10 Steps for Social Competitive Intelligence

10StepsToSocialCompetitiveIntelligenceHere is a quick, real life example for how to estimate your competitor’s event marketing budget and get a hint as to when they’re going to launch a new product or service in 10 steps:

1)      List your key competitors. You know your market and the main players in your space so make a list.

2)      List key industry events.  You also know your industry has several “main events” each year.  These might be conferences, meet-ups, or trade shows. List those events.

3)      Most big events from the past several years have their own Twitter hashtag, Facebook page, Pinterest Page and even conversation threads in relevant LinkedIn Groups.  Make a note of those.

4)      Search SlideShare.net, Scribd and other presentation / document sharing sites for presentations from your competitors at those events.  See our list of “sources and signals” for a great starter of places to visit for social competitive intelligence research.

5)      Make a note of how many presentations your competitors had at each event and the number of different presenters they had delivering those keynote and breakout sessions.

6)      Make a note of whether or not there is a “visit booth #12345” in the presentations.

7)      Now you’ve got your data, start the synthesis.

  • Estimate a cost of $500 – $1000 per presenter per conference.
  • Estimate a cost of $10,000 per small booth at a trade show and up to $100,000 for large conference sponsorship.
  • Remember that you’re not trying to re-create your competitor’s budget, rather you’re trying to determine if they’re ramping up to a big announcement or simply staying in maintenance mode or struggling to stay above water.
  • Did they have more presentations, more staff, bigger booth, new sponsorships this year than they have in years past?
  • Who is tweeting with the event hashtag from your competitor?  Who is re-tweeting them?  Who are they re-tweeting?  What are they saying on their Facebook Page?  What are they saying on the event’s Facebook page?

8)      Combine the data you’ve overlaid to produce the intelligence.  Is your competitor ramping up their spending?  Is the increased spending significant for them?  If they’re a small or medium sized company or a large company that has been struggling recently, a big marketing spend is a significant flag for upcoming activity.  Remember that employees will tweet, post and blog about items they know and that they think will help the company.  So a competitor’s retweet of a keynote speaker’s point may hold much more competitive significance than mere interest.

9)      What should you do about it?  Is there a way you can pre-empt your competitor’s announcements?  Is there a bandwagon that you should be on as well?  Do you need to take a legal action?  Speed up your own R&D? Or maybe just continue to pay attention?

10)   Compile the key points, synthesis and recommendations into an easy to digest report, dashboard or brief.  Make sure that every point you make is backed up by hard data that you found.  If you say your competitor is ramping up for a big product launch because of increased budget spends on conferences and increased chatter then make sure you can show that there was actually an increase over previous years. Strive for Actionable Intelligence and you will bring traditional CI into the new reality of social business.

Social Competitive Intelligence

BloomThink does Social Competitive Intelligence
Creative Commons Attribution by Flickr user kortunov

Traditional Competitive Intelligence is in a rut.  Books, websites, whitepapers and presentations all echo the same techniques and priorities that defined the practice 10 years ago.  Research public filings, read credentialed analyst reports, talk to employees and former employees if you can, be careful of blogs they might not be trustworthy.  Social media?  Be extra careful of that too.

Traditional CI process and practice has largely missed out on more than a decade of change in the way businesses and employees communicate. The reality is that we are producing more information more quickly than at any other time in history.  According to Google we produce as much information every two days as we did in all of history up to 2003!  Some of this information is machine data and metadata.  Much of it is user generated content.  These are things like Tweets, Instagram photo uploads, Facebook or LinkedIn status updates as well as blogs, web pages and shared presentations.

The problem is not that the traditional CI focus on interviewing employees and reading web pages was wrong.  Rather, the venue has changed.  Instead of needing to track down employees to get juicy details, the CI professional simply needs to listen to the public conversations that are already going on through social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Glassdoor and numerous other socially enabled sites.  This is called Social Competitive Intelligence.

Of course there is an art to the practice as well.  Where in years past the traditional CI pro needed skills in finding and persuading employees to talk, the new Social CI pro requires superpowers to filter and categorize the flood of information we’re all producing.  The new CI pro requires less sleuthing ability and more synthesis power; the ability to bring different facts together to form a complete picture.

Part of this synthesis means combining social competitive intelligence with traditional CI as well as traditional business intelligence.  Both traditional CI and traditional BI do an amazing job of helping organizations understand what is happening. But it is Social Competitive Intelligence that provides the market, competitive and social media context in which business operates. When you correlate BI, traditional CI and Social CI insights, you understand the “why” of performance along with the “what” of your BI analytics.

Understanding the “why” is vital if you’re going to ever achieve the end of any CI or BI practice: figuring out what to do next.  Data is not insight.   Getting more data has never been the goal.  Deriving insight from data is what makes intelligence actionable.  The goal of any all CI practice is Actionable Intelligence.

Actionable Intelligence spots trends before they take you by surprise. Actionable Intelligence spots gaps in the market that mean opportunity for new products and offerings.  Actionable Intelligence gets you out front of competition and moves your business from a reactionary to a proactive starting point.

SWIFT Source and Signal Table – Updated

Competitive Intelligence and Business Intelligence Professionals Must Learn to Incorporate Deep web and Social media data into their evaluation and findings.  BloomThink’s SWIFT – social web intelligence framework and tactics – program helps companies do just that.

Take a look at our Source and Signal table below.  This is just a few of the sites and tools that can be used by the SWIFT practitioner or any savvy CI or BI professional to help bring meaning and context to the flood of data that is out there.  This is how you create actionable intelligence rather than simply another data report!

Source Signal
Feed Stitcher Site, blog and PR aggregation. http://feedstitch.com/
Yahoo Pipes Graphical tool for combining web sources. http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/
SpyFu Competitor Keyword Analysis
Search Monitor monitor competitors, affiliates and trade markets
Google Trends Traffic and GEO trends
FeedCompare Compare numbers (strength) of your subscribers vs your competitors
GroupHigh Monitoring and tracking for your market. Turned around it can deliver keen insight on the competitive marketplace
MySiteGrader website grader Grade your website against your competitor’s sites for the keywords you select. http://www.mysitegrader.com/
socialmention Social media, sentiment, top users, top keywords, top hashtags, top sources.
Addict-o-matic 25 sources for aggregation including RSS feeds, Bing, Google, Google Blog, Flickr, WordPress, YouTube, Technorati
NetVibes Fee based dashboard
Northern Light Search Research aggregator and dashboard
Wildfire Social Monitor Corporate & Market ComparisonsOverall sentiment analysis – trending market perspectives and background context on whether your market views you positively, negatively or ambivalently
LinkedIn Network & Relationships– degrees of separation, network reach, geography, work history, education, competitor connections in network

Competitor Projects – competitor staff areas of responsibility
Competitor Roadmap – job openings and hiring trends as leading indicatorsIP Tips, Drips & FUD – group participation, interaction, surveys & polls participation, publications & patents on profiles.

SlideShare IP Tips, Drips & FUD – marketing focus, roadmap, conference participation, travel & marketing budget (e.g. booth # listed in presentation –> 10K minimum spend), viewing / reach stats, best practices, trends
Facebook Profile Development – targeted likes, hobbies etc of specific person and/or his/her network.  Photos, places, apps, travel conferences etc.
Network & Relationships –
 Degrees of separation, network reach, connections

Competitor Strength  – Likes, Engagement Level, Sentiment, Content Strategy, Effective vs ineffective messaging

Twitter via tools like follwerwonk, NexaMe, Twiangulate, trendsmap.com etc. Profile Development – targeted likes, hobbies etc of specific person and/or his/her network.  Photos, places, apps, travel conferences etc.
Geographic Trends Mapping – for overall market awareness in specific countries and cities (e.g. popular & breaking twitter trends in Shenzhen, Beijing or Nanjing)
Network & Relationships –
RT’s, favorites,travel, interests, influencers,
IP Tips, Drips & FUD – find followers of competitors and co-opt them for counter intelligence or feed FUD
Fierce Medical Devices News Feed – tagged with St. Jude Medical, tagged with Boston Scientific, tagged with Medtronic, tagged with X,
Google Alerts News Feed – tailored alerts for anything Google crawlers pick up.  Dial in sensitivity based on scope of query.
Klout, PeerIndex, EmpireAvenue Marketing & Product – reveal competitor buzz building efforts, enable rapid response.
Profile Development – identify Industry influencers and gravity wells
Google Keywords + Trends Marketing & Product – Trends & Buzz Building.  Keywords & related terms collected then entered into google trends
ThinkWithGoogle.com/insights Market Trends – Research library, primary research, consumer insights
Advanced Search Engine Work
Using Copernic Agent or similar
Profile Development –  [“full target name” +GeographicLocation:website ] narrows in on specific name at specific geography on specific website
IP Tips, Drips & FUD – filetype: search for PDFs and PPTs, allintitle:,allinurl:
Published Journal Search Marketing & product- current trends & focus areas tailored to industry audiences

Profile Development – track authorship and citation trail of published works by targets

Indeed.com/jobtrends Market Trends – hiring as a leading indicator of focus and industry movement
Scribd IP Tips, Drips & FUD – published and available research, papers & presentations
Competition Blogs, Forums & Community Profile DevelopmentIP Tips, Drips & FUDMarketing & Product
Deep Email Miner IP Tips, Drips & FUD – internal email social network mapping to explore nascent social connections buried in an email corpus.
Deep Web Analysis using Maltego, Casefile, Social Network Visualizer, AutoMap, scirus.com, brightplanet or similar Marketing & IT Ecosystem – discover associated IP addresses and TLDs (top level domains), discovery and association engine.
ClipBoard.com WebClipping manual aggregation dashboard tool
OutWit Technologies – http://www.outwit.com Web Scraper programmatic human triggered web scraper for larger data volume collection.  Can export collections to files or SQL
Newsle.com Human Data Feed Aggregator – follow users who are in a network to see what they’re up to.
Pinterest Analysis Tools: PinAlerts Pinpuff Pinerly is good for tracking analytics data on Pinterest

Repinly helps you find influencers

Pinterest is powerful, lots of traffic. Average time on Pinterest approx: 10 minutes, far more than other social sites.These allow you to get a message when someone pins something from your website. You can set up for alerts on competitor sites, too. 
Rapportive search for information online
Disruption Analysis Sources: Crunchbase www.whogotfunded.comSeekingAlpha CORI Business & disruptor informationis a good tool to find information.SEC and other money-related findingsPublic Company Data

Contract Database

www.copyright.gov Copyright and IP search
ThomasNet.com product information on manufactured goods.
Domaintools.com Paid service.  Alerts based on domain registrations.  See competitor domains
www.indeed.com Hire/Fire/Openings  – overarching jobs trend analysis.  Find out who is staffing up
www.similarsites.com –Find out who competes with whom
Boardreader.com Find out what people are talking about. Also searches LinkedIn groups.
www.competemonkey.com  –set up alerts when a competitor’s site changes