Sunday, May 10, 2009

Competitive Intel and the Social Media Footprint

In the capital intensive world of technology and telecom millions of dollars are at risk when it comes to decisions related to product development and to-market strategies. A better informed executive team makes smarter, more strategic decisions and, as a result, enhances a company’s chances for success.

For this reason, companies invest considerable resources to gather intelligence about competitors. What features are planned for their next generation product? Are they cutting price in a move to grab market share? Why are they hiring sales representatives on the west coast?

On the up and up, most technology vendors field a business analyst team to gather competitive insight from public sources. They crawl Web sites. They troll trade show floors chatting up booth representatives. And they talk to customers, prospects and partners.

A select few have demonstrated comfort with the clandestine. The business press from time-to-time breaks news of corporate spying via dumpster diving, as well as the illegitimate downloading from password-protected Web sites.

There is simply no justification for these ethically questionable (and possibly illegal) actions. However, one can understand the motivation because of the importance of competitive insight.

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we have been thinking about how social networks and online communities can be appropriately leveraged as part of an intelligence gathering initiative. Here are a few ideas:

1. Start with a comprehensive social media audit of a competitor. Map the LinkedIn profiles, Twitter feeds, blogs and other forms of social media engagement of their corporate, marketing and technical executives.

2. Study the competitor’s community of followers, subscribers and connections. Build a Web of companies they are aligned with and then organize the list by suspected customer, prospect and partners. This is a baseline

3. Monitor daily and identify new additions to the competitors’ social network. These additions will give you valuable insight into competitor’s sales activities, partnerships, capital fundraising and recruitment.

Of course, in any competitive intelligence gathering activity it is paramount that a company always identity itself accurately and openly. Even with this absolute requirement for transparency, you may be pleasantly surprised with what a competitor reveals through its social media footprint.

2 comments:

Axel Schultze said...

Good point. See the "Mindshare Report" at http://xeeurl.com/A0848 It is a complete report how to analyze competition and what tools are available to do so.

David said...

Marc,

Observation, Orientation and Activities of competition must be a strategic practice of business. Without this strategy business is not sustainable nor will competitive advantages be realized. Too many businesses fail to comprehend their competitors strengths, vulnerabilities, product mix and profit centers or adverse advantages threatening their profitability.

Strategy is an evolution of tactical and practical activities, not a single event. Always observe, orient, decide and act faster than your competition to capture powerful advantages.

Dave