Gain A Competitive Edge With Your Social Listening Strategy: 5 Ideas

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competitive edge social listening strategy

If your brand or business wants to be a good listener, a good social listening strategy is imperative.

Social listening is the most powerful tool marketers can use to gain a competitive edge. The data from a well planned out social listening strategy can drive your entire business.

There are a myriad of ways you can use social listening to get a leg up on your competition. Today, we’ll cover five.

Creating A Powerful Social Listening Strategy

First of all, social listening isn’t just for marketing. We’ve helped clients use listening in several ways …

  • Product development
  • Customer insights & engagement
  • Competitor analysis
  • Crisis Management

Being a brand that “listens” is invaluable. Your social listening strategy should help you learn more about:

  • Your audiences, including would-be customers
  • Customers
  • The interests and desires of your audiences and customers

After you establish a clear plan, you’ll set up keywords that help you listen to those things. Check out this word cloud example that shows what a coffee shop may see with their keywords.


[Image: Sprout Social]

Next, LISTEN. Just listen.

Using the word cloud example above, you may notice that besides the obvious — “coffee” — mysproutcoffee is a highly-used word. This is a branded term. Do you “own” this? Do you have a hashtag of this term?

If not, it may be wise to start using one. Clearly, listening can show you ways to enhance your social listening strategy.

Five Ways To Gain A Competitive Edge With Your Social Listening Strategy

To be competitive, you’ll have to look at your competitors. Social listening is one of our favorite ways to conduct “competitor warfare”!

There are typically five ways we look at our competitors with social listening:

  1. What is their share of voice compared to ours?
  2. Comparing products and services.
  3. What themes are driving their conversations on social?
  4. Exploit your competitor’s pain points.
  5. Examine brand affinity for competitors.

When you dig through the above themes, you will start to carve out a path for gaining a competitive edge.

Let’s take a deep dive into each theme below.

Share Of Voice

What do we mean by share of voice (SOV)?

Our pals at Sprout Social define it like this …

Share of voice (SOV) is a measure of the market your brand owns compared to your competitors. It acts as a gauge for your brand visibility and how much you dominate the conversation in your industry. The more market share you have, the greater popularity and authority you likely have among users and prospective customers.”

You can use social listening to benchmark your SOV. When you start with a social listening strategy, you will get your SOV baseline. Then, as you continue to make improvements, you can analyze how your SOV measures up to your competitors.

To calculate your share of voice, divide one data point that represents your brand by the total in your market or industry. Then, multiply that number by 100 to obtain the percentage of market share for that specific data point.

FORMULA: Your brand data point / Total market data point x 100

Using the word cloud example above, we could take the word “coffee” and compare it to our top competitors.

Here’s another example of what that would look like using Sprout Social’s listening tool:


A social listening strategy with a focus on share of voice will allow you to discover how consumers feel about your competitors compared to your brand. In other words, it gives you a clear path to a competitive edge!

Comparing Products & Services

Do consumers choose you or a competitor as their go-to? Your social listening strategy can tell you this, too.

Continuing with the coffee example, imagine being able to use social listening to determine which of your competitors is your audience’s top choice for coffee. Using keywords and advanced Boolean searches, you can achieve this.

You can uncover things like:

  • Who dominates the coffee discussion
  • Why people love their product

Sentiment plays a big role here.


[Image: Sprout Social]

Analyzing sentiment allows you to filter your keywords by positive, neutral, or negative attitudes. Sentiment lends insight into how consumers feel about your brand.

Taking it a step further,  using sentiment analysis with your competitors can help you see where they lack (gaps) or where they excel (saturation). In turn, this can help you understand where your brand stands against the competition, as well as where to invest your social media dollars.

Thinking Conversation

Great listening leads to great conversations. Subsequently, social listening can help you see what’s driving your competitors’ conversations.

In order to increase your share of voice, you’ll have to know what makes the top SOV brands so successful. Using social listening, you will be able to see how their consumers engage with them.

When looking at competitor conversations, keep an eye on these metrics:

  • Most-used keywords with their brand, products or services
  • Content themes — which receive the most engagement?
  • Hashtags

Afterwards, use the competitor data to inform your own content strategy.

And, OF COURSE, you can’t adopt our “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” mindset without getting involved in the conversation! Be sure to join relevant conversations once you find them with your social listening strategy. Make your presence known by being helpful and having a personality.

Exploit Pain Points

The next step in your social listening strategy is to analyze your competitor’s keywords and content. Looking at your competitor’s content or keywords by topic or campaign, and filtering by negative mentions, you can find their weak spots.

Specifically we want to look at sentiment and how their content is performing. More specifically, we want to see what’s NOT going well.


[Image: Sprout Social]

A great experience can make or break a brand. So, with your social listening strategy, you should use the pain points of your competitors to uncover why their experiences went wrong. Use this data for improvement on your own campaigns, events, etc.

*Sprout Social has Competitive Analysis in Sprout Listening. This report provides comparative insights that makes it easier to compare and contrast your social performance with competitors across key metrics, including SOV, engagement and sentiment. If you do not use Sprout, ensure the tool you are using has these components! 

Examine Brand Affinity

Similarly, you will want to use social listening to look at what IS working well for your competitors. Where are they killing it? What imagery, copy, and keywords are working well for them? How can you emulate their success?

Looking at your own successful keywords is helpful, too. Deviating from the coffee example, say you’re a Mexican Restaurant. If you look at your keyword themes and see burritos are your most talked-about product (see example below), that’s the perfect place to start!


[Image: Sprout Social]

As marketers, we often feel we have to recreate the wheel to find success. With social listening, you don’t have to!

Other Social Listening Strategy Ideas

Giving yourself a competitive edge isn’t the only way to use a social listening strategy. We’ve used social listening to guide our organic and paid messaging. We’ve used it to monitor branded hashtags and campaign success.

Other ideas:

  • Identify relevant keywords and hashtags
  • Unearth product flaws
  • Inform creative decisions
  • Create customer personas

In short, there are infinite ways to use social listening for your business.


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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
Conversations That Connect
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