Social media affords companies of all sizes the chance to do so many things they could never do before because of the cost or the magnitude of the task. From tracking competitors and industry trends to finding qualified employees and resolving customer service issues, social media makes it easier then ever to be informed and visible when prospects are exploring their options.

Yes, there are lots of possible uses for social media, but are small business owners taking advantage of them? According to our research, despite the potential to learn, explore and leap frog their competitors, most small firms seem to be standing on the edge of the pool, just barely putting their toe in the water.

Sure they use social media to build brand awareness and hopefully drive traffic to their web sites but they are missing out on so many other possibilities.  One of the biggest is using social media to learn about industry trends and track competitors.

Small Businesses Not Stalking their Competitors

Twenty five years ago, as a rookie marketing manager, I was assigned the task of researching my competitors. I spent a lot of time time reading back issues of industry journals and talking to experts from across the industry to build a profile of each of the big players.

Based on my research, which took several months, I was able to accurately predict much of their marketing strategy such as timing on product launches and large promotions.

Today, with the help of the internet and social media what took months could easily be accomplished in a few days. With all this great information available you would think small businesses would be glued to their computers trying to learn all they could about industry trends and competitive activity. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Over the last three years we have seen between 35 – 43% of the respondents in our annual survey of small business  tell us that this is part of their social media program.  (The small sample size of 200 annually will account for the variations.)

Are you in this group? Time to get out and learn something. It doesn’t have to be very time consuming. Here are a few simple things you can to to improve your competitive intelligence

  • At the very least you should be following your competitors on LinkedIn or Twitter. Pay attention to how often they update their status. Are they interacting with people, growing their community or just pumping out noise.
  • Look for companies which do a good job and connect with them. Sound crazy? It isn’t. In the world of social media, like war, there are strange bedfellows. Connecting on line may lead to some interesting collaborative opportunities off line.
  • Watch what they talk about. Are they using social media to launch products, manage customer service or hire people. Based on the interaction you can tell which strategies are working, and which are falling flat.
  • Learn from their mistakes.
  • Boost industry knowledge as well. Look for companies like yours in other markets. Follow what they are doing and reach out and connect. Since you don’t compete, these companies may be more willing to talk and share best practices
  • Following industry experts may give you insight into new trends, hot products and changing regulations which will effect your business.

2018 Study –

We are in data collection mode for the 2018 study.  The short 20 question survey will take just five minutes to complete.  When you are done we will share a copy of the 2016 study with you.

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