Using Social Media for Competitive Research

Using Social Media for Competitive Research

Not entirely sold on the merits of social media as a marcom tool? You certainly aren’t alone. Despite the press it’s getting, a lot of B2B marketers are still searching for meaningful ways to integrate social media activities into their marcom programs. Like any new medium, it will take a period of trial and error, wins and losses, to determine which marketing objectives are well served by social media tactics and which aren’t.  In the meantime, there is one area where the use of social media is a bit of a no-brainer; competitive research and tracking.

As more and more companies seek to engage their customers via news feeds, blogs, Tweets and LinkedIn discussions, they are also revealing a great deal about their marketing plans and sales strategies.  Making a small effort to follow their activities can provide you with a great deal of real-time competitive intelligence.  Here are three things sales and marketing people can do to get started without a lot of effort.

RSS Feeds

First and foremost, if your competitors offer RSS feeds, subscribe to them immediately.  The whole idea of these feeds is for companies to syndicate their new content to followers quickly and efficiently.  By subscribing to your competitor’s feeds and using an aggregator like NewzCrawlerFeedDemon or Google Reader to organize them, you’ll be able to track competitive announcements and messaging by market segment and/or product groups quickly and anonymously.

Twitter

If your competitors are on Twitter, by all means, follow them.  Just the fact they are actively tweeting gives you some insight into their marketing prowess.  Depending on the content of their tweets, you may learn a lot more than that.  If they are promoting a new white paper or blog post, the content will likely reveal a new product or technology they are pushing or a market they are targeting.  Blog posts could also reveal their perspective on market trends, channel issues, pricing or any number of topics. (Note: Twitter itself isn’t a particularly user-friendly tool to use.  You might want to try TweetDeck which allows you to follow people by groups, subject matter, specific search terms and hashtags.)

LinkedIn

A company’s LinkedIn profile can also provide some valuable information, but look deeper into the Groups and Associations the company and its employees are involved in and you will learn more.  Are they active in vertical market groups, and if so what are they saying in the discussions?  Are they leading the discussion or following?  Are they talking about you and other competitors?  Is their HR department recruiting new sales people, and if so in which markets?

There are a number of other tools you can use to “listen” to the competition.  Try them all to see which work best for you.  Other than a little time, they don’t cost a thing and they could help you keep a leg up on your competitors.

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