Competitive Intelligence From Twitter

Knowing what is going on with your competitor’s business can be pretty straightforward, all you need to do is ask people.

In the age of Social Media, you don’t even really have to ask them. They are already trying to tell you “Please make me your customer, my current place of business does not care for me”.

Setting this up in Twitter is a snap, in less than 15 minutes you will be on your way to evaluating what other people are saying about your competitors.

A hot topic of conversation in the Social Media Huddle at the recent XChange Conference, another topic from the same huddle discussed by June Dershewitz here, was examples of social media gone awry. From Nestle and their alleged orangutan abuse, to Similac and the beetle laden formula recall; the beetle being not life threatening aside.

When I raised the question of who in the room was using social media for competitive advantage, either no one was interested in announcing that they were or in fact no was is. In any large scale operation, there are going to be incidents. If a company is prepared to act then they need to only wait until the opportune moment when the competition creates an opening.
Relative Frequency of Similac Google Searches 9/17/10-10/9/10
The first morning of the Similac recall the website was overwhelmed with requests, which of course happened when our baby decided she wanted some formula. In addition, the news stories were creating so much noise inside the search engines that morning that the only results pointed back to Similac.

Had another formula vendor, say Enfamil, been monitoring Twitter that morning they could have realized the opportunity. They would have known to also check the FDA site for lot numbers, at which point either host the data themselves or post a link to the FDA site.

This basic level of social media tracking is free and as straightforward as possible, with a nominal amount of work you could be passively monitoring Twitter to the point where at least the medium could start to be evaluated.

Competitive Intelligence In Less Than 15 Minutes

Bookmark the Advanced Twitter Search Page here.

Hypothetical Background

We run intelligence for a Mexican themed fast food restaurant with locations worldwide and want to capitalize on any missteps by our competition.

Build The Queries:

Brands Keywords
McDonalds fail
BurgerKing sick
BurgerKing dirty
Carls Junior

Experiment with the Advanced Twitter Search to get the keywords just right. You have caught on that Twitter limitations bend words, look for more in depth about that topic in the future.

The ultimate query for McDonald’s with those keywords looks like this.
Example Advanced Twitter Search Parameters

Here again the Advanced Twitter Search is your best friend. You have a guess at what may be interesting, so drop a few in the ‘Search for any of these words’ box and see what you get.

Ultimately you’ll get results like this from Advanced Twitter Search:
Example Advanced Twitter Search Parameters

From either the RSS button or the URL bar, grab the URLs for the searches that you want to keep track of. These are the URLs for our example:

Hard Work Done: Onto the Easy Part

Paste the URLs you have copied into your RSS reader of choice, here I am using Google Reader.
Where to add Twitter feeds in Google Reader

Voila! You have complaints about McDonalds!
View Advanced Twitter Search Feed Results in Google Reader

Why not load them up into a folder where they can be neat and organized:
Multiple Advanced Twitter Search Feeds in Google Reader

If you click through the tweet in the reader, you are taken right to the source tweet page.
Partial View of A Negative Tweet About McDonald's

Actionable Insights:

Now we have all these gripes about huge companies, what can we learn from it?

If your RSS reader is configured correctly, your feeds will periodically be updated with new content. Further refinement of the feeds is probably a continual effort.

Suppose you start to see the mentions of a particular brand associated with a particular negative keyword, that could be an opportunity for our Mexican themed restaurant to run advertisements obliquely referencing a switch away from burgers.

Just Starting

This is really just scratching the surface, look for future posts about more advanced implementation and response methods.

You would be wise to follow Twitter’s Rate Limiting Policy, read more here.

If you have a question, leave a comment or e-mail me.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter as well!

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Technorati Tags: Competitive Intelligence, Data Democracy, HOWTO, Natural Language Processing, NLP, Social Media, Twitter

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