By Alexandra Cojocaru
It should come as no surprise that business is often about carefully studying the market trends and getting a sense of the way others have tackled the difficulties that naturally appear along the way, rather than building new strategies from scratch. It is equally important to understand how your customers make buying decisions, but you should never underestimate the power of pure market research.
Your competitors are an awesome source of insights on how to get things done – and I don’t mean this in an unprofessional way, like stealing business ideas. It’s more about really isolating social media conversations that are relevant to your business from the ones that are useless. And really get to the thick of things, to the point where each piece of information can really make a difference when applied effectively.
We’ve found there are 2 main steps to build a social media strategy from competitors’ data:
1. Learn more about what your competitors are great at
The key here is to constantly monitor your competitors’ names, specific campaigns and names of the important people in their companies. It might sound like a piece of cake (can’t be too difficult to set up some search phrases to return results, right?), but what makes this truly useful is adding context to all the data you’re gathering. It’s not enough to simply look at numbers and mentions, so try putting them into perspective to really understand what they mean.
Here are a few examples:
– Look at changes that happened over a particular period of time.
This could help you understand if there’s a specific season people prefer to buy a type of product. You could either reinforce your sales efforts to capitalize on that finding, or better yet, get creative and build your next marketing campaign to target a different time frame, to differentiate yourself from your competitor.
– Tie the data you find to your overall marketing goals.
Many things you’ll find through monitoring will probably not be applicable to your use case, so you need to look at data with a critical eye and separate the noise from the context. So if you’re tracking a large company with far more employees than you have, you’re most likely not going to be able to replicate their community management approach. But what you can learn from them is what their focus is when (and where) they engage fans, what their preferred time slot is during the day, how they slip in promotional messages, etc.
– Find patterns in the way competitors communicate their messages.
To really understand impact and whether it was caused by something your competitor did or something that’s out of their control, you need to get the big picture. Once you’ve identified a pattern, it will be easier for you to see how they translate business goals to everyday activities. Not everyone is a nerdy data scientist, so the trick is to make data understandable and visual.
If your main contender in the market recently held an awesome event with speakers from all over the world, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should do the same in the next few months. Instead, do extensive research on what people talked about online in relationship to that event (was it the guests they were really fond of, did they really love one of the topics in the conference, was it the food?). Keep en eye out for influencers in your market you might not have heard of – they’ll naturally emerge in the conversations you’re monitoring. Check out the tools or apps people are using to simplify their work in the industry you’re working in. You could either get a seat at the conference or just monitor the hashtag and keywords related to the topics.
2. Take advantage of your competitor’s flaws
Missing out on a customer support request or a sales opportunity basically means losing a customer. And if one of your competitors isn’t paying attention to people asking for help or customers complaining about their service, that’s a great opportunity for you to jump in and try to help. Remember you have to be very good at aligning your departments’ goals, so when your community manager starts a conversation with someone, they have to be able to easily activate a sales rep if that person turns into a potential client.
I’m sure you’ve seen at least one hashtag #fail or PR crisis unfolding in front of your eyes. What’s there to do when someone in your industry loses control of their brand’s reputation?
Learn from their mistakes: had they used analytics to catch the fire early on, maybe the crisis wouldn’t have become one in the first place. If your competitors don’t know how to listen to the early warnings of unhappy clients, or to pay attention to the changes customers want and adjust their social media strategy accordingly, you have the opportunity to turn the negative into positive by keeping an eye on all of these insights on a constant basis and avoid the mishaps.
Develop a plan based on errors your competitors made and you wouldn’t want to repeat: set up a powerful social media policy to help your team stay on top in case things go poorly. Search for social media subjects that would help a brand get back on track if sales don’t go well, try keeping the conversations going by using topics your audience really cares about; don’t just stick to your marketing plan. The beauty of social is that everything happens at a fast-paced, real-time rate, allowing you to quickly adjust to the market.
About the author
Social media expert Alexandra Cojocaru blogs for uberVU, a social media metrics, monitoring and engagement company.
About the company
uberVU delivers a clean, intuitive interface creates meaning out of social media data while allowing marketers to better complete daily social tasks through sharing the right content, to the right audience, at the right time.