At True Voice Media, we tend to sit in the middle; we like to know about our competitors and what they do, but at the end of the day our focus is on doing good work. We believe there is an abundance of opportunity in our industry and therefore if we do great work, word of mouth will spread and we’ll be fine regardless of what our competition does.
But regardless of where you sit on the spectrum, it’s important to know HOW to know what your competitors are doing and how people talk about them. Here’s how…
The first, and most obvious, is to monitor the web. This includes listening for branded mentions across Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin Signal and the blogosphere. This also includes using Alert Systems, like Google Alerts, and monitoring specific domains where appropriate.
Start by creating an account on an RSS Aggregator like Netvibes, or Google Reader*.
*Note: I know Google Reader is shutting down on July 1, but until then you can use it and other services have promised that they will offer a smooth transition.
This will allow you to pull in and organize the RSS feeds from the following next steps.
Go to Social Mention (For Social results), Google Alerts or TalkWalker (For Web, News and Blog Results), BoardReader (for Forums search results) and enter the name of your competitor in the search field. If the competitor has a name with multiple words, be sure to surround the name with quotes. For example: “True Voice Media”
Each of the aforementioned services support RSS. So once you enter your search, you can subscribe to any new results in your RSS aggregator/reader.
This will allow you to keep tabs on your competitor’s branded activity. Simply scan the headlines regularly to keep up.
Additional Awesome Sauce
For additional awesome-sauce, try running a search in Google Alerts for specific domains. For example, if you want to see if anyone has posted about your competitors on the Yelp, simply enter the following search string:
site:yelp.com “competitor name”
This search will only return results from yelp.com that include the competitor’s name. You can do this for any site with public search results, huffingtonpost.com, Citysearch.com, or let’s say your competitor’s domain maybe?
Social Insider Sleuthing
Want to know the real dirt? Listen inside your competitors walls.
Believe it or not, many of your competitors probably don’t have a Social Media Policy…there’s no telling what you can find out just from monitoring their employees. One piece of data (an email address) can open up a world of insight. Download Rapportive and simply enter the email address in Gmail to find out where someone is all across the web.
As most “successful” hackers know, the biggest vulnerability in any company is not the network, but the people using the network; it’s easier to trick someone into opening the front door than it is to break in with force. Mind you, we’re not advocating anything unethical, duplicitous or illegal, we’re simply stating that the quickest way to see what’s happening on the inside is to talk to someone on the inside. In many cases, they may just tell you.
One way to do that is to stalk notable employees. You might be able to tell what they are up to by watching their Foursquare check-ins that get posted to Twitter, you may be able to glean unique insights into their sales strategy by joining a Linkedin Group they participate in, you may even know about upcoming product releases by attending a meetup and strike up a conversation with their Lead Engineer or Director of Marketing.
Public Records and More…
You can dig even deeper if you really want to but you may get lost down deep in the rabbit hole. Start with the above steps and if that’s not enough competitive intelligence, it may be time to find a less competitive industry, or hire a full time competitive intelligence specialist.
For now, happy hunting.
If you have any more tips on watching the competition, please enter them in the comments.