Effective competitor analysis: How social-media monitoring can provide actionable insights

Business and Technology Writer

The power of the Web as a platform for everyday conversation and shopper chatter is burgeoning. That's why social-media monitoring is gaining importance in the consumer products sector as a robust data source for competitor analysis. Social-media monitoring takes the pulse of what's being said about brands across the Internet on social networks, blogs, news sites and online forums.

Know thy competitors' social standing

It might sound deceptively simple, but knowing where your rivals' shoppers live on social media sites can lead to richer competitor analysis and a deeper understanding of consumers' purchasing intentions.

"If you're trying to create social strategies, you should really think about which platforms are your customers on," said Arnie Gullov-Singh, chief operating officer for social shopping fashion site Polyvore, at Women's Wear Daily's digital conference. Then, consider the same question for your competitors' social profile.

For example, buying apparel is a fundamentally different animal than buying home products, be it furniture or pillows. Those differences extend to social's influence on the purchasing path.

Polyvore users create about three million outfits monthly. About 45 million of those outfits are "liked" by other users, and 75 percent of those outfits are shared on social media sites such as Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram, WWD reported.

By contrast, "The user intent is very different in lifestyle [shopping]," Gullov-Singh said. "Buying hard goods is all about things you need where you make a decision based on information — facts and figures and so on. But in lifestyle, it's about things you want. You don't necessarily know that you want a pillow that looks like this or a handbag that looks like this. So you need a different purchase funnel and that's why it's a very different purchase cycle."

That's where sites like Pinterest and Instagram come in, which provide directed inspiration and help shoppers unearth the kind of pillow or handbag they want. brand advocates

Brand advocates are everyday shoppers who are highly satisfied with a particular brand, and they are likely to recommend that brand to online communities they belong to. These advocates are "eager to support, promote and defend your brand on a long-term basis," according to digital marketer Convince and Convert. This is an essential group to monitor, as 92 percent of consumers trust the opinions of brand advocates, according to the source.

Tracking brand advocates' interactions with your competition can provide a nuanced feel for that company's appeal. This strategy can give you a better idea of why consumers chose a rival over your brand, whether it comes down to price point, customer service, product quality or another deciding factor.

Identify key influencers via the 3 'Rs'

Brand influencers, often bloggers, pundits or even celebrities, are social media users that command an expansive pool of active and engaged followers. Understanding the weight of their opinions is one valuable competitor analysis tool. By tracking influencers who share brand content, companies can monitor the attitudes, likes and dislikes of the opinion makers who are interacting with your rivals.

In some cases, influencers have more social-media followers than million-dollar brands. The three "Rs" comprise the attributes of influencers: Relevance, the creation of content that is relevant to your brand; reach, the ability to reach an audience that's valuable to your brand; and resonance, the engagement with relevant content by an audience that is meaningful to your brand.

Using these methods of leveraging social media monitoring to fuel competitive intelligence can inspire actionable insights to help brands better reach current and potential customers.

Make sense of and maximize your social media data. Learn how on IBM's Consumer Products Industry Solutions Page.