Friday, January 29th, 2016 | 5 min read
If someone looked at your browser history, how many times would your competitors’ social media profiles appear under the “Recently Visited” list? Probably more than you’d care to admit.
We all creep the competition’s social media profiles; after all, we want to see what we’re up against. But there’s a much better way to understand how your brand compares to the competition and use this information to inform your business strategy: social media competitive intelligence.
At this very moment, your customers—and your competitors’ customers—are having online conversations about their experiences, problems, perceptions, and desires. These conversations provide a wealth of honest, real-time, unfiltered feedback that directly affects your bottom line.
Socially-driven competitive intelligence captures these conversations, focused both on your brand and the competition, and helps you gather insights that can optimize your customers’ experiences throughout their entire journey with your brand. It also fills in the gaps left by more traditional competitive intelligence approaches, like syndicated sales data and ad-hoc marketing research.
Here’s why socially-driven competitive intelligence takes the utility of social media to a new level—and why it needs to be a part of the way your business shapes its market strategy.
Traditional competitive intelligence methods undoubtedly provide valuable information. Unfortunately, they fall short when it comes to helping brands understand rapid shifts in the market or in customer opinion, which are often represented by conversations taking place online at any given moment. Without socially-driven competitive intelligence, brands will miss out on valuable real-time insights, such as a sudden shift in share of voice, an important issue in manufacturing or QA process, or an external market force that needs to be addressed.
Armed with real-time social data, companies are empowered to be more nimble with their strategy and take a proactive (rather than reactive) approach to their digital presence.
By integrating social media with your regular comp intel mix, critical information about your competitors is “pushed” to you, rather than you having to “pull” the data from the customer (as with focus groups or surveys). You’ll get insight on topics you never thought to explore, and you’ll be better armed to investigate areas that drive sales.
Let’s say that a global leader in hospitality, operating more than 1,500 restaurants and serving 320 million meals a year, nabbed its status as an industry leader by staying on top of food trends. The company prioritized tracking not only its direct competitors but also the top 25 restaurants worldwide through social media. By looking outside the immediate market, this company stays ahead of market trends, consistently refining and updating its menus to match evolving tastes.
The company can always validate its assumptions through surveys or focus groups and test menu items in a few pilot locations; however, asking customers to predict what’s going to be the next kale or brussel sprout isn’t the smartest way to gather market intelligence. In this case, the best bet is to listen to social conversation.
You can think of conversations happening online as one big focus group. The sheer volume of social conversations relevant to your brand or industry gives you the ability to peek into the purchase experience in the way that a traditional focus group would, but on a much larger scale, and much more quickly.
With the right competitive benchmarking technology running in the background, automatically categorizing and scoring social conversations, you’re able to free up valuable resources to focus on understanding customers across their brand journey (rather than spend time running traditional, manual research programs).
Many brands are skilled at using social media to market products, build community, boost online engagement, and listen to conversations relevant to their organization, but not many understand how to harness the competitive intel made available through social media in order to make strategic business decisions.
Social media benchmarking isn’t simply useful for a brand’s social media team; it’s relevant to the rest of marketing, sales, customer service, and product teams. With 74% of consumers relying on social networks to guide purchase, understanding how your brand compares to the competition online, and what kinds of conversations are taking place around your competitors, industry, and product, is essential to crafting exceptional customer experiences1.
1Temkin Group, The State of Customer Experience (CX)