Competitors on Twitter: Evaluate With Your Eyes Wide Open
If you’ve done your listening exercises (monitoring the social landscape through keyword searches) you may have discovered your competition is on Twitter. As a part of your own social media strategy and planning audit, it’s important to evaluate what your competition is doing, how they are connecting with influencers and how quickly they’re advancing on this network.
Working through a competitive intelligence exercise means getting past the obvious and digging into an audit with your eyes wide open. Of course, you’ll immediately check out how many followers your competitors have and the lists where they appear. And, yes, you should review their tweet stream to figure out their approach. You can also scour through their followers to see the influencers they’ve connected with and the level of engagement.
However, here are a few less obvious ways that you can figure out if your competitors are just getting their feet wet or if they are well on their way to a successful social media strategy. With your eyes wide open you should ask these questions about each competitor:
- Do they have a standard Twitter profile or a customized background? You can tell if a competitor is a beginner or more advanced just by their Twitter background.
- Do they use images in their profile that relate to the brand (logo, product, people)? Images tell you if they are branding their profile(s).
- Does the URL in the profile lead to a dedicated landing page vs. a home page? This is the difference between the competitor that may or may not be closely paying attention to website analytics and driving traffic to specific area of a website.
- When you look at their profiles can you immediately identify what they want to talk about?
- What’s the percentage of their tweets, retweets, and actual conversations (@replies) over a specified time frame?
- What platform(s) are they using? Are they just starting out on Twitter.com or have they advanced to TweetDeck or HootSuite? Using more advanced platforms may translate into filtering information, managing multiple handles and timing daily tweets.
- Are they shortening links yet? Do you they use Tiny URL or have they advanced to Bit.ly links (which means they are tracking/measuring links)?
- Are they timing tweets? You can tell by analyzing patterns of tweets over a period of time.
- Do they have one Twitter feed or many feeds? If there are different feeds then you should ask the same questions above about each profile.
- Do they have an employee retweet strategy? In other words, you need to analyze who is retweeting and determine if other members of the company (their internal brand champions) are involved in the social media strategy.
- How often are competitors tweeting per day, per week, per month? Is there a consistent flow of tweets?
- Who tweets about your competitors on Twitter the most (media, bloggers, industry partners, employees, customers, etc.)?
There are so many questions that need to be asked, more than what’s listed above. What questions do you ask? Do you evaluate your competitors on Twitter with you eyes wide open?
August 16, 2010 @ 8:56 am
An incredibly insightful post…you’ve listed a number of great – yet simple – questions to ask.
One more question though – you mention ‘timed tweets’ as a point of differentiation…what do you think of ‘timed tweets’? And what’s the best way to do them ‘properly’? Often I’ll see 10 in a row from one source. IMO, seems to have less impact that way…
August 17, 2010 @ 8:27 am
Hi Elissa! Thanks for the great feedback on my post. Sometimes the simplest questions can get us thinking about important points of differentiation. As for the timed tweets, I think they need to be timed strategically depending on when there is the most activity on Twitter (peak activity). So if your community is the most active at times that you can’t be there to interact, you can time your tweets for the most visibility and sharing amongst community members. Having 10 timed tweets in a row is too much and will overwhelm people. Rather a few good timed tweets will go a long way.
August 18, 2010 @ 8:13 am
a great post. More than that, it would work well for any social media channel… not merely Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare
August 18, 2010 @ 9:07 am
Hi Katerina…. I think you’re right. You could ask these questions for other social media channels. Thanks for sharing your insight!
August 20, 2010 @ 8:16 am
Nice post, I find the conversation measure to be one of the most effective ways of understanding their twitter strategy. When look at corporations this is the biggest variable. Many companies use Twitter as just another channel to pump news even if they are doing so in a ‘softer’ way, the conversation index (@replies) is less than 10%. Others are responding to customers but not actively seeking them out (CI of 20-40%) and the third category are proactive with customers (CI >60%). Measuring this is time consuming, I partly use tweetstats.com. This is pretty good but slow if you look at many identities. Also I think is based across the entire time of the identity but behavior changes. Any suggestions of tools you use?
August 20, 2010 @ 11:30 am
Obviously the more information one has, at least up to a point, the better, and if you are going to look at competitors, this is a good list. One needs to understand the basics of business on Twitter but here’s THE question:
If you look at your competitors, will you end up looking like your competitors? The ongoing issue in any marketing or even in developing a network is how to standout FROM the competition, and not to BE like the competition.
August 21, 2010 @ 8:26 am
Hi Terry! Thanks and I’m glad you found the post to be interesting. I think you’re right about the news vs. @replies and engagement. I just completed an intelligence exercise for a company and not including retweets, the engagement was only about 10%. I actually use tweetstats myself. I’m sure there are many other tools. I’ve come across a lot when I need to evaluate the impact, influence or clout of a person on Twitter, but I’m still looking for something like a tweetstats for additional information. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for both of us 🙂
August 21, 2010 @ 8:28 am
Hi Robert, all good points. We definitely want to stand apart form our competitors and avoid becoming like them. Thanks for your comment.