We looked a little while ago at using Twitter to gain intelligence about your competition. But there are other sites that also offer rich pickings for this purpose. When you look across social media as a whole, there is an amazing amount of information available, and it really makes sense to tap into it.

Why would you do that?

Differentiating your brand from the competition means that you need to know what they’re doing. You also need to know about their customer engagement, because that can help you to understand what works and what doesn’t. So what are the questions that you should be asking? Here are some of the more obvious ones:

  • Who are the key people at your competitors?
  • What are your competitors doing on the social web?
  • When are they engaging?
  • Where are they engaging?
  • How are they engaging, and how are they perceived?

Armed with this information, you can start to put together your own strategy for engagement and make your company and brand stand out from the crowd. The most important thing to remember is that listening is key to engagement. It helps you to understand where you are, and the topics of interest, as well as to create meaningful goals. Listening to your competitors and their networks gives insight into their activities, and may help you to identify people that you want to recruit in due course. But where do you start?

Starting your search

Start with a basic search. This can give you plenty of information, both via tools like Google Alert, and simple searches for your competitors. It will tell you where they are active, which social networks they’re using, and what else is out there about them.

Your next stop should be LinkedIn. Company pages are a great place to start, but you can also get useful information by seeing which of your competitors’ staff are on LinkedIn, and how you are connected to them through your network. You can check out statistics on the company, for example, where employees have worked before, and where previous employees have gone next, and also get alerts about the company such as changes to jobs. You can also see what Groups your competitors are using, and quite possibly join some of them. Finally, LinkedIn can give you information about Twitter accounts of key employees, whom you may wish to follow.

Many companies are moving away from Facebook now, but it’s still a useful source of information if your competitors are there. See how they engage with their fans and what content they are posting. What gets most engagement? Also check out what pages they like. Pinterest and Instagram may be worth a look, as many companies are finding that the engagement levels there are far higher than on Facebook, and moving across.

YouTube gives you unrivalled information about your competitors’ video marketing strategy. You can see what kind of content they post, and also what their followers think of it by looking at Likes and comments. Slideshare also gives you information about the content that your competitors are posting, and what other people think of it, although there are far fewer comments than on YouTube.

There are a number of other tools and sites which can also be extremely useful in your search for information. Social Mention is a real-time social media search engine, which enables you to find your competitors on other social networks, and monitor mentions of them. It has an alert feature so you don’t have to keep visiting. Forums and bulletin boards are also good value. Boardreader will help you find mentions of your competitors on forums and message boards across the web.

It’s also good to keep an eye on local search information and review sites such as Yelp and Google My Business. Q&A sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers are well worth a look, because there are plenty of other people looking there too. See what questions people are asking about your competitors, and who answers. You can even try posting specific questions about them, and see what happens.

If you need help with tracking, or with analysing information that you discover on social media, there are plenty of tools available. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, for example, can help with tracking, and Sysomos is useful for analysis.

Time to get started

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get out there and integrate competitive intelligence into your social routine.

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