Raise your hand if you’ve tried to track your competitors, but you can’t find time to catch up.
It’s all too easy to get to that place.
But like Sun Tzu said in The Art of War (which I haven’t actually read), you need to know your enemy. That applies as much to business as it does to battle.
And the easier you make the project for yourself, the more likely you’ll be to follow through.
The easiest option? Building a dashboard to track the competition, all in one place.
With one monitoring dashboard, you can track all your competitors individually in one place, and bring in results from tons of sources. Your time spent on competitive analysis will go from “Googling with a side of insights” to “analysis with equal parts action.”
We’ve already decided it’s crucial to monitor your competitors online, but how do you get started? Here’s some advice for setting up your alerts and building your listening strategy.
Why you should track competitors
We talked about this a lot a few weeks ago (see that link in the last paragraph), so I’ll just give you a quick run down today.
If you’re wondering why you should go to the trouble in the first place, here are a few reasons:
- Use more sources of data for making smart, data-driven decisions – instead of only analyzing your own content, bring in your competitors’.
- You’re able to watch your competitors’ business strategies play out, and analyzing them helps you learn from others’ mistakes and avoid making them yourself.
- Constantly knowing the pulse of your industry and niche, and what your competitors are doing, makes it easier to come up with new ideas.
- Just like you can learn from their failures, tracking your competitors can also help you figure out their strategy and keys to success.
Uses for a competitor monitoring dashboard
Once again, we’ve talked about this before, so I won’t harp on it for long. But once you’ve read the rest of this post and built your competitor monitoring dashboard, here are a few things you can use it for:
Monitor their profiles to see their social media and engagement strategies. Look at what kind of content they’re creating, how it’s distributed, and who’s linking to it. Then see what they’re doing with influencer marketing.
Simmer Media Group, a marketing agency for the restaurant and hospitality industry, looks at what their clients’ competitors are doing when coming up with their own new strategies.
Track your competitors’ PR coverage and campaigns. See which bloggers they’re working with, and how. Build a relevant media list based on the journalists that write about them.
For example, Quality Logo Products noticed some competitors getting press coverage from winning an award for their niche. Since they knew they were just as outstanding in that category, the next year they were able to nominate themselves and get their own press!
See what consumers think of your competitors’ products and how they handle customer support. If you see an unhappy customer, it could even be a sales opportunity!
Ecommerce logistics company One World Direct has Mention alerts set up to monitor for unhappiness about their competitors. If the customer is talking about a weakness that’s one of their own company’s strengths, they’ll reply with how to solve the customer’s problem.
How to start tracking competitors
Using a monitoring tool to build a dashboard lets you save time and keep your research organized. You’re curating info from all your competitors, and all the places they’re talked about, in one place.
It also lets you use advanced filters and optimize your results, so you’re only receiving competitor mentions that will help move you towards whatever your goal for tracking them is.
Of course, that’s as long as you have your alerts set up well. So what’s the best way to go about it?
Today, we’ll talk about two methods to track competitors: one’s more beginner, and the other’s a little advanced.
Before we get started, know that every alert should have only one goal. One that’s more specific than “track competitors.”
What are you tracking them for?
An example might be tracking your competitors for product complaints.
What you’ll do here is create a bundled alert that can track up to 5 competitors.
This option’s great for a few different scenarios. If you’re just getting started with monitoring, something simple like this is easy to digest until you’re more familiar with the tools.
There might also be a few competitors that you want to keep an eye on, but don’t necessarily watch constantly. You could use the advanced method below for your main competitors, and this one for the extras to track less closely.
Here’s how it goes:
- During the alert creation process, enter the first competitor as the main keyword.
- Click on ‘Advanced Settings.’
- Add up to 4 other competitors as “or” keywords.
- Include an “and” keyword that narrows in on the topic you’re looking for conversations about.
- Select which sources you would like to look at.
So if I were looking for product complaints, I might set up an alert like this:
If you’re ready target your monitoring and get really in-depth with your alerts, you can get tons of insights.
This method, to create dedicated alerts for competitors, is best for direct competitors you want to track really closely. For more indirect competitors in your niche, the beginner method may really be all you need.
The process is pretty much the same, but can go further:
- Use a competitor name as your main keyword.
- Add “and” and “or” keywords to filter out noise that’s unhelpful to your goal.
- Exclude certain keywords that to block mentions that otherwise fit the criteria but still aren’t relevant.
- Select the sources you want to monitor.
With this method, I’d be able to create an alert that looked at my competitor’s name, along with several “and” keywords indicating a product problem. And by excluding the support section of their website, I get more customer complaints than knowledgebase/help articles.
I know I just gave you the ingredients to create a bunch of epicness, but here’s how to take it even further:
- Use the influencers dashboard to identify the VIP members of their community or any partners they may have.
- When you see something that would be helpful for another team or coworker to see, assign the mention to them.
- To filter out noise and irrelevant mentions even further, optimize your alerts beyond adding advanced keywords.
How to report your findings
Not only do monitoring tools make it easier to collect research on your competitors, their reporting options make it all easier to analyze. Much easier than if you were manually collecting info in a word document or spreadsheet!
If you used the beginner method for any of your alerts, all of your info will be within one alert report. To compare your competitors and determine which ones are being talked about the most, you can use the topics cloud in Mention’s analytics portal.
For more advanced competitive analysis, each alert (so, each competitor) will have it’s own analytics and reports.
For each company, you can generate full competitive analysis reports, with frequency trends, top sources and locations, most influential sources, and related topics.
And by viewing statistics for more than one alert at a time, you can compare different competitors against each other, as well as your own brand.
Then once you’re done taking a look at all the data for yourself, you can either export the mentions for the rest of your team to read, or generate PDFs of reports to give them a summary of your findings.
This setup will give you everything you need to start analyzing marketing strategies, building media lists, and generating leads based on what your competitors are (or aren’t doing).
Do you track your competitor’s online content? How do you use it?