While competitors may seem intimidating, some marketers fail to realize there are opportunities lying discretely in their online footprint. One such location is in your competitors’ Twitter profiles. By analyzing both their successes and failures in the area, your company may be able to gain a significant competitive advantage.
One of my favorite quotes, from Niccolo Machiavelli, is, “Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”
Instead of being consumed by the existence of a threat (IE, the competition), opportunistic marketers will turn such to their advantage. And Twitter is a good place to start.
In this post, I’ve put together a list of 5 key things that Machiavelli would do with his competitors’ Twitter profiles, to unravel the competition and use it to his own advantage.
Evaluate Your Competitors Twitter Network:
By evaluating a competitor’s followers and following on Twitter, you can determine what their network is built on.
For example, careful analysis of a Twitter network enables you to find users relevant to the industry. This gives you a short list of potential audiences to win over through tactical review and communication, in which you can consider a variety of possible tactics.
Network evaluation also helps identify potential publishers, vendors, and bloggers that might become ideal link building targets or social media marketing partners.
And finally, network evaluation will also help in defining the types of Twitter profiles that are influential in the industry (which I will elaborate on later).
Follower Wonk for network analysis. This application allows you to search a keyword or phrase in an account’s followers and following to see how frequently it appears.
Twitter Counter for network history. This web application is useful when looking at follower progression and comparing multiple accounts.
Contaxio’s Twitter Explorer for known profile history. This application (disclaimer: owned in part by KoMarketing) can help find new contacts by modeling other users or searching by keywords.
Analyze Twitter Lists
There are many benefits of Twitter lists for businesses to take advantage of and list development is highly recommended if you are not doing so already. Twitter lists are a way to collect a group of profiles and their tweets for a specific subject or theme, and have them available all in one location.
For example, one of our clients, a provider of industrial equipment, actively participates across many different segments while interacting with manufacturers, suppliers, vendors and more. They keep each type of business relationship in unique Twitter lists.
But there is a competitive opportunity as well. First, by observing the lists a competitor is on, you can see how other people perceive them and who is acknowledging them in that space. You will also get a better understanding of other Twitter profiles that are active in the social space.
Second, in observation of a competitor’s own lists, you get an understanding of the business objectives they have and the types of organizations and themes they follow and consider a focal point.
On a side note, be aware that just as you can see other’s public lists, they can see yours. So, if this is knowledge that you would like to keep to yourself, I suggest making your lists private.
Twitonomy for list review. This website lets you view lists a profile is following and lists that are following a profile.
Identify Key Influencers
Identifying key influencers is a crucial aspect for establishing relationships and building a strong presence on social media, regardless of the platform. While Ryan recently suggested several tools for audience identification and social promotion, looking over your business competitors’ Twitter profiles is one place to start this process.
The first step is figuring out who your competitors believe are key influencers in the industry, and, then, checking their validity. These key influencers should include applicable publications, well-informed bloggers, and industry thought leaders that can help in gathering information and staying up-to-date with trends.
My go-to strategy for checking a user’s influence is looking at their social authority score, which is computed through analytics tools. Social authority can be used as one mechanism for evaluating influence, however, the most influential people in an organization do not necessarily always have high social authority because it is based on several factors like retweet rate, time decay, and follower count.
FollowerWonk (mentioned previously) automatically calculates a Twitter profile’s social authority to portray its influence.
Other places / platforms that define social authority scores include:
Analyze & Monitor Hashtags
Hashtag optimization is essential to a company’s Twitter strategy, especially those in the B2B space, as most businesses use them as a main source of finding tweets relevant to their industry. Based on network analysis mentioned previously, construct a list of useable hashtags by searching through your competitors’ tweets.
Examining how your competitors are using hashtags will give a better understanding of what they want to be associated with and referenced by and what others discuss in their Twitter stream.
The next step is to determine whether those hashtags are valuable and which ones you should be using and can also be leveraged for your own network development. For example, establishing a list of events or conferences in the industry will help to expand your network and ensure that you are a part of the conversation in your industry.
Hashtagify for hashtag research. This application can help validate hashtag relevance and lead you to those most commonly used in relation to a specific topic.
Twitonomy (previously referenced) allows you to see exactly which hashtags an account is using and how often it is being used.
Check Competitive Engagement
Many businesses view Twitter as opportunity to display customer service excellence. But many fail at this as well by not participating in the conversation around their brand and keyword strategy.
Monitoring brand specific competitive keywords in Twitter will help identify opportunities for interception while establishing an understanding of how that competitor is communicating online or being communicated with.
For example, if you competitors aren’t replying to comments or questions, you could offer your expertise in the area. The users who are interacting with them are most likely interested in what you have to say and could appreciate another source of information. You may also find key partners in the industry based on competitive mentions and missed opportunities.
Topsy for social media monitoring. This application can be used to search a Twitter handle to see who is talking about them.
Marketers that are well aware of their business competitors’ strengths and weaknesses on Twitter will be in a better position to foster a competitive advantage across other social media platforms.
Don’t feel defeated if and when you see your competitors’ brand and tweets pop up in your feed. Instead, think like Machiavelli and turn the situation into a strategic opportunity analysis that can lead to your own organization’s learning and development. When in doubt, just ask yourself, “What would Machiavelli do?”