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Competitive intelligence: 5 tips for using social listening to gain an edge

Competitive intelligence: 5 tips for using social listening to gain an edge

“How can we stay ahead of the competition?”

It’s a question that team members in all departments spend considerable time thinking about and it’s a difficult question to answer.

Do we try to replicate the things our competitors do well, do we exploit a niche they haven’t thought of yet or do we try to forge our own unique path?

The answer may well be a combination of all three. But whatever your solution, actually knowing what your competitors are doing and how they are performing is the first step.

To explain how you can use social listening for competitive intelligence, we’re going to use the example of two world famous supercar brands – Ferrari and Porsche - and analyze key social metrics using the Talkwalker IQ App for Competitive Intelligence. All statistics are from between August 18 and September 16.

Tip 1: Don’t forget the fundamentals

There are a lot of different metrics out there that can help you understand your brand performance but it’s important not to forget the fundamentals:. In this case, overall buzz, total reach and engagement and buzz over time. Such social media metrics are limited in the deep insights they can give you, but in terms of understanding your general presence online and on social, it's an instant, easy to way to see where you stand.

porsche v ferrari overall

Total share of voice (top left), reach vs engagement (top right) and share of voice over time (bottom) for Ferrari and Porsche.

Looking at the above graph, we can instantly see that Ferrari is outperforming Porsche overall on each fundamental indicator. However, at the end of the time period measured, Porsche has made inroads against Ferrari’s dominance. Why? It appears to be linked to Porsche’s announcement of its all-electric supercar.

porshce themes

Theme cloud for Porsche on Sep 15 shows a focus on the launch of Porsche's new electric car.

In this case, Porsche’s new product and the campaign around it have made a tangible impact on its online brand presence and indicate that this direction may prove lucrative for the German supercar maker. From Ferrari’s perspective this may be an example of a competitor product that the Italian car maker should keep an eye on as it appears to have made a strong initial impression.

Tip 2: Understand what works on each channel

It’s no secret that the content that works on each media channel and social network is different and can be different for each brand as well. Using social media analytics we can see how this breaks down.

hashtags and fb topics

Top hashtags for Ferrari (top left) and Porsche (top right) and top Facebook topics for Ferrari (bottom left) and Porsche (bottom right).

From the above theme clouds, we can see that for Ferrari the types of car mentioned are broadly similar with the 488 Spider and Ferrari Enzo mentioned frequently on Facebook and Twitter. However, on Twitter there are more references to the link between Formula 1 and Ferrari.

For Porsche on the other hand the themes are quite different. On Facebook, the 911 is clearly the most discussed Porsche model whereas on Twitter the conversations is quite varied with various models discussed and the 918 Spyder coming out on top.

From the perspective of competitive intelligence, this view gives both brands an insight into exactly what topics are catching the attention of audiences on each channel. Using this information they can then adapt their strategy to incorporate aspects of their competitor's strategy that appear to be working and avoid topics that have made less impact.

Tip 3: Work out which kind of content works for you and them

With social media fast becoming the key channel for brands to expand brand awareness and engage brand fans, understanding which types of content are working for you and your competitors is key to building an effective social strategy.

facebook content type 2

Pictures were the top post type for Ferrari and Porsche but Porsche's posts received more engagement.

The above graph directly compares both the most used content type on the Facebook pages of Porsche and Ferrari and the types of post that have generated the most engagement. Using this view we can quickly see that a) Porsche is posting more than Ferrari b) Porsche’s picture posts are generating the most engagement and c) Ferrari’s video posts are more successful than Porsche’s.

Using this social data, Ferrari can now take a closer look at Porsche’s picture posts on Facebook to see what it's doing right and Porsche can look at Ferrari’s video posts to see if there is anything it can learn from them.

Tip 4: Is your best channel their best channel?

These days, brand mentions come from all directions so it’s important to know where it is that people are talking about you the most and to understand the conversation on each channel.

forums share ferrari porsche

Main channels of conversation for Ferrari (left) and Porsche (right) are slightly different.

The above breakdown shows that while Twitter and Instagram are by far the top channels for mentions of Ferrari and Porsche, on forums Porsche significantly outperforms Ferrari. As forums are often used for more specialised discussions among enthusiasts and experts this may suggest that Porsche’s online community in this area are more active.

From here, Ferrari can examine further to see the exact context in which Porsche is being mentioned in these forums and perhaps attempt to foster more discussion amongst its fans and followers.

Tip 5: Are you involved in the right social conversations?

Social media has given rise to large groups of enthusiasts with all kinds of interests who use things like hashtags and groups to share their interests. One example of this, is the hashtag #carporn which is used by car enthusiasts to share images of cars they love on social media.

Overall, the hashtag has been used over 130,000 times over the last 30 days and it is also used very consistently with the number of posts per day never dipping below 4000. By tracking this hashtag in combination with mentions, you can get an indication of social interest and appreciation of your brand from a particular group of knowledgeable enthusiasts who are likely to have some influence on social media.


The hashtag #carporn is consistently used more for images of Ferrari's than Porsche's.

Using the above graph, we can quickly see that Ferrari is consistently outperforming Porsche on this hashtag. What this suggests is that among car enthusiasts, Ferrari is, broadly speaking, a more desirable brand in terms of design.

Although this should be combined with more detailed market research, by using social listening in this way, brands can almost instantaneously get an idea of how their brand is perceived by a wide social public.

Social media has changed the game when it comes to getting information about your competitors. What used to take many hours and even days of sifting through reports and news clippings can now be monitored in real-time and analyzed instantly. Using the tips above brands from all industries can make sure they have the social media monitoring skills they need to stay one step ahead of the competition. And by using Talkwalker's tailor-made IQ App for Competitive Intelligence, brands can make sure this process is fast and painless.


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