What is the role of social media in competitive intelligence?

by | Apr 12, 2024

Here at HelloInfo we’ve had an ongoing debate on how much we can learn from competitor social media channels. Most of us have been in the competitive intelligence (CI) space for a decade or more, and have seen the social media monitoring hype cycle play out. Today we certainly cannot ignore social media as it has become enmeshed in many of our personal and professional lives. When it comes to what we can learn about competitors from social media the answer is, it depends!

Your competitors’ social media presence

Your competitors are very likely to have social media accounts, but efforts to post content may vary dramatically from competitor to competitor and from business unit to business unit. For example, a food & beverage company that has both a direct to consumer (D2C) channel and a private labeling operation will find their D2C competitors will be fairly active on social media due to the nature of consumer facing businesses. However, competitors focused only on private labeling may be less active.

In some cases, your competitors may use social media as their primary form of marketing and communication, generally eschewing advertising and press releases all together. Tesla is an obvious example of a large company where you’ll learn more about company news by following Tesla and Elon Musk on social media site X. When it comes to SMBs 71% of businesses use social media to market themselves.

To understand what your competitors’ strategy is for sharing on social media, you have to start with an audit of their accounts to understand how active they are, and if the content posted will be valuable to competitive intelligence.

What your competitors are seeing

Speaking of content, some companies may post content that can offer insight into what they’re seeing in the market. Roger Martin, strategy advisor and writer, said that looking at what competitors are doing provides a window into what competitors are seeing. And focusing on what competitors are seeing will help you get to new and valuable insights faster.

For example, one of your competitors has been posting LinkedIn content about supporting the healthcare sector, latest trends in healthcare, and an upcoming webinar roundtable with a few companies in the healthcare space. You might ask, does this competitor see an opportunity in the healthcare space? Are there needs in the healthcare space that are not being met by other competitors? These questions will help guide your CI efforts and ask big picture questions about your business strategy.

However, you may have competitors that will post occasionally to wish you a happy [insert holiday here]. You’re not going to get much insight from these social media accounts, but it does not hurt to look periodically to see if their content strategy changes and adjust your CI efforts if it does.

What questions are you trying to answer?

Beyond posted content, other aspects of social media accounts can help answer questions. This is particularly true of LinkedIn where looking at the “People” tab can offer insight into where their personnel is focused. For example, you may see there are more salespeople in one region compared to others. The “Jobs” tab can also offer insight into areas where hiring efforts are more concentrated. For LinkedIn Premium members, the “Insights” tab even offers statistics on employee count, headcount growth, and distribution of employees by function.

Depending on the question, there can be creative ways to answer the question on social media. And if not, social media is just one out of many sources we at HelloInfo use for competitive intelligence research.

HelloInfo in action

Over the past 18 months, HelloInfo has been working extensively with a tech client’s Thought Leadership Marketing team to support them in maintaining their position as a key source of information in their industry. Their primary research objective is to ensure that their messaging on emerging trends such as AI, Cloud, Digital Transformation, and The Metaverse is relevant, impactful, and ensures that customers and prospects alike know that they are the premiere source of information on forthcoming innovations.

One input of this research is an examination of competitor social media accounts, to determine the extent to which competitors are speaking to emerging trends using these channels. And as we started this article saying, depending on the competitor, it varies. Some competitors, while having active social media accounts, use them seldomly as a medium for their thought leadership, while others go to great lengths to share insights, predictions, case studies, products, and statistics associated with emerging trends and innovations.

How do you use social media in your competitive intelligence endeavors? Can HelloInfo help you refine your research approach? Schedule a call with us to explore how we can help you. to see how we can leverage social media and other sources to help you gain a competitive advantage.

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