Competitive intelligence is first and foremost about understanding your competitor’s strategy. To do this you need to gain insight into their products, services, finances, partners, and customers. In today’s increasingly open and social Web, there are few better places to gather all of this important data than from social media.
1. Identify Promising Social Networks - Although there is some increasing stability in the landscape of social networks. Communities and demographics are still shifting in some of the most popular social media venues. Your challenge is to continually survey and make sure you are tuned into the most appropriate social networks for your objective.
2. Create Social Media Profiles - Although much of competitive intelligence is about having good listening capabilities, it is important to gain credibility in environments you monitor. This step means creating and maturing effective social media profiles. This does not necessarily have to be you specifically, but relevant personas need to be manned by someone (or increasingly acceptable–a group) in your business.
3. Aggregate Social Media - Once you have social network targets and persons to engage with you need to turn on the fire hose. In online circles, this is often referred to as a “river.” This is most often a flow of messages from blogging and micro-blogging (Twitter) platforms in the form of RSS feeds. This simple technology, combined with something like Google Reader can literally flow in thousands of social media conversations from all corners of the Web.
4. Track Important People (Influencers) - As you can imagine this approach will fill you with tons of noise and irrelevant messages. However, if you start to recognize the most influential and relevant people to your objectives you can begin to focus and prune your social media monitoring–bringing you better competitive intelligence.
5. Continually Tune Your Competitive Intelligence - Once you have a bead on your objective you need to constantly tune things. What are the best sources of information? Who tends to break news first? Are their people and websites that do the best analysis? Are there insiders that tend to leak information? May there are even websites that are already doing a good job aggregating social media–saving you a step or two.
Building an effective competitive intelligence monitoring system takes time and effort. You need to constantly observe where competitors and their communities are communicating. Social media and social networks are in constant fluctuation. This is an evolving ecosystem.
Social media opens up many of the critic communications that are important to answering your competitive questions. However, there is significant work in keeping your listening posts dialed into a moving target. A more comprehensive and dedicated social media monitoring platform can help you stay plugged-in on your competitor.