Competitive Intelligence with Social Media Monitoring

How do you turn social media data into a business tool?
Listen to the data with focused and tactical opportunity on your mind.

The reality of the social media adoption trend is that relationship information has shifted; the past few decades had given us the  luxury of forming relationships on a personally managed level.

That isn’t a 100% true anymore.

Ten years ago it was pretty difficult for an outsider to know who was in a circle of friends. A private investigator could have researched where I was and who I met on a daily basis, but the act of knowing who was in my social circle took a tremendous amount of effort to discover, track, and visualize.

Skip ahead to today’s current social experiment and a majority of us  have ‘opted in’ to sharing our social connections. In many cases the act of using tools like Google and Facebook have opened up a Pandora’s box of social data that very few of us understand.

Data researchers like myself can sit down at a keyboard with some advanced computer scripts and draw a picture of an individual, community, or marketplace in a fraction of the time it would have taken ten years ago.


How does competitive intelligence and social media tie together?

Take the amount of information we share about ourselves as individuals and multiply that by the number of people in our business (hundreds to thousands of times.)

The data begins to reveal things that no one person revealed as an individual.

Imagine this scenario: as a business development professional you are accidentally invited to your competitor’s annual client party where you’ve been given the opportunity to personally meet the account teams working on your competitor’s biggest corporate accounts and you also get to talk directly with the clients themselves.

You could have spent millions of dollars marketing to these people and never had this type of chance… to study what your competitor is doing and to ask top questions to the perfect ‘A list’ of preferred clients.

When you understand competitive intelligence and social media,
this type of party is going on twenty-hours a day, seven days a week…
and you are invited.

What types of questions can your answer with online competitive intelligence?

  • Who are my competitors clients?
  • Who are my competitors employees?
  • Who are my competitors vendors?
  • What projects are my competitors focusing on?
  • What mega-trends are my competitors trying to monetize?
  • Where are clients talking about my competitors?
  • What keywords are sending traffic and revenue in my marketplace?
  • What social trends connect with my sales process?
  • What flashpoints cause customers to be dumped on the market?
    (bankruptcies, mergers, news, etc.)
  • Who used to work for my competitor?
  • What can my competition discover about me?

Understanding data silos

When you look at consumers, customers, and employees-  they  intentionally and unintentionally expose data points using social media.

This ‘social media’ can be in the form of social networks like Facebook, mobile device usage such as iPads and smartphones, or a variety of other public data systems.

With all this data you can begin to tactically plan around clusters of information that are very targeted to specific aspects of your business.

A few example categories include:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Customer Care
  • Expansion Opportunities
  • Marketplace Gaps
  • Product Planning

It is important to have some basic business methodologies to help define what questions you are trying to address. If you lose focus of what your objective is you can quickly research endless amounts of data and have no actionable business ROI.

A real world example

In a review of five large banking brands we analyzed roughly 85,000 employees to determine social media adoption.

Since we knew the naming conventions of the corporate e-mail for each bank, we could identify a majority of user e-mail addresses using published company directories, as well as simple searches on Google looking for a list of 100+ titles and specific keywords (“account manager” OR “account analyst” AND “Banking Brand ABC”) – we could compile data sources from other online entities such as Facebook, Twitter, ZoomInfo, Whitepages, Zillow, and Linkedin to correlate other personal/geographic/demographic information.

  • 72% on Facebook
  • 39% on Linkedin
  • 4% on Twitter

A very small segment used public profiles on Youtube and personal blogs (less than 1%), but of those that were on YouTube and personal blogs they were also on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. This small section of professionals identified a ‘super adopter’ who was very familiar with digital communication tools. Less than 1% were also active commentators on blogs.

Once we had a list broken up by brand and title…

We could stack rank all of the users based on usage, most commonly used terms, and most popular conversations.

We could take segments of names such as all the Vice President titles and run them against open conference sites, popular blogs, and local meetings/events.

This allowed us to define what executives were actively engaged in specific industry conversations. It also allowed us to identify entry points in conversation between people at conferences using elements such as hashtags or mentions.

What could we learn from some executive influencers?

Social Importance- by examining specific executives we could see who they were engaged with. One executive interacting with them identified a base conversation, while multiple executives interacting with an individual identified high worth prospects/clients.

Prospect Profiles– by examining engaged personalities online we could see micro trends in followers, friends, and readership groups. This allowed us to target specific traits about like-minded people who were not already engaging. This data led us to sources where these individuals collected on topical items related to news sources, online communities, and search keywords.

Event and Association Audiences- once we had a prospect profile, we could backtrack back to specific real world events and associations. As the events and association groups had online components, these opened up additional high priority lists that we could examine previous attendees, executives of interest, and future social/search strategies.

 Competitive Intelligence is right at your fingertips…

All of the data is available here and now.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and YouTube all provide different sets of information to think about.

Your organization provides proprietary information on clients, prospects, marketing trends, and industry events.

Your business partners all have a few points of data to consider.

and a search engine is just a click away…

Have you given thought to your competitive intelligence recently?



5 thoughts on “Competitive Intelligence with Social Media Monitoring”

  1. CI is a very important business tool. It is not something that every company is born with the ability to do, rather it is something that need to be learnt how to accomplish. PLEASE PLEASE do not let this article fool you. Following what is going on on various Social Media platform is by no mean enough! In-fact I believe that this article does a dis-services to businesses. Social Media is an effe3ctrive tool for somethings but to get good, and effective CI one must do it properly otherwise they are wasting money and time.

  2. I agree that competitive intelligence is something you need to learn to do and that there are many ways to do it. As a competitive intelligence professional myself, I’ve practiced using a lot of good tools (some of them are even ones I’ve created.)

    I apologize if putting out some basic pointers on collecting digital information is disagreeable with you, but unfortunately there are competitive intelligence ‘experts’ that don’t know how to use the new tools available to them. The art of good CI is to have an arsenal and toolkit that includes hundreds of different solutions for the task at hand. Relying on any one tool means that you won’t have the right option available at a moments notice (and sometimes CI is all about timing.)

    There are a lot of ways to collect information about people (listening, conversation, research, behavior, tactical penetration, social media, etc) and the points above are simply ways of doing some of the intelligence modeling with social media.

    + As an FYI (before you make another statement about not knowing about how to do CI appropriately…) I’d like to point out that my Father, Mother, and Grand-mother were all in the United States National Security Agency. I grew up thinking about spy games and counter intelligence scenarios.

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