued but still don’t know where to begin, start by identifying areas where you can immediately act upon the information.

If you’re running a restaurant, watch for what people say about the cleanliness of your restaurant compared to your competitors. If you’re offering a product, observe how people rate similar products on cost, quality, service or features.

Once you’ve gotten your feet wet, you can decide how much further you want to go and what tools will serve this purpose best. No matter what tools you choose, just remember, the data is only as good as what you do with it.



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