“Is Twitter a useful tool for channel communications?” I had some interesting responses on the LinkedIn IT Channel Alliance forum where I also posted the question. Offline, most people admitted to being a little paranoid about the competition gaining access to their secrets.I recently asked the question,
This concern is nothing new. Since the first printed word was used in a commercial sense, marketers have been trying to figure out how to communicate with their target market without the information leaking into the wrong hands. However, after reading this article in BtoB Magazine on social media and marketing intelligence, I’m not so sure the paranoia is justified.
Of the 314 marketers polled:
- 33% said they find valuable information through social media.
- 21% said they use social media but not for competitive intelligence.
- Another 21% said they didn’t use social media at all.
- The final 25% didn’t know what competitive intelligence was. (Tip: Asking the question, “Are you in marketing?” at the beginning of the survey can help you weed out unqualified respondents.)
So roughly a third of your competition is using social media for competitive intelligence. Of that third, one has to ask, how many just answered “yes” on the survey because they were embarrassed not to. And, how many have a regular program of gathering competitive intelligence this way? Probably not many.
Granted, sales people may be more likely to use social media for transactional competitive intelligence but so many sales people are still selling “the old-fashioned way” that I wouldn’t worry much about them yet either.
When it comes down to it, “competitive concerns” seems to be losing its luster as a legitimate excuse for staying out of the discussion. Your competition will gain access to your “news” through other means. Unless you plan to never release any new products or services, there’s just no way around the competition getting their hands on this information. The “leaks” aren’t likely to come from within your organization. They will come from your business partners, customers, or former employees. These leaks will happen whether or not you are on the social networks.
The same is true for complaints about your company. Users have been complaining about their vendors since the first electronic bulletin boards came into existence. (The first one I remember was the late-80s)
We all know the saying that for every complaint we hear there are ten complaints that we never hear. Social media has made it far easier for customers to spread negative comments, but it’s also made it much easier for marketers to be aware of these comments. Better to be involved in the discussion by having a staff of people who understand the medium and are trained to respond effectively, than to not be aware of the conversation about you. Ignorance is no longer bliss.