SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

This week, we asked: Do you follow your competitors on social media?

  • Yes, but we rarely check on them: 40.88%
  • No: 30.19%
  • Yes, and we study them extensively: 28.93%

Once you’ve entered the social Web, you’ve truly opened the kimono for the entire world to see, customers and competitors alike. As much as we’d like to sometimes wish we could go back and hide behind the corporate walls of an unanswered 800 number, those days are long gone.

The good news, though, is that there is much to be learned from monitoring your competitors’ social media activity. Here are the top three reasons to increase the amount of time you spend evaluating your competitors on the social Web.

  • Improve your content strategy. A few short weeks ago in our poll we learned that “improving your content strategy” ranked as the No. 1 thing you wished you could change about your social media initiative. Your competitors’ activity on the social offers a breeding ground of ideas, and with a little extra work, the resulting popularity of that content. Pay attention and find topics that resonate with your customers and build them into your content strategy.
  • Track sentiment. With social media being used for customer service, marketing, sales, crisis management and more, observing the social media streams of your competitors has the opportunity to provide a lot of insight into the sentiment of your competitors’ customers. Keep an eye out for complaints, praise, no-responses, etc. and join the conversation when appropriate and/or digest that information to improve your own products and services.
  • Be the news. In David Meerman Scott’s latest book, “Newsjacking,” he describes how the nature of the real-time Web offers companies a new opportunity. That is by paying attention, being alert and being ready to respond quickly, you can inject your message into the news cycle. While this isn’t anything new as it relates to sound PR practices, what is new is the real-time nature of this activity. Don’t be left behind as your competitors make the news. When something significant breaks in your industry, be prepared to participate in the conversation as it happens.

While there are many other reasons to follow your competitors, such as understanding frequency, learning whether they run promotions or gauging how actively engaged their community is, at a minimum, by focusing on the three above, you will keep pace with them on the social Web.

This poll analysis was written by SmartBlogs contributor Jeremy Victor. He is the president of business-to-business content-marketing agency Make Good Media and editor-in-chief of B2Bbloggers.com. For more of his writing, visit B2Bbloggers and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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7 Responses to “Top 3 reasons you must follow your competitors on social media”

  1. thekarenturner says:

    Hi Jeremy, I enjoyed your post and would like to solict some addition insight from you as it relates to what tools/technologies are in the market to assist companies with social media monitoring of their competitors. While I am aware of some of the larger ones such as Radian6, Lithium, Cymfony, etc., I'd like to learn of others that might be more of a fit for small businesses.

  2. Jeremy Victor says:

    Hi Karen, have you heard of Tackur? http://www.trackur.com/

  3. [...] Top 3 reasons you must follow your competitors on social media | SmartBlogs On April 11, 2012 23inShare [...]

  4. MarkFrisk says:

    Karen, small businesses can get pretty far with tools like TweetDeck, HootSuite, Google Alerts (I have mine sent to Google Reader), Sprout Social, etc.

    You can add Twitter accounts of competitors you wish to monitor to a private Twitter list and create a column for that list in TweetDeck or HootSuite or the tool of your choice to easily track what they're doing. You could also create a search column for their company and/or product names.

    BTW, Jeremy, I think "monitor" might be a better term than "follow," since "follow" has specific meaning on some social platforms, e.g. Twitter, and you might not want to literally follow your competitors, thereby letting them know you're watching what they're doing. If they're savvy, they should assume you are, anyway, but some companies might not want to be obvious about it..

  5. Jeremy Victor says:

    Mark,

    Good point, once we came up with the question and posed it that way, I opted to stay consistent with the title of the article.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Jeremy

  6. Vicky Morgan says:

    Great idea! I definitely agree with this. Since Social Media has become so popular, there's no way that your competitors will not join in the social media sites-they definitely will and what we can do is for us to join in those social media sites to make sure we won't be left behind in the competition.

  7. The information is totally up to date and I liked lot of essentail aspects about it. Thanks for sharing it.