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The 5 Minute Guide to Competitive Intelligence

Business competition can be cutthroat. How can social insights help you stay ahead of your rivals?

The 5 Minute Guide to Competitive Intelligence

As philosopher John Donne famously mused, “No man is an island.” And, no brand is either.

Brands must recognize their strengths and weaknesses in relation to the competition and the industry in which they operate. Analyzing the voice of the consumer is one of the best ways to do that.

Social media data offers an endless stream of details about how consumers feel about your branding, products, and campaigns as well as those of your competitors. With aggregated consumer insights from social listening, brands can develop a much clearer appreciation of the competitive forces that affect their business.

Millions of conversations create a constantly evolving focus group that adds real-time insight to the data provided by traditional methods of evaluating the competition. It’s a massive data set that can help marketers:

  • Learn how consumers feel about the strengths and weaknesses of competitive offerings
  • Measure and understand share of voice across different audience groups compared to competitors
  • See how audience affinities affect product choices
  • Monitor new entrants into the market
  • Keep track of competitive efforts to change branding and positioning

In this guide, we’ll give examples of ways to track your competition, from brand analysis, to comparing product conversation, to examining how the buyer journey is discussed online.

Brand analysis

A brand is more than product features. Brands touch people where emotion and product functionality meet. So, the brand is good place to start using social competitive intelligence, which can tell marketers how consumers feel about their brand and the brands of competitors.

Example: Auto brand conversation

In the U.S., the five top-selling car brands are Chevy, Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. And these brands are often talked about together on social media.

This makes sense. When consumers decide to buy a car, they usually consider several brands. Their conversations reveal a lot about their preferences and reservations.

Below, you’ll see how much each of those top five brands are discussed, as well as how they’re discussed together. By diving deeper into all these conversations, brands can benchmark their own performance on social (whether that be volume of conversation, sentiment, or other categorization) against that of the competition.

Source: Brandwatch/Crimson Hexagon
Source: Brandwatch/Crimson Hexagon

Keep your audience close and your competitors’ closer

While your audience is a suitable place to start with audience analysis, looking at a competitor’s audience and comparing it to yours can really help change the competitive balance.

By comparing audience affinities, a clear picture begins to form of the consumer who is attracted to one brand and not another. Add demographic data like age and gender and the picture sharpens.

Understanding similarities and key differences between your own brand’s audience and those of your competitors can help you differentiate and adapt messaging (whether to appeal directly to your own audience, or to capture the attention of your competition’s audiences).

Product analysis

Whether you’re looking at the how much your product is discussed against the competition, or how different features are being talked about, there are plenty of product-related insights that can be pulled out of social chatter and acted upon.

Example: Tech product conversations

For huge brands with multiple products, comparing one brand to another only takes you so far. A more effective analysis would focus on competing products from each brand. For example, here we can see how Amazon Echo and Google Home compare in terms of social conversation volume.

Going deeper we can see what caused one product to dominate the share of voice at a given time. Conversation about the Echo peaked around the 2017 holiday season (specifically Christmas) with people talking about giving or receiving the Echo as a gift.

The same kind of comparative analysis can be done with sentiment and topics. By keeping track of both positive and negative conversation around competitor products over time, brands can take advantage of perceived downfalls by highlighting their own superior features or solutions to disgruntled competitor customers.

Buying cycle analysis

With custom categories based on stages of the buying cycle, you can better interpret purchase signals and behavior against your competitors’. You’ll not only learn the volume of consumers interested in buying your products vs. a competitor’s but, even better, reveal what drives those purchase decisions. It’s not all about buyer conversation, either – customers talking about your products post-purchase can help track advocacy and potential pain points.

For example, in this analysis of the customer lifecycle for Apple TV and Roku, we see that Apple is winning in terms pre-purchase awareness, but Roku keeps customers talking about the product post-purchase.


Most business people will tell you that competition makes their business better. And that ignoring competition is the fast road to irrelevancy and failure.

“There are other players who were more talented, but there is no one who could out-prepare me.”
— Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning

It’s with this spirit that marketers should approach gathering and analyzing competitive intelligence. And digging into the huge data set of consumer conversations with social media analytics can play a vital role in developing an effective competitive intelligence strategy.

Crimson Hexagon has merged with Brandwatch. You’re in the right place!

From May 8th, all Crimson Hexagon products are now on the Brandwatch website. You’ll find them under ‘Products’ in the navigation. If you’re an existing customer and you want to know more, your account manager will be happy to help.