Assessing the Competitive Landscape Via Social Media Research
A simple 4-step process to use social media to help understand the competitive landscape from a consumer perspective
Social media research is an ideal technique for understanding a product or service landscape through the consumer lens. If you’re asking, “what are existing or potential competitors doing today, and how is it being received?” there is often ample evidence in the social media space. This type of research is usually very informal, but is perfect for scenarios that don’t involve high financial risk and give guidance for areas to further investigate with other forms of research.
How to assess the landscape via social media:
Step 1. Establish a framework to work against. For example’s sake, let’s say I decide to use this ATL framework from Michele Levy in Inc’s How To Conduct Competitive Research, with these italicized builds:
- Elevator pitch (Brief answer to the question “Who is this company?”) Who do their consumers say they are?
- Mission (If it exists.) What do consumers say they’re in the space for?
- Products/services offered (with pricing) What do consumers think about the products and services, along with their pricing?
- Strengths (What is the competitor good at?) What do consumers say they’re good at?
- Weaknesses (Where does the competitor fall short?) What do consumers say their unmet needs and pain points are?
- Key brand differentiators (What are the messaging, product/service offerings, etc., that set the competitor apart from their competition?) And, what do consumers say sets the product/service apart from competitors?
Step 2. Social media commentary that demonstrates the consumer point of view on each of the above areas are “tagged” as such, by exporting commentary into Excel, re-posting onto a private Tumblr blog, or any other way of gathering and grouping comments and “coding” with the corresponding area. So, a comment about x competitor that says, “I love this brand because it doesn’t peel or crack over time!” might be “tagged” as a strength for competitor x. Explore relevant consumer social media channels and repeat this tagging process. I’ll pause here to say that aggregation platforms that provide historical data offer a significant advantage here because all of the verbatims are in one place and the researcher doesn’t necessarily have to scour the web (although, it’s still often necessary as not all relevant social media channels are always scraped by aggregation platforms and often there’s some great insights in non-verbal videos or images.)
Step 3. Group comments for each ATL framework area together visually and re-read. Ask yourself:
- What knowledge gaps exist?
- What are the outliers and why are they there?
- Where might more information need to be gathered from? Go do it.
Step 4. Put a report together for your team that outlines your findings.
Yes, it really can be that simple. Of course, there are lots of other things that can be considered to make this much more formal but if your team is looking to do a quick and dirty directional take from social media commentary, this can be extremely helpful. Clients have utilized such reports to inform new white space territory and new targets, for example. •
What are the ways that you’re using social media research to aid in assessing the landscape?