Social Competitive Intelligence

competitive intelligence in the age of social  by bloomthink
Creative Commons: Attribution by Flickr user davitydave

The flip side of all the advances is social media marketing is a substantial increase in competitive intelligence capability.

First 3 facts for foundation:

1) It should be clear by now that social media is not a technology fad.  It’s not just about Facebook or Twitter.  Otherwise we’d see those technologies leading the social adoption in locations around the world.  Yet we see services like VKontakte in Russia and QZone in China and a host of other social media services and sites proliferating around the world.  Instead, it is about a way of communicating as human beings.  We respond to and engage with each other in ways facilitated by the technology.  That’s why we see so many different flavors of the same kind of services popping up all over the world.

2) Social media technology adoption in business is accelerating. In 2008 just 23% of businesses had adopted social technologies in some way.  In 2011 that number was 50%.  This year it is even higher.  The top two reasons for the adoption are to meet user / customer expectations and to be more innovative.

3) Users want 4 things: To share product information, To share news – especially the ‘scoop’ – new or unique news that few know at the time, To co-create products, services & experiences along side companies (Doritos commercials for the Superbowl are a great example – it was big business for Frito-Lay), and finally users want to have their opinion and feedback matter.

So put those all together and what do you get?  Social media technology taps into the ways we communicate as human beings.  Humans also communicate at work therefore the boundary between business user and personal user has blurred.  Users (whether at work or at play) want and expect to share product information, have an appetite for new news, have a desire to be involved and want their opinions to matter.

This has created an ecosystem in which users expect news & product info from companies, consumers want to “help” to “weigh in” to be in the loop.  If companies “reward” them with info they will be respond and be appreciated.  This is social media marketing – Pushing out information for adoption and amplification by users.

But we also operate in an attention economy where attention is traded for information.  This economy is bi-directional as any economy must be.  So if I, a user, provide you, a company with information,  especially new or unique information, I expect to be rewarded with your attention.   This is Social Media Intelligence – Gathering in information and signal from many sources; made all the easier because the sources want to be heard.

Social media lets us cast an extremely wide net to find someone or some business who will give us attention and reaffirm that we (or at least our tip, insight or scoop) matter! This gets back to some extremely basic human characteristics – namely the meeting of core Maslovian needs reinforced in a very Pavolvian manner!

Combine the features of this social business ecosystem – where users are hungry for engagement and businesses are hungry for unique information – and you have a nearly perfect synergy of supply and demand.

Applied to marketing, “engaged” users, brand “advocates” and consumer “insight”.  These are truly wonderful advances in marketing and consumer experience management.

But turn that marketing coin over and apply the same sophisticated information gathering, trend spotting and information derivation to your competitors (or imagine them turning it on you).  You have the framework, technology and process to delve deep into competitive intelligence.

  • You can find out who are your competitor’s clients and employees by correlating Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • You can find out what conferences and topics your competitors are interested in by tracking conferences they attend and announce on Twitter.
  • You can see who are influential by tracking who follows and RTs certain company staff.
  • You can see what topics, keywords and SEO that your competition is using by looking at their Facebook performance and their SEO performance with google tools.
  • You can create topic and trend maps by using simple linguistic analysis tools on their blog posts, forum comments and even traditional press releases.
  • You can spot issues and challenges or delays by looking at the questions a competitors technicians post on forums, complaints employees post on sites like glassdoor, monster or indeed.
  • You can even get great information from conference presentations posted online at sides like or on corporate blogs.

Once you have gathered all this content, Big Data tools and BI tools help tease out patterns and trends from the structured data you’ve collected. Meanwhile, experienced staff create profiles of specific users for close monitoring.  While approaching individuals directly and asking for confidential information is likely against the law, many industry specific news sites (e.g. Gizmodo for tech news) have “tip us” functions where users can anonymously offer up juicy tidbits of information.  Keeping a watch on sites like that for your industry is vital.

This is not pie-in-the-sky theorizing either.  Massive law firm Patton Boggs said this earlier this year,

Since January, we’ve used a business and social intelligence platform for issue spotting, trend analysis, and monitoring clients. The program scans blogs and Twitter feeds to identify issues our clients may be facing and uncover possible problems before they hit the mainstream media and news outlets…It’s allowed us to get ahead of potential problems and to proactively pose solutions before our clients may even know these problems exist.

They are using these procedures to spot issues and deliver solutions before clients are aware of the issues.  Now imagine they’re not monitoring clients, they’re monitoring competitors.

So how can you adopt a defensive threat assessment posture to help protect your own intellectual property?

Ask yourself this:  “With everything you know about your area of expertise, about the market and about what’s coming; if you found the information you just posted except it was from your competitor would you be sad or glad?” 

Engage BloomThink to craft a social competitive intelligence program you can use to help you get ahead and a social business plan that allows you to advance your brand and awareness in the market without giving up what makes you special.

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