As B2B companies reach new levels of maturity in their social media marketing, the savvy ones recognize the golden opportunity available to them by studying what their key competitors achieve through social competitive intelligence.

While most companies focus on building out their own social channels, listening to their buyers, engaging with their buyers and influencers, a few B2B companies realize the unique opportunity afforded them by studying what their competitors are doing.

The multitude of listening and measurement tools available can be, and should be, applied to monitoring the conversation, following growth and engagement, and watching what your closest competitors are doing. By comparing what they are doing to best practices (and to what you are doing), you can create an unfair advantage.

Learn from What’s Working

The first advantage you create is that, by paying attention to the competitive landscape and studying your competitors’ tactics, you can discover what’s working for them, and learn from that. That way, you can capitalize not only on what’s working for you, but also on what’s working for them. In other words, you leverage your competitors’ efforts. For example, you should pay attention to what kind of photos and videos they post, the cadence of their posting, the time of day of their posting, and what content themes they choose to post. Then, study their resulting engagement with the public.

We recently watched the social media efforts of one competitor who consistently posted a daily question on Facebook to engage customers. When the competitor changed from posting text-only status updates to questions embedded within an image, we saw them experience an increase in engagement of 30 percent.

In other words, you can take your competitors’ experimentation efforts on their social channels and leverage what you learn from that to improve your own interactive marketing solutions. Not only can you learn as much as the competitor does, but you don’t have to experiment. You just do what works best.

Learn from What’s Not Working

On the flip side, you can also learn from what isn’t working. We watched a competitor launch a new branding campaign for a product line. This competitor was particularly proud of their new branding, and had a great deal to say about it on their social channels. The problem was that their audience was more interested in getting support issues resolved than they were in learning more about the new branding.

What didn’t work was that the competitor and their audience were speaking two different languages. They were not communicating. There was a disconnect in the competitor’s approach. Buyers were not hearing the competitor’s message about their new branding because they had other concerns. This was a missed opportunity for the brand, and a great reminder to focus on your audience’s concerns.

But even more important than a missed opportunity was the fact that customer complaints were not being addressed, and customers were frustrated at not being heard. And they made their frustrations known online.

So how do you put this into practice? Imagine you study a competitor’s interactive marketing efforts on social channels, and it turns out they receive great engagement numbers. What you find curious about it, however, is that the engagement results from content that is very entertaining, but which is not relevant. Closer examination reveals that your competitor is so focused on increasing engagement that they don’t seem to care whether or not they are engaging with the right audience – and their audience profile doesn’t match the profile of their buyer.

Since you are focused on the same buyers, this is an opportunity for you to talk to the buyers about issues that are important to them, as opposed to focusing on just increasing your engagement levels, regardless of the audience. That competitor’s mistake enables you to communicate more effectively with the same target buyers – at a time when that competitor is talking to the wrong people. Capitalizing on that can give you a larger share of voice.

Create Social Media KPIs

Once you start focusing on your competition and the competitive landscape, your key performance indicators should not only compare your current performance to a prior timeframe, but should also compare it to your competitor’s.

In fact, you should use social media KPIs to measure the difference between you and your competitors, such as share of voice, share of engagement and even share of discussion. These are metrics you can create with a robust social competitive intelligence program.

With these new KPIs you will have information that will inform your social strategy, and will enable you to create an unfair advantage and beat your competition.

This post was co-authored by Robert McHardy. He is a Senior Social Strategist at Crimson Marketing. He is an expert in social strategy, marketing and analytics.

Photo: Flickr

This post was originally featured on Social Media B2B