5 Ways to Use Social Listening for Competitive Analysis
Social listening is a key tool for any business’s arsenal – and a compelling reason to make better use of social media. In many ways, and for many industries, it sits at the tip of the market research pyramid, offering honest and balanced insight into your customers, and the wider market.
Social media is much more than a tool for marketing, and some of the most valuable advancements you make on those platforms will take place behind the scenes, beyond any single post or interaction. Managing everything from a central dashboard – one that integrates all the usual tools of the trade for your business alongside your tools for social posting – means enjoying an invaluable birds-eye view of your own presence, and your competitors’.
It’s not just about customer research, however. Competitive analysis is ripe for the taking if you can make full use of social listening, and tap into the endless resources social media offers – provided you know exactly what it is you’re looking for.
With that in mind, here are 5 ways competitor analysis and social listening analysis intersect.
We’re starting off with the ABCs here, but it always needs to be said: all competitor analysis begins with identifying those competitors in the first place, and social media offers the best platforms for that process.
These days, competitor research is a lot more complicated than walking out of your corner store and into the corner store at the other end of the street to see what deals they’re running, or renaming your business Platinum Star Taxis because the other big cab company in town just rebranded as Gold Star Taxis.
With the internet enabling businesses to find customers around the world, identifying your main social selling competitors requires a global reach – and where better to find that reach than social media?
Competitor identification isn’t just about finding who’s selling what you’re selling. By keeping a close tab on all relevant keywords – who is using them to establish insight and authority, how their followers are interacting with them – you can pin down exactly who is competing against you for thought leadership, and where they’ve got an edge. On that point alone, you’ve more than justified your media management costs.
2. Comparative Sentiment
Have you ever received a text or email where the sender’s mood and feelings are left totally ambiguous? Where sarcasm is just as likely as honesty, or a sort of aggressive abruptness could actually just mean that they were busy, firing off a (perfectly friendly) message between back-to-back meetings or on their way out of the office for the day?
Have you ever logged onto Twitter to see a particular person’s name – or the name of a business – trending? While that’s pretty much the digital equivalent of making the front page, there’s no telling whether that person or company is enjoying a bout of positive publicity, or a real social media crisis, until you look at what the general public is saying.
Sentiment matters, and being able to clearly view your social media analytics to see the sentiments behind your follower’s posts about you is fundamental to your social media usage.
Plenty of things impact sentiment. In fact, on social media, more than 75% of emojis used on Friday and Saturday are positive. But social media users aren’t filtering their thoughts about brands based on the weather or the dwindling days until their next vacation. It’s one thing to be able to say, ‘We got 500 mentions in just two days,’ but how many of those mentions were positive? Ideally, all of them will be, but you’ve got to keep your finger on that pulse.
But. That’s not all you should be doing.
Comparing the sentiments behind your and your competitors’ interactions with followers can offer some invaluable insights that you simply won’t find anywhere else. Knowing that 88% of your mentions are positive is great and worth a pat on the back, but what’s the context? What level of positive sentiment are your competitors getting? Is it more? Less? Wouldn’t it be useful to know?
You should. Sentiment analysis and comparison will give you better insight into what works, what doesn’t work, and where you’ve got a clear edge over your competitor.
3. Social Conversations
Social media is the trend-setter – the very front carriage of the train where new conversations and trends are first established. These platforms move very quickly, from the professional realm of LinkedIn where thoughts are sharpened in front of audiences in the hundreds of thousands, to the unbridled creativity of TikTok where millions of users are pulled this way and that between the most unexpected of trends – and everything that cuts somewhere down the middle.
Even in more professional spaces like LinkedIn – the most popular platform among B2B marketers – social conversations are constantly arising organically. Some are more predictable than others but, in any case, demonstrating thought leadership in the face of those shifting conversations will pay dividends.
The unpredictability of social conversations and trends is what makes them such a powerful tool for businesses to wield. Companies that are willing to put the legwork into just keeping up will be rewarded for their efforts.
You don’t want to be dependent on your competitors for these insights, or you’ll always be one step behind them when it comes to social posting. But, particularly in those early days, analyzing how your competitors make themselves a part of those social conversations will prove highly valuable to inform your own approach. Which conversations are fruitful, and which aren’t worth jumping on? Learning from experience is great, but learning from your competitors’ experiences can be even better.
4. Pinning down their strategy
No two B2B social media marketing strategies are the same – nor should they be. Even just a casual glance at some of the most prominent competitors in the world – Apple and Microsoft, for instance – you’ll notice more differences than similarities underpinning their social media strategies. Nevertheless, their understanding of one another – and how they’re marketing themselves – will be acute.
What social conversations do they insert themselves into, and how quickly? How do they generate interest when mentions are low, or sentiment is more negative than positive? Are they working with influencers and, if so, who? Are their efforts focused towards communicating directly with followers, or posting rich and insightful content to boost their thought leadership?
We don’t analyze our competitors’ strategies with a view to copying or mimicking them, but knowing how your competitors are bringing about the results they’re seeing will give you more insight into what aspects of social media marketing you need to leverage more – or, perhaps, less.
5. Share of Voice
So, you know who your competitors are – and you know what aspects of social media marketing they’re leveraging in order to engage audiences and attract new leads. But how do you see, in words and numbers, how that compares with your own success? How do you create a clear objective where success (or its opposite) is measurable?
The simple answer: with the right social media marketing software. Why? Because it will pull together all the insights social media can yield, but which are often overlooked because, without the right software, curating them is time-consuming and laborious, and something most of us just don’t have the time or resources to do each week.
Share of voice is one of the most significant statistics you will have at your disposal. Put simply, it breaks down the number of mentions on any specific topic or keyword between you and your competitors, offering clear insight into how much you dominate the conversation – and how much they dominate.
When it comes to social media, one of the things that make sharing of voices quite so valuable is the fact that every single one of the mentions it considers is made by active customers/followers. This isn’t a vague statistic that represents a passive experience, like scrolling past (or maybe accidentally clicking on) an ad on a webpage. Every mention made about you and your competitors is intentional and clearly motivated by sentiment.
If your current social media strategy is focused intently on your own profiles, your own posts, and your own followers, then budge up and make a little room for some competitive analysis. One of the biggest payoffs for investing time and creativity into growing your social media presence is the ability to generate a wealth of competitor insight – provided you’ve got the right system in place for sorting through all that data.
This is easier said than done – or it was, before we devised the ultimate social media management platform that draws all insights together, and makes social publishing and community management – and, of course, competitive analysis – an intuitive process, rather than a guessing game.
Mastering social media (and all its insights) takes a lot of time and expertise. The good news is, we’ve done all that on our clients’ behalf, and know how to get the most out of those channels in the most efficient, user-friendly way possible.