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With all the options consumers now have, competitive intelligence is crucial to brand survival. But how do you extract useful insights from social sites to ensure you’re not only keeping up with, but besting the competition?

Here’s the answer: Apply social media listening to parse data from a number of angles.

Competitor messaging and campaigns

One beautiful advantage social media offers is transparency. Whatever competitors are saying to consumers, you can listen in. Maybe you never thought of running a campaign on Tumblr – but when you see your biggest rival brand succeeding there, it’s time to consider the possibility.

At the same time, you can easily see when things aren’t going so well too. That helps you dodge bullets without having to expend your own time or money.

Who’d imagine historic footage of your brand burning would make for a great campaign? Burger King Agency Ogilvy & Mather did.

Consumer sentiment toward your competitors

The brand side of the equation is important, of course, but only in relation to the consumer side. What matters is how consumers receive brand messaging – and how they feel about your competitors overall.

This is territory that encompasses everything from the products being sold, to the layout of physical stores, the ease of online shopping, and more. For good or bad, judgment of the entire customer experience is constantly shared on social media – and you have unfettered access to this goldmine of information.

Use sentiment analysis to find out what consumers think is so great about the brands that aren’t you – and also what makes them crazy. These insights give you the opportunity to exceed the offerings of your brand rivals.

Consumer interests and passions overall

Part of beating the competition is doing a better job than they are in any arena. So if they aren’t paying attention to what consumers care about, you can best them by doing just that.

Consumers won’t always call out a brand by name. Sometimes they talk about what’s missing, or what they love, in a generalized sense. This information is still valuable, even if it doesn’t seem to relate directly to your brand category.

For starters, knowing what consumers are passionate about, and even segmenting them according to these passions, gives you something to talk to them about. You can segment fans of your competitors and find common ground to turn them into fans of yours in this way.

You can also find inspiration for brand partnerships or products you might never have thought of. If you’re Taco Bell and you find a contingent of consumers going on about the ketogenic lifestyle, adding items that work for that segment will earn you major points. Especially if no other fast food chain has thought of it.

Follow the love and you’ll never go wrong.

Consumer complaints

What if the sentiment you’re coming across most is hate? Turn it into love! When your competitors get it wrong, that’s the best time for you to get it right! Consumers want to be heard, so be that sympathetic ear.

Offer them a solution that shows your brand in the perfect light, and follow up to be sure they’re truly happy. Otherwise you might be the next brand they complain about.

Category trends

Don’t forget the simple act of being first can put a lesser brand ahead of yours if you’re not careful. Use your social media monitoring software to keep up on emerging trends in real-time so you know if you need to take action. When you see conversations expanding, and consumer sentiment rising, that’s when to strike.

It could be as simple as adding sizes to your clothing line or creating a more streamlined ecommerce app. Or it could be as big as reinventing the mobile phone like Apple did. In any case, you’ve got to be dialed in to know if there’s something there worth building on.

Challenger brands

In the same vein as trend-watching is keeping an eye out for new brands you might not consider competition – until it’s too late.

Don’t rely on assumptions, history, or knee-jerk reactions to new approaches by other brands. Let the data tell the story. The last thing you want to do is ignore a brand because it seems too small to matter – and find yourself scrambling to take back your audience when they fall in love with someone new.

The major TV networks have learned Netflix is serious competition.

The whole point of competitive intelligence is to avoid being caught off guard, and to be first to the punch when evolution happens.

The only way to ensure your longevity is to act based on consistent, real-time competitive intelligence. Luckily, the insights are yours for the taking.

Have you seen our competitive intelligence tools in action? Schedule a demo and we’ll show you!

Image from Joe Howell

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