When it comes to business, being able to monitor the goings-on in your sector of the marketplace is a powerful way to keep your company on track. Social media is a powerful tool to help you achieve this. To some, this might seem like an unwise suggestion. After all, you have your own business to focus on, and obsessing over the comings and goings of your competitors could cloud your vision, or embroil you in unnecessary detail. However, effective planning and allocation can allow you to keep up with your competitors on social media without incurring these disadvantages. Even one social media savvy employee could be a massive advantage to your business if you give them the task of following your competitors, with a specific focus on gathering the information that’s most relevant to your business. Here are a few suggestions as to what you could learn.

Learn from their mistakes

A great reason to follow your competitors is to learn what not to do. The business world can be cutthroat, and there’s no reason why the failures of your competitors should be your failures too. Learning from our own mistakes is essential, but we nevertheless still have to suffer the consequences of those mistakes. The consequences of your mistakes in your personal life might not be earth-shattering, but for your company, those consequences could be fatal. Learning from the mistakes of your competition, therefore, isn’t as ghoulish as it sounds, rather it’s the best way to learn from mistakes without threatening your own business. Furthermore, following the failures of your competitors can give you vital information about the state of your sector of the market and where your fortunes might be headed. This is an essential tool to allow you to plan for the future.

Discover new ideas

The successes of your competitors, as well as their failures, can be an invaluable learning experience for you and your business. No matter how talented your employees are, there’s always a chance that your competitors are coming up with ideas that you aren’t. Following the new ideas of your competitors is valuable to you because it allows you to manage the direction of your business to ensure that you’re profiting not just off of your own successes, but also the successes of others in your sector.

A great example is Facebook’s adoption of ‘stories’ across its platforms, most notably Instagram. ‘Stories’ on Facebook and Instagram took the same core feature from Snapchat but utilised the advantage of integrating this popular feature into their already-massive platforms. Everyone knew that Facebook had done this, yet the feature was still a massive success. Of course, it’s never advantageous to copy your competitors in every possible way, but identifying their best ideas and integrating those into your business will pay dividends.

Keep your eye on the content

Eyeing the content your competitors are putting out will help you keep your own content sharp and relevant. Your competitors might be on the cutting edge of new keywords and phrases to use in their content, and by following them, you can be too, thereby helping your SEO and drawing eyes to your marketing and to your business. Conversely, you might also want to watch your competitors’ content in order to deliberately create contrast in your own content. Standing out from the crowd can be the difference between your business muddling along and your business booming. In a saturated market, putting out content that has a fresh style in comparison to your competitors is a great strategy for greater success.

Fill in the gaps in your knowledge

No matter how well you know your market, there are still questions out there that you may not have thought to ask yourself. How is your competition presenting their product, and positioning it in the market? What is their value proposition for their products or services? What is their end-to-end experience for customers? The competencies of your competitors can also become your competencies, and you can boost your knowledge of your own market through the knowledge of others in your sector.

How, How, How

The best way to actually follow your competitors can be a tricky question. Following them openly carries advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, you don’t need to expend the time and effort setting up private social media accounts to hide your following behaviour, but on the other hand, your close tracking of your competitors could be seen by them and by the public as aggressive. Social media is, after all, a public platform, and your reputation is an incredibly important commodity. It might be advisable, therefore, to openly follow your indirect competitors, i.e. companies who are not offering the same product or service as you, but one that might satisfy the same need. This will allow you to network more effectively, building your public profile and getting your name out there. When it comes to your direct competitors, it might be best to hide your prying eyes and follow them through secret accounts.

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