“The more you know about your competitors, the more chances you have to beat them!”

The social media on the spot is all about keeping in touch with friends, building relationships with new friends, having conversations . . . but there is a deeper side to social media, using it to snoop on your competitors, pursuing their customers and identifying their weaknesses ready to exploit them – the darker side of social media is when it’s used for competitive intelligence. There’s nothing illegal, the information which is readily available on the various social media is open to everyone.

Recent studies found that companies are slowly but steadily increasing their use of social media technologies and social business practices.

In many cases the act of using tools like Google and Linkedin have opened up a Pandora’s box of social data that very few of us understand. The reality of the social media adoption trend is that relationship information has shifted.

Ten years ago it was pretty difficult for an outsider to know who was in a industries, in a community, in a certain practice and it took a huge effort to discover, map and report.

Nowadays Knowledge and Intelligence Workers can sit down at a keyboard with some more or less advanced search engine and collect a huge amount of info re. company, community, or marketplace in a fraction of the time it would have taken ten years ago.

The data begins to reveal things that even if you spend millions of dollars in traditional marketing research on your competitors probably you can’t catch it.  Using intelligence and social media, this type of research is going on 24/7!

Who are my competitors? Who are my competitors’ clients? Who are my competitors vendors? What targets are my competitors focusing on? What trends are my competitors following? Who used to work for my competitor? What can my competitors discover about me?

With all this data you can move tactically from clusters of information to more strategic perspectives of your business. It is crucial to have some models and tools to help define the research. If you focus of what your key business drivers is you can quickly study endless amounts of data.

All of the data is available here and now. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and others all provide different sets of information. The most common activity is checking the social network and blog environment for what others in the industry were ready to and watching for new ideas on social networks and blogs. These kinds of relationships are what social networking is all about; connecting people through bonds of shared interest, relation or idea.

Advances in big data and analytics mean that the ability to correlate different data bits from many different sources can produce an ultimate source in competitive intelligence. In many ways the competitive intelligence opportunities and threats anticipated in social technology are part of the new CPM “monitor”.  If you are involved in a competitive research, it is important to remember that social media is not a cool part of a funky business approach.  Rather it is an important and valuable additional source for a new and effective Business Intelligence.