How Brands Use Social Listening Tools to Beat Competitors

Harvey Rañola |
 04/23/21 |
8 min read

How Brands Use Social Listening Tools to Beat Competitors

Brands that are not using social listening tools to inform their business intelligence are at a disadvantage compared to competitors that do. In the competitive world of business, every scrap of intel offers a tactical advantage since information works to displace risk.

In this post, we’ll explore how you can use social listening tools to beat your competitors, with a focus on:

  • Why social listening is a powerful competitive tool
  • How brands using social listening have a clear competitive advantage
  • 10 ways social listening is impactful to brands

Social listening is already an indispensable skillset for brands, but not everyone’s on board yet. Here are a few figures showing growth in the industry and why you need to get ahead of the curve.

  • The consumer data analytics market is on a trajectory to reach $10.2B by 2025.
  • Social listening tools will only grow in its capacity for brand insight. There were 3.6B social media users worldwide in 2020, and that number is expected to reach 41B by 2025.
  • And in a survey targeting 200 brands, only 51% used social listening to some degree – so the potential for competitive advantage is very real. The only question is which side of the equation you’ll be on!

With that, let’s look at how social listening tools can give you a clearer picture of your category and the competition within it.

Why Social Listening is a Powerful Competitive Tool

It’s possible to fly an airplane without instrumentation, but it significantly reduces a pilot’s ability to manage risk. Likewise, running a business in today’s market without social listening is similar to flying blind. It can be done, but it’s foolishly dangerous.

You have your hands full with product development, marketing and your day-to-day operations. Consumer attitudes and perceptions shift like sand with every tidal surge of trends that flows through the market. Keeping up with trends and their effect on the voice of the customer (VoC) is like trying to hit a moving target. When your brand is ready to make a move, you need to know where the conversation is taking place – and who is doing the talking. For example, if you were a quick serve brand wondering where consumers were talking about eating out, would Reddit top your list of locations? It should . . .


Social listening tools provide the instrumentation and subsequent intel to supply your decision-makers with as much information as possible. Relevant information. It wrings insight from the social arena, so you understand the how, what, when, where and why that compels consumers to act the way they do regarding your brand and its products or services.

The competitive implications are massive. If you or your competitor are using social listening for competitive intelligence and the other isn’t, then the advantage is clear. Make sure it’s your brand flying with the most advanced instrumentation turned on.

Brands with Social Listening Have a Clear Competitive Advantage

Social listening is about harvesting as much consumer and competitive intelligence as possible to help you make the best decisions. It provides a richer understanding of your category and your target audience, so you can outsmart the other guys.

Below, we’ll share ten areas that social listening tools can be enhance brands’ competitive intelligence efforts:

1. Brand Health & Perception

Social listening is crucial to your best understanding of your brand’s health. Establishing baseline metrics in critical areas such as sentiment and share of voice allows you to visualize your own performance and how you stack up against the competition. You can even run a brand health analysis on your closest competitors to track how they’ve moved in the public eye over time.

Actively monitoring your brand metrics gives you the ability to get proactive about brand health. Tracking your performance allows you to make adjustments to continually boost your numbers in ways that generate long-term loyalty. And growing your share of voice with well-informed initiatives and messaging ensures you widen the gap between you and the socially distant competition.

2. Campaign Strategy

Social listening can inform you every step of the way for your next campaign from start to finish. Identify your target audience’s needs and wants to develop your campaign, monitor reception during rollout, and track your mentions and potential impressions. When you’re done, you’ll have all the critical numbers you need to tweak subsequent campaigns to highlight what you got right and bolster areas that could use improvement.

Additionally, use historical social media data to track the performance of competitors’ campaigns to compare against your own. You can also use this intel in your next initiative’s development phase to avoid mistakes they may have made. It’s always better to learn from someone else’s errors whenever possible.

3. Product Innovation & Launch

The same conversations you uncover for your campaign strategy can be used to inform your product research, innovation and launch. Social listening tools reveal your existing and potential consumers’ unique wants and needs so that you can build out your product just right.

Social listening tools can also reveal the shortcomings in your competitors’ products, so you can address those too. Consumers love to get online and discuss the things they love about the products they buy, as well as those they hate. With all of that intel readily available, there’s no reason not to use it to perfect your product’s performance. Not only will it enable you to better hit the sweet spot with consumers, but you’ll also raise the bar on your competitors within your category.

4. Trend Analytics

Social listening is worth its weight in gold for trend analysis alone. Emerging trends come and go, and brands should not only be aware of them promptly, but they should also use them as a backdrop to inform every move their business makes.

Trends alert you to shifts in consumer attitudes, beliefs and perceptions so you can ensure that your brand decisions don’t run in the opposite direction. Keeping trends in mind for messaging purposes, product development and your brand’s overall approach helps ensure your strategies will be met with a warm reception. After all, outrunning an old trend or running counter to a new one is a quick way to hand off share of voice to a competitor who’s paying attention.

Additionally, social listening will keep you up to speed on trending conversations your competition generates within your industry. For example, here’s an analysis we ran on the Consumer Electronics Show filtered for top brand mentions in posts. You can do this for any industry. It ensures you’re up to date with how your competition is influencing the conversation. This will be valuable intel for brands to watch as trade shows begin to open back up this year.


5. Mergers & Acquisitions

Understanding global trends can help you discern which directions are feasible for mergers and acquisitions and which ones are losing steam. Social listening tells which direction consumers are leaning. That intel combined with your market research gives you the best footing when it comes to potential market shifts.

Social media is always ripe with chatter on potential M&A movements from rivals or adjacent categories that could impact your brand. Keeping an ear out for these conversations gives you the ability to adjust sooner rather than later. Additionally, social listening is an excellent addition to your market research when you’re shopping for M&A opportunities yourself.

6. Competitive Intelligence

Many years ago, competitive intelligence was limited to public financial disclosures, newspaper commentary, stock movement, ad space and popularity. Today, social listening takes you right to the heart of your competition’s VoC for a ringside seat into consumer opinion. Just as you examine your own brand metrics, you can do the same for the competition to answer targeted questions. And you can see how everyone stacks up in particular conversations too.


Say a competitor’s new product was well received by a target demographic that you struggle with. Social listening will give you the low down on what resonated for them. Additionally, social listening tools can provide you with insight into where their audience is talking online, what they love the most and what they don’t like. The sky’s the limit to the intel that social listening will provide on the competition. And it’s as easy as pointing your social media listening tools in the right direction.

7. Crisis Management 

When things go south, you need to know why so that you can get ahead of the situation – and potentially reframe the narrative. And with social media, a negative tweet or news article can send your brand mentions into the dumpster overnight. That’s the thing with social – the cause isn’t always apparent at first glance. Nevertheless, the longer it takes you to regain control of the narrative, the worse it can be for you.

That’s where having your baseline metrics in your back pocket, with alerts set up for when activity goes outside of predetermined parameters, is a game-changer. It’s all about safeguarding your brand health that you’ve worked so hard to build. Crises come in many shapes and sizes, and they’re wildly unpredictable. We often say that a crisis is not an if, but when scenario so, it pays to have your ears on at all times.

Time lost in a crisis is ground gained by the competition – which underlines the importance of speed to insight so you can get back to business.

8. Voice of the Customer

Customers are the lifeline of any brand, and if you’re missing the mark with them, they’ll move on to a brand that’s meeting their needs. And these wants and needs are changing all the time. Many brands have a handle on running their operations, but struggle with accuracy in their VoC intel.

Social listening is far and away your best bet for learning the ins and outs of your clientele. Everything else is supplemental. Brands are using social listening to dig deep into demographic and psychographic intel gained through social media analytics. This provides an accurate picture of the consumer that was all but impossible just a few years ago.

9. Influencer & KOL Marketing

Savvy brands understand the vital role that key opinion leaders play in shaping perceptions. Social listening makes it possible to monitor the conversations and their impact from niche KOLs to those that are household names. And when you’re exploring new spaces, it helps find them too. Suppose you need to know who’s generating the most conversation in the fashion industry right now. In that case, social listening will put you on the trail in moments.


Additionally, social listening makes influencer scouting a breeze. Find the ones that are really driving the conversation in your segment and get them on your team. Track their performance and adjust as the market demands it. New influencers hit the scene with regularity, so always be on the lookout for new talent. Together, a holistic perspective into KOL and influencer marketing that impacts your category is the recipe for keeping your brand fresh in the social sphere. You’ll not only be well informed, but with top influencer talent on board, you’ll keep the competition on their toes, making it harder to catch up.

10. Technology Scouting

The internet is abuzz with so much conversation regarding new tech and innovations that it can be overwhelming. Social listening allows you to pull the conversations in from any segment to get a handle on what’s new and where you should direct your attention.

Extensive use of filters and Boolean search operators can help you parse down the largest of conversations as you follow rabbit trails of interest. Detect what’s resonating with social media users with interest in the space, discover layers of nuance in ongoing innovation and drill into areas of potential, so you’re armed with accurate data to inform your decision-makers. Additionally, you’ll not only where these conversations are most voluminous, but you can also dig into the data to find who the people are that are most interested.

Are you confident in the competitive advantage that your current social listening capabilities are giving you? Reach out for a demo, and we’ll help you turbocharge your social listening performance to maximize your competitive edge.

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