I am just re-reading Richard Telofski’s book, “Dangerous Competition, Issues in eCompetitive Intelligence” and I came across a segment of a chapter that deals with the particular issue of website content and functionality of a competitor’s website. In the book, published in 2001, Telofski highlighted nine things that should be examined while on a website of a competing company. His ninth item on the lists was the “importance of finding a community” on the site and personalization functionalities.
This particular item could not be more relevant at the present time given the power of social networks. Social networks has allowed competitors to market themselves efficiently however; networks such as Facebook and Twitter has given competitive intelligence professionals access to data that can be extremely useful for current and future strategic initiatives.
Below you will find a list of 5 things that I suggest intelligence gatherers and analysts should keep in mind when visiting a competitor’s Facebook Page to surpass respective industry players.
1. Number of Likes
The number of “Likes” may appear to be superficial on the surface however; it can be a starting point in terms of measuring how effective the competitor’s effort to create a critical mass on Facebook based offline initiatives. If the competitor is allocating resources to create awareness of their pages and the number of “likes” is low or below average, then it maybe a sign that the competitor’s brand on Facebook is not connecting with the target audience. The following infographic outlines “Why Do People Follow or Like A Brand On Facebook”.
2. Level of Engagement
Every competitor that selects to be on Facebook strives to have a high level of engagement with “fans”. Evaluating if and how frequent competitors are engaging on Facebook is a very good benchmarking point to examine how effective their social media strategy is performing in a given point of time. Consistent postings by fans and replies on the page’s wall are the major metrics that researchers and analysts should be tracking on a daily /weekly basis. Competitors that do not select to engage where they have the opportunity to lead consumers to the next step in the buying process demonstrate that they are not using Facebook to its marketing potential.
The biggest opportunity that social networks, especially, Facebook furnishes to competitive intelligence analysts is real-time access to sentiments from fans. Be it positive or negative, the amount of insights that can gleaned from the opinions of present or past consumers / clients of competitors can be extremely helpful in terms of redefining or repositioning respective product / service offerings or unique selling propositions.
4. Content Strategy
A parallel can be made between a creative strategy for an advertising campaign and a content strategy for social media. Both strategies are the necessary component that aids in the sustainability in terms of communicating a core brand message. A content strategy may not be that easy to identify however; the following questions can be used to flesh out a possible strategy from a competitor’s presence on Facebook:
- How frequency are the posts on the wall (i.e., hourly, daily, weekly)?
- Is there a common theme to the posts? (i.e., What is the core brand message?)
- Are the posts geared to a specific portion of the target audience?
The answers to the questions can be pieced together to uncover a content strategy that should be monitored to uncover strengths and weaknesses to consider for current or future Web 2.0 marketing initiatives.
5. Integrated Marketing Efforts
Be it large or small, Facebook Pages have a role as a part of an integrated marketing effort for competitors. Regular monitoring of posting on pages can assist in identifying the future activities using different traditional marketing channels. The recent Telus campaign is an example in which competitors had the opportunity to anticipated the star of the upcoming advertisements by tracking news and fans’ comments pertaining to Telus’ next critter. Figure 1 is the post from Telus (with comments) on the last day of voting for the next critter for the campaign.
As long as social media marketers are using a variety of social networks to reach and engage with their defined target audience, strategic intelligence will be available to use against competitors. With the 750 + million of users, Facebook has become a source of real time information that can be consulted on regular basis to learn more about key players if the right approaches are used and if the right questions are asked.
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