By Lasse Lund

March 23rd, 2016

Effective social listening is about using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to unlock insights about your industry, your prospects, and the market in general. With so much information available, it is easy to miss insights, particularly if your social media marketing efforts are primarily focused on your own brand followers.

Take Facebook for instance – no matter how many fans your brand page has, it will be nowhere near the 1.5 billion+ active users registered with the network. To focus solely on the 100,000 fans on your page is to ignore the 1.4 billion users who are not.

It is also extremely important to remember that your competitors are already engaged with prospects on social networks, too. Every follower they capture is potentially one person who never hears about your products and services; your socially-aware competitors have already stolen a march on you.

Your social listening strategy must include some provisions for monitoring your competitors online too.

More than simply giving you a better understanding of the wider industry, tracking your competitors can also help you boost the ROI of your social programs, which is sure to make your marketing director smile.

Here are the top five reasons you need to monitor your competitors’ social campaigns as closely as you do your own.

#1 – Access a predefined prospects list
The number one reason for monitoring your competitors’ social channels is that they reveal a pre-qualified list of prospects. The people engaging with your competitor are clearly interested in their products and services, which means there’s a high degree of probability that they are also interested in yours.

It’s almost like your competition handing over their prospect address list and inviting you to help yourself.

You should loosely monitor these people, looking for opportunities to engage them directly. Sooner or later they will open the door to communication from your competitor, giving you an opportunity to sneak in first.

#2 – Create more accurate personas
One of the core aspects of any campaign is to use social listening to identify common interests, concerns, and demographics of your target audience. This information is then used to create detailed buyer personas, a picture of what your ideal customer looks like.

Analyzing the people interacting with your competitors will reveal a lot about how they think and act. So when it comes time to build a campaign targeted directly at your competitor’s customers, you will know exactly the right content to capture their attention.

ITSMA found that of companies currently using buyer personas, 82% say it has improved their value proposition, 90% say it has led to a clearer understanding of their customers, and 56% say it has led to higher quality leads. And the more accurate your persona is, the more relevant your social marketing messaging will be.

#3 – Join customer conversations
People are having conversations on social media all the time. And by using public forums, these conversations are effectively open to anyone.

Once you are sure that your team properly understand the norms and conventions of each community, you can get involved in discussions. As always, the objective is not to openly sell, but instead position your company and employees as experts in your field. You are giving away your experience and knowledge (rather than selling your goods and services) to help build relationships that will later result in genuine sales queries.

The social team at Red Bull carefully studies the profiles of people whom they believe consume energy drinks, and sometimes engage them in direct conversation.

Note how the conversation does not begin with a hard sell, but merely starts the ball rolling. As the chat continues, Red Bull introduce their product, and follow up with a giveaway, avoiding the stigma of “selling” on social.

#4 – Jump on competitor mentions
People rely quite heavily on social media for crowdsourced purchasing advice. It is not unusual to see questions about “X vs Y brand” popping up on Facebook and Twitter, along with several responses from other users offering advice.

Simply offering further assistance to someone asking these types of questions is often the first step to getting them into your sales funnel. Suddenly, they go from being a complete stranger to an identified prospect.

Your social listening tools will obviously need to monitor for every mention of your brand, but it makes good sense to listen out for your competitors too. In this way you may be able to jump into a conversation with a user who has been ignored by your competitors – even if they had no intention of buying your products, it may be that you can steer them towards a sale simply by demonstrating outstanding customer service.

Responding to a tweet that mentioned both their company name and that of a competitor, Avaya were able to tie up a $250,000 deal for instance:

It just so happened that the Avaya team had been monitoring their company name and keywords related to their competitors too. Avaya responded, Shoretel did not; Avaya won the opportunity.

#5 – Find newsjacking opportunities
Every now and then a news story will hit the headlines that has an angle you can use to (lightly) promote your business. Sometimes these opportunities will be completely unrelated to your brand, or even your industry, as demonstrated by Disney when they decided to newsjack the birth of Princess Charlotte in May 2015 with a montage of their own royal princesses.

For the best results, however, use your social listening tools to identify opportunities that are more closely allied to your products and services – or those of your competitors. These occasions are rare, but valuable, and you must have the right social listening program in place to take advantage – as well as a good understanding of what your target audience will relate to (see point 1 above).

Avoiding an unbalanced social strategy
Monitoring your competitors’ social feeds and campaigns is vital to building a well-rounded strategy that covers the whole market – not just your own committed audience. You will learn a lot more about these people, information that can be put to practical use and helped to increase engagement – and sales.

To learn more about effective social listening and how Falcon Social can help you get started, request a free demo now.

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