What is Social Competitive Intelligence?

How to use social media data for competitor analysis

A competitive business environment encourages brands to constantly strive to meet the needs of consumers better than their competitors. But getting ahead and staying ahead isn’t easy. Success in any industry requires a deep knowledge of the competitive forces and consumer trends that make up the landscape.

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As part of our ongoing Elements of Social Media Analytics series, this post covers the definition and use cases for gathering competitive intelligence via social data.

Competitive Intelligence Definition

Before diving into how it’s used in social analytics, it’s important to understand what “competitive intelligence” actually means. While the term is often thought to refer specifically to keeping tabs on your competition, it can (and should) include more than just your competitors. Competitive intelligence (CI) can be defined as the collection and analysis of information about products, customers, competitors, and any aspect of your business’s competitive environment.

Competitive intelligence (CI) can be defined as the collection and analysis of information about products, customers, competitors, and any aspect of your business’s competitive environment.

Competitive Intelligence

Ultimately, competitive intelligence is about understanding what’s going on around your business so your brand can compete effectively. That’s why it’s more than just analyzing the competition. Learning as much as you can about your industry, consumers, and even broader trends will empower your brand to make the right strategic decisions. When it’s used effectively, CI allows businesses to adapt to changing market circumstances quickly.

Why social competitive analysis?

While the broader term of competitive analysis can refer to information from any source, in this post we’re focusing on information from social media. But why social media?

Social media data can be used for a lot more than simply keeping track of your competitors’ Facebook posts or Twitter followers. The trillions of conversations on social media can serve as a window into your competitive landscape— providing visibility into everything from feelings about competitors’ products to emerging consumer trends relevant to your industry.

While more traditional competitive intelligence methods can certainly provide valuable information, they fail to provide the fast results necessary to make sense of rapid changes to consumer preferences and market conditions. Unlike those traditional methods of gathering intelligence, social media analysis allows brands to understand quick changes to their business environment in real time.

Without real-time competitive insights, brands end up missing the chance to capitalize on opportunities to get ahead with perfectly timed product launches and campaign updates. Instant access to powerful competitive intelligence allows brands to be more agile and proactive with their go-to-market strategy. ‘

So how can you start using social competitive intelligence?

Social Competitive Analysis Use Cases

Because competitive analysis is such a broad term, it covers a wide variety of use cases. Here are some of of the most valuable types of competitive intelligence you can extract from social media data:

Share of voice comparison  

The simplest form of social competitive intelligence is simply comparing the volume of conversation about your brand to that of a competitor. How many people are posting about their brand compared to yours?

You can take it a step further by tracking your share of the entire conversation around a product category. For example, instead of comparing social mentions of Nike to that of Adidas, you might want to look at the social share of voice around a specific category like “soccer cleats” or even something broader like “sportswear,” depending on your goals. For the most accurate analysis results on share of voice, you should include visual brand mentions via image analysis.

Brand perception comparison

The next level after looking strictly at volume data is to understand the context behind the posts. Sentiment and emotion analysis can show you how consumers actually feel about the brands you’re analyzing. A competitive analysis via social media can answer questions like:

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  • How do people feel when they talk about your brand?
  • How does your brand perception compare to other brands in your category?
  • What words, topics, and emotions are associated with your brand compared to your competitors?
  • How does sentiment about specific aspects of your product or service compare to your competition?

Track PR successes and crises

Gain product insights

Monitoring the conversation around your product category can help your brand improve your own products. Understanding what consumers love or hate about your competitors’ products can help you improve your existing products or spark the idea for a new product. Listening to the voice of the consumer directly, in real-time, can give your products a big competitive advantage.

Product Innovation

For example, Mcalister’s Deli used social media analytics to decide on their new green tea flavor by monitoring the competitive landscape around iced teas. The analysis showed that consumers loved mango-flavored green tea and that none of their major competitors currently offered it. The data-driven decision to launch the new flavor was a massive success.

Identify relevant consumer trends

Staying on top of the latest trends is essential for consumer-focused companies. While it takes a bit more work to set up a thoughtful analysis of your entire industry, doing so can lead to the most rewarding business insights.

In addition to helping your brand be the first to capitalize on a major consumer trend effectively, keeping track of relevant trends also prevents you from getting left behind.  Imagine being a major food brand and finding yourself late to the game on trends like gluten free or organic foods. Keeping track of the big-picture social conversation around to your industry and product lines ensures that you don’t miss out on big opportunities.

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Audience comparison  

Beyond keeping track of how people are talking about your brand in comparison with your competitor, it is also fruitful to understand your competitor’s audience and their interests. Where do your audiences overlap and how to they differ?

Compare audience interests

Audience comparison doesn’t have to stop with brands. You can also compare one of your audience’s known interests to the rest of social media better understand the unique attributes of audience for your products. For example, if you sell running shoes, understanding what runners care about compared to the rest of social media can help you improve your messaging, marketing, and products.

Track intent to purchase competing products

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Wouldn’t it be great to know your competitors’ precise sales numbers? While that’s not possible, you can track consumer intent to purchase competitors’ products. Social media analysis with machine learning allows you to create custom categories based on stages of a buying cycle that can help you better understand purchase signals and behavior.

Understanding the volume of consumers interested in buying your products vs. a competitor is great. But even better is the ability to understand the reasons behind buying or wanting to buy one product vs. another. Machine learning-powered analysis also allows you to uncover the motivations that drive consumers to make purchase decisions.

Apply competitive intelligence to strategy

Social media analytics provides instant access to competitive intelligence on your entire industry from specific competitor’s products to larger consumer trends. Based on all of this intelligence, you can make smarter decisions about your campaigns, creative, ads, and more. Having access to these insights in real-time means that you don’t need to wait months for a competitive intelligence report to spot an opportunity and take action.

Want more specifics on how to get started with social competitive intelligence and the rest of social media analytics? Download our Fundamentals Guide:

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