Social Media for Competitive Intelligence, Part 2

Last week’s post was about using social media for CI purposes. I discussed the different types of insight that can be gained from social media and the overall importance of patience, integration, and analysis in making the most of the social media postings. Most CI professionals have the patience to wait for something interesting to pop up on social media, and most know how to link one finding to another once those findings are out there.

That leaves the analysis part as the area where the CI professional can add value and produce insight that leverages patience and integration. As I noted last week, social media contains a lot of irrelevant information which requires sifting through and filtering to get at the exciting bits. Effectively pulling out what you are looking for requires being able to discern which pieces of information fit to make a picture and produce insight; skilled analysis is the tool that allows you to paint that picture.

It is possible, of course, to try to read and digest every post, but that is not the most efficient way to sift through all the data that’s out there. It is more effective to build up your analysis to be able to pick out the important information as it is posted. This works when you have already identified some hints or partial answers to your questions through research but are missing some key bits of data you need to go from a hunch to an actionable recommendation. Analysis skills point to what information is missing, which will then help structure your data collection and lead to more efficient data collection, and ultimately more insightful results.

The analysis tools most useful in exploiting social media are those that expose relationships and allow the analyst to draw inferences from what at first appear to be isolated incidents. These tend to be more on the pattern recognition and gap identification side of the tool box than strategy models such as Five Forces or Four Corners. However, as the data analysis tools continue to collect the isolated bits of information, strategy tools become useful for making sense of the data and assessing what the competitor is doing and how it will impact the market.

There are many pattern recognition and gap analysis tools that work well in the social media environment; picking which works best will depend on both the individual analyst and the data set. Regardless of which one you decide to use, the goal is to complete as much of the analysis as possible using data that has already been collected, and then identify the gaps in your data set. Once you have identified those gaps, you can set up a tracking tool for your social media sources to look for bits of data that might provide hints or even full answers to the questions you are trying to answer. While there are sophisticated tracking tools available, if you have selected a limited range of social media sites, even a simple daily update will provide new posts that you can quickly scan and pick out anything that deserves more attention.

The key requirements for effectively using social media as a CI tool are the patience to sift through the sources and the analysis skills that enable you to find the bits of information that you can piece together to create insight. Fletcher/CSI has extensive experience in the application of social media to CI. To learn more about how we can support your CI efforts with social media tools, please contact us.

– Erik Glitman, CEO