Modern Competitive Analysis: Try Social Media

Arif Johari

“The importance of understanding the impact of competitors’ social footprints compared to your own can’t be overstated… You’ll be in trouble quickly if you assume your only – or biggest – competition looks exactly like you.” – Paige Leidig, CMO, NetBase Solutions.

All brands operate in a competitive global environment. Some prefer to ignore the competition. Others are obsessed, using “under-the-radar” spying to track other players. If traditional wisdom still holds – that strong knowledge about competitors’ strengths and weaknesses positions you to make smart marketing strategy decisions – then it’s time to add social media to your competitive info-gathering toolkit.

“My competitors do more for me than my friends. I don’t need time. What I need is a deadline. My friends are too polite to point out my weaknesses, but my competitors go to great expense to advertise them. My competitors are diligent, efficient, and attentive and would take my business away from me if they could. They keep me alert. They force me to search for new ways to improve my products and services. If I had no competitors, I would be lazy, incompetent, and inattentive. I need the discipline they force upon me. I salute my competitors. They have been good to me. They make and keep me strong.” – Paul Lee Tan

Social listening is a critical component to any social seller’s toolkit

Through listening, not only can reps better understand their target audience and develop insights on a particular contact, they can also develop understanding about their competitors. Through careful listening, they may be able to uncover intelligence about a competitor and its products and services.

  • Many social media users are not shy and will not hesitate to share how they felt about a particular aspect of their deployment of a product, making social media a great way to understand their business model and customer service expectations.
  • Some may argue that it may not be smart to use social media to learn the truth about a vendor, but if you weed out the obvious trolls and paid influencers, you can be left with terrific insight into your competitive landscape.
  • Reviewing these sources on a regular basis helps you to get a baseline to start from and to evaluate trends and satisfaction ratings.
  • Join the groups that your competitors belong to, follow the same spaces that your competitors follow, and you’ll be able to understand your competitors a little better.
  • If competitors’ leave negative comments on articles or blogs, it’s important to not engage in conflict online. It can get so bad, so quickly, that it’s not worth it. If you (or someone in your organization) feel you really need to respond to the comments, make sure to take it offline.
  • You may also be tempted to respond to negative comments by writing negative comments in return. If you think about the brand you want to build and how you want to be perceived by your audience, it is not likely that you want to be known as someone who “doesn’t play well in the sandbox.” Don’t bash competitors, nor make negative or derogatory comments… it only looks poorly on you and builds up the competitor in your audience’s eyes. Your solutions and expertise should stand on their own merit, without having to disparage the competition.

Practical tips for using social media for competitive analysis

Start with five to 10 competitors, depending on your market size. Every sales person should know who they really compete with (individually) and their individual strengths.

Look at your competitors’ sales team. Learn how many are on LinkedIn and Twitter. Evaluate whether the sales executives have presence, and if sales reps have strong or poor professional profiles. If your competitors’ sales teams don’t seem to be organized for social selling, you can still glean some valuable info. If they are, you’ll have to dedicate more time and go deeper in your analysis.

Some questions to ask when evaluating your peers/competitors:

  • How do they present their unique selling proposition (USP)?
  • Are they posting regularly? How many times a week or a day?
  • Does their content seem to help their prospects and clients?
  • What is the engagement level of their posts: likes, comments, shares?
  • Are they participating at trade shows, networking events, or charity events?
  • Who are they connected to?

This will help you align the type of content that seems to be of interest to your prospects. You should be able to gauge your prospects’ challenges and figure out how to stand out from your competition.

Social selling has become such a hot topic that Coffee-Break with Game Changers is dedicating an entire series to exploring its various facets and promoting best practices for salespeople. To listen to other shows in this series, visit the SAP Radio area of the SAP News Center.


Arif Johari

About Arif Johari

He is a Communications lead, Digital Marketing generalist, and Social Selling advocate. He trains marketing and sales employees to become experts in Social Selling so that they’d leverage social media as a leads-generation tool. He is responsible for executing innovative marketing strategies to increase engagement in social media, customer community, and landing pages through content, events, and A/B testing. He is passionate in making the work processes of the marketing and sales team more efficient, so that they can generate more revenue in a shorter time.