The internet has transformed the way competitive research is being accomplished. Due to the enormous data trail that we leave behind after every user action, information about your competitors is readily available.
When creating a social media strategy, competitive analysis is essential for benchmarking where you stack up today and where you need to go in the future.
Thanks to my friend Kyle Lelli at Trinity Insight, this blog post is made possible through his insightful comments about a month ago.
The following segments will describe specific tools and tactics for performing a competitive analysis.
1. Set up Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a free service provided by the search giant that allows people to monitor anything that is being said about a specific keyword on the web. You can closely monitor what is being said about your competition, and this will allow you to see what they are doing well (maybe even better than you) and also what they are not doing well (maybe you can capitalize on their weaknesses). Some keywords you will want to consider are competitor brand names and variations, key executive names, and products.
Where is the company being mentioned?
After you start seeing results for your keywords, you want to pay close attention to where your competitors are being mentioned. For example, if you find that results for their CEO’s name continually pop up in influential blogs as a guest author, you might want to consider implementing this tactic in your social media strategy.
2. Social Mention
Social Mention is another free service that you can use to monitor competition. The nice thing about this social media specific search engine is that you can organize results by sentiment, influencers, website source, keyword, and hashtags. All the reports are exportable in an excel file.
So how do you make key business decisions from these reports? Some examples:
Who are the top influencers who mentioned the competition? You could reach out to them. This must be done with caution, as you do not want to start a turf war.
What are the top keywords being used for the search results. You could incorporate these keywords into future communications with your customers.
On what sites are they being mentioned the most. You might want to think about expanding your social media presence to those websites as well.
What is the overall ratio of positive to negative comments about your competitors? Dig deep into the negative comments to see if you could capture any opportunities to differentiate yourself. Also look at what they are doing well in the positive comments in order to see where you can improve.
The results are certainly not perfect, as sometimes they are a little off base if the company or product name contains generic keywords. But it will guide you in the right direction.
3. Twitter Search
Set up an Advanced Twitter Search much like you would with Google Alerts. Make sure to mention all of the competitors’ products, executives, and brand name variations. Make sure to save the searches (Twitter used to allow RSS subscriptions, but they killed the service). When appropriate, you could even jump into the conversation if a competitor’s customer is left unsatisfied with their service or product. Again, use caution when taking this approach, you will know when the time is appropriate to use this tactic.
4. Examine Competitors’ Presences in Social Media.
Now you want to analyze how they operate their profiles on a day to day basis. How many sites are they active on? Are they setting up shop but not maintaining their presence? What type of voice are they using? Are they being educational, entertaining, or inducing emotion? How often are they updating, tweeting, blogging? Are people reacting positively or negatively to their content?
In addition, you should read the following blog post about using social data to grow your business by Peter Wylie on Social Media Examiner. #2 about benchmarking competition is important for you to read.
Now that you have the tools ready to monitor your competition, you will be equipped with more business intelligence to maximize your social media strategy.
Are you using any of these tactics? If so, we would love to hear about your experiences. Are there any other free tools that you use that were not mentioned here?