Wish there was a way to find out how your biggest competitor made such a splash with their last campaign? Interested in positioning your business for maximum results without having to recreate the wheel? Want to make sure loyal clients don’t abandon ship when confronted with the latest and greatest fad? Simply want to spy on the next guy to be prepared for what is in the works? These are just a few examples of the uses for competitive intelligence. Although nearly every business understands the need for good information, as a social media management firm we have seen the other side of the coin as well…what goes wrong when competitive intelligence is unreliable. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of using social media to gather competitive intelligence.
What Is Competitive Intelligence?
Competitive intelligence is simply the gathering and use of actionable data about a competitor. It can include almost anything; for example, upcoming new product or services to be released or detailed demographic data used to create a compelling social media marketing campaign. The possibilities are nearly endless…if you know where to look!
Advantages of Social Media Competitive Intelligence
As social media moves beyond mere marketing and into more robust areas of business, competitive intelligence is becoming an area of intense interest. As a social media management firm, we are in a unique position to see how effective – or detrimental – the use of competitive intelligence can be; the key is to understand the potential then combine it with solid practices in order to obtain reliable and actionable information. So, what type of information can be gleaned by the use of social media competitive intelligence? A tremendous amount! It’s possible to learn about upcoming campaigns, minimize “surprises” from competitors, identify threats and opportunities, learn about what works – and what doesn’t work – from the prior experiences of others, and anticipate what outcomes your own plans may have on the bottom line of competitors.
Disadvantages of Social Media Competitive Intelligence
While it might seem counter-intuitive to think that there could be a disadvantage to using competitive intelligence, in reality there are very real concerns to keep in mind. First, not all competitive intelligence is created equal…just take a look at our own CIA to see how very wrong things can go if the right information isn’t provided at the right time.
Reliability: Two primary concerns arise; either the information is right but believed to be wrong or the information is wrong and believed to be correct. Each is able to wreck havoc on any type of plans and preparation undertaken by the business owner.
Source: The next major problem associated with competitive intelligence is the originating source. For example, in the past a marketing company might use demographic data designed for use with a magazine or radio advertisement; a very different cohort than those found online. As social media and other non-traditional sources revolutionize the way information is used, it is imperative to understand the origination of all data. Social media, mobile and tablet users all differ from traditional desktop users.
Copycats: One of the biggest mistakes made by novice social media marketing firms is to copy a prior campaign. More often than not, it’s a terrible disappointment. Why? Simple. The originality has worn off. Especially in the social media arena, originality is essential.
Volume: Last but not least, the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming if you don’t have the time or know-how to manage it properly. This is where social media management firms really shine!
Will Your Business Benefit?
Wondering if your business would benefit from a properly planned social media competitive intelligence plan? More than likely yes! Of course, getting started is often the hardest step so here to help are a few of our quick tips to get you up to speed fast.
1. Commitment to It! Implementing a social media competitive intelligence plan takes a bit of time but is well worth a slight delay. Investing the time and effort into social media competitive intelligence pays big rewards by saving both time and effort later.
2. Understand desired outcomes. Before getting started, step back and ask yourself “why” you need to perform competitive intelligence. What objectives and outcomes are you attempting to achieve?
3. Select the right team. Asking the right questions is essential but so is the ability to find the right information and then analyze and act upon it. Several different skill sets are often required making it the perfect domain for social media management agencies.
4. Use technology when appropriate. Automation and analysis can often dramatically reduce the amount of time and effort required but unfortunately, may be costly for small business owners to initiate. Once again, speak with your social media manager about the possibility of outsourcing this segment; no need to buy expensive software or train staff.
5. Distribute the findings! Amazingly, many small business owners fail to implement actionable items because the outcomes reports never make it to the right people. Once provided with the findings, be sure to distribute the report to all interested parties. Obtain feedback, gather questions and submit for review.
6. Implement! Take action. That is the entire purpose of the practice so it might be surprisingly to learn how many business owners never actually get around to putting the information into practice. Time limitations, fear of failure or worse of all… plain procrastination…often result in wasted effort.
7. Evaluate. Last but not least, roll the outcome of the actionable items into the data for the next round of changes. It creates a compelling long term cycle able to refine results and increase outcomes with each scheduled cycle.