To those who think you know all the ins and outs of using social media, fasten your seat belts. If you created a LinkedIn profile at the turn of the century, started out with MySpace and later jumped to Facebook, became an early adopter of Vine and now work Snapchat, I have news for you. Social media platforms are not just one-way PR broadcast channels that let you tell the world how brilliant and popular you are. You can (and should) do some of that, but there is more.
Maybe you already do more? You regularly use social media to encourage comments from customers about their experiences when doing business with your company. You understand that social media is a two-way street. But, still, there is so much more.
Social media can be effectively used not only for inbound and outbound marketing, but also for keeping tabs on competitors. Social media is ideal for gathering competitive intelligence that can make you a smarter marketer, salesperson and business owner. Here’s how.
First, determine who your competitors are, something that’s not always easy and obvious for B2B service providers. Discover who your competitors are by meeting them. The most efficient method to meet your competition is to join a professional society, where you’ll meet fellow accountants, life science marketers, event planners, etc., or join one or more chambers of commerce. In four or five visits, you’ll meet a good cross-section of peers who do what you do, or something very similar.
Make it a point to talk to these people. Get to know them somewhat and exchange business cards, for they are not your enemy. In fact, they can probably give you some valuable advice. You should be willing to share a pearl or two of wisdom with them in return, as long as you don’t give away any proprietary information.
Once their business cards are in your possession, the second thing you’ll do is set up Google Alerts, so you’ll receive notice of their company’s print or online mentions, at no charge. Whatever your competitors choose to publicly announce, you’ll quickly know. It will be so enlightening to have the PR of competitors delivered directly to your inbox.
You’ll learn who will keynote at a conference, who will moderate or serve on a panel, who’s released a new product or service, who gets quoted in local or national press, or who will teach as an adjunct professor this semester. Discover who’s quoted you, or if there are sites linking to your website or blog. Monitor the content marketing of competitors (e.g., blogs and newsletters) and assess the perspectives and even the expertise of those whom you’re working against.
You can also receive alerts for your own company, to reveal what others are saying about your enterprise. You’ll learn whether you have supporters who give you compliments in newsletters or blogs, or if someone is undermining you on social media. Use competitive intelligence to shape your response and support your reputation management.
Regarding the successes of competitors, there’s no mandate to imitate what they do and that’s all to the good. Be yourself. But what you learn may inspire you to take, or not take, certain actions based on information you’ve gleaned from the three or four competitors you select to follow. Set up a Google Alerts account to track key words and phrases and you’ll be happy that you did.
You might also try Hootsuite, a paid service, and use it to search podcasts and webinars by topic and engage in social media listening, for less than $20/month. The primary role of Hootsuite is to allow users to write posts and manage all of their social media accounts from one site. Those who are active on multiple platforms find Hootsuite very convenient. Plus, the analytics reports included with the service reveal which of your social media tactics and strategies are worthwhile and which need rethinking.
Finally, if you can budget $80/month, then take a deep dive into your competitors’ content marketing activities with BuzzSumo. Examine which content is getting traction for competitors, the shares competitors’ content receives and how your company’s content stacks up in comparison. It’s possible to receive an update each time selected competitors publish content and you’ll also be able to compare the overall performance of your company’s content with that of competitors.
Thanks for reading,
Image: His Master’s Voice (1898), starring Nipper the dog, by British painter Francis Barraud. In 1901, the painting became the logo of what would eventually become RCA Victor. EMI, JVC and HMV (His Master’s Voice) have also owned the logo rights.