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Like a broken clock is right twice a day, all brands are subject to two eventualities they can’t escape. The good news is, survival is simply a matter of preparation.

The two unavoidable disruptions

No matter your niche, at some point you’ll be caught off guard by one – or both – of the following:

  • A leaner, meaner competitor will disrupt your category
  • An idea will be moved forward by someone that could have been you – but wasn’t

Though these two ideas sound similar, they’re not quite the same. And both can happen to any brand that isn’t paying attention. Let’s start with the first.

Disruption by leaner, meaner competitors

Global brands may think they don’t have to worry about smaller entities, but that’s a dangerous assumption. Consider a marketplace like Etsy, which has grown large enough to disrupt a number of niches, from jewelry to clothing to fruit baskets. How many brands don’t take Etsy seriously as a competitor? They should!

SMBs have an agility larger brands often lack – particularly with regard to social marketing – allowing them to do more, quickly, even with fewer resources. If they come across as more personable, accessible, and offer a top notch customer experience, that can be enough to push a much larger brand to consumers’ back burners.  

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. By using social monitoring tools to understand what consumers are passionate about, brands can best the offerings of any competitor. But only if they drop the assumption they’re untouchable.

Losing out on a new idea

Now let’s look at the second eventuality: another brand moving forward with an idea instead of you. Do you think the taxi industry wishes it had conceived of Uber? You better believe it!

The sad thing with most innovations is the information is out there for all brands to discover and act upon – but most simply don’t.

The art of competitive intelligence

Part of social listening in real-time is identifying trends among consumers in your category. This means branching out beyond accolades and complaints about your brand alone, and looking at what consumers are saying about your competitors – and what your competitors are saying back.

In short, if you’re not using social analytics tools to perform competitive analysis, you’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle.

But you also need to know what they’re saying about life in general. These kinds of insights lead to preemptive strikes against competitors – the ones not using this very information to move their own brands forward.

This is an opportunity for brands with excellent customer service to step up

All day long consumers tell you what they love, hate, need, can’t stand, wish, hope, dream… Amidst their endless posts are clues about the products they’re waiting for someone to create, the problems they’re dying for someone to solve, and often the solutions themselves – just waiting to be made manifest.

Your job is to analyze this social data, measuring sentiment to uncover which issues consumers find most problematic, which potential solutions they most love, etc. – paying close attention to what they share with your competitors.

By constantly following the conversation on social, you’ll avoid being caught off guard by these two inevitable disruptions, by catching the clues that help identify trends worth acting on early. Remember: If you don’t, your competitors surely will. You can count on it.

Image from Automobile Italia

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