Photo: boyoma via Flicr
In life, I get away with quite a bit thanks to an innocent face and my ability to become doe-eye on command. On the Internet, I get away with even more because I’ve learned how to act unseen and keep an eye on my competitors without them even knowing.And that’s one of the greatest gifts we have through social media – the ability to track our competitors without them feeling our glance. One of my favourite tools to stalk my competitors is Twitter. What can I learn about my competition strictly by watching and analysing their Twitter accounts?
Grab a pen. Here are a few of my favourite things.
1. The Basic Account Goods
The first step of competitor stalking is to analyse the basics of their account. Bring up their Twitter profile and take note of:
- Where does their profile link to? Does it link to their Web site, their Facebook account, a social media landing page?
- What’s their Follower/Following ratio? Are more people following them or do they follow more people? Are they following so many people that it looks unnatural or does it look like they’re building the account by hand? What kind of following strategy does it look like they’re using?
- How many tweets do they have?: Are they an active Twitter users are have they only sent out a couple dozen? How many times do they tweet a day? Are their tweets mostly replies to other users or standalone tweets? Are they posting their opinion, news stories, spice-of-life tweets?
Many people will ignore the bio box on a user’s Twitter profile simply because it’s so small, but there’s quite a bit of information to be had there if you take the time to look.
2. What Twitter Tools They Use
With how quickly new social media tools emerge and the different features offered I like to keep track of what tools my competitors are using. Knowing this gives me an idea of what kind of stats they’re tracking, whether or not certain updates or automated, or what plugins they’re using to help users share their content. For example, did you know Chris Brogan uses Hootsuite, Scott Stratten uses UberTwitter, and SMB social networking site BizSugar uses Social Oomph?
Well, now you do. And knowing that will help you understand their strategy a little bit, while also keeping your eyes open to new tools.
3. What Kind Of Conversation They Have
Whether you use a tool like TweetDeck or just have a saved Twitter Search handy, keep an eye on the conversations that your competition is having on Twitter. How are they replying to their customers? Do they reply to everyone who mentions them? Are they around to answers questions in real-time? Is there an opportunity for you to jump in and claim some of their leads? If you notice that your competition is replying to customers infrequently or not hopping into conversations about their brand, then you know they probably haven’t put together a solid social media campaign and they’re just haphazardly using it. However, if it looks like they’re monitoring keywords, jumping on “anyone know…” type searches and being all-stars at Twitter customer service, then it may be a sign that you need to ramp up your own efforts.
4. What Kind of Twitter User They Are
To say there are a lot of Twitter tools available to help you analyse your competitors account would be a huge understatement. Because there are more than “a lot”. And there’s a new one popping up every day. Below are some of the Twitter tools I’m partial to and a look at how I use them.
- Twitter Grader: Twitter Grader is a free tool that lets you skulk out the power of a user’s Twitter account and compare it with your own. This tool was among the first Twitter tools out of the gate, so it remains one that I’m partial to. You can see the accounts “grade” out of 100, a snapshot of the top followers of that account, and a graph of their user history to see how quickly they built their followers.
- Twitanalyzer: Twitalyzer is another service aimed at analysing accounts. They’ll score the account, tell you the Influencer Type* [built off a post I wrote for SmallBizTrends on the Five Types of Influencers On The Web], the subjects that user typically tweets about, and a look at some of the faces in that person’s network.
- Klout: Klout is another social media tool that’s getting a lot of attention right now. I like this tool for it’s ability to scout out influence networks and attempt to quantify social metrics like total reach, mentions, Retweets and other things. Over on my company blog Outspoken Media, I’ve shared how we use Klout to track down influencers and for other social media services.
5. Find their Other Social Accounts
If your competitor has a YouTube channel, they’re probably going to share that content on Twitter. If they have a blog, they’re going to drop the URL to direct their customers there. If they have an emails newsletter, they’re going to want to make sure their Twitter followers are aware of that. By keeping an eye on their tweets and where they’re linking to, it helps you stay up to date on how they’re using these other channels, as well. We always say how important it is to cross-link social media accounts, right? Follow the trail.
Social media gives you an unparalleled opportunity to connect with users. It also gives you a unique opportunity to watch your competitors in the wild without them knowing. Are you taking advantage of it?
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