This continues my report from talks I attended at SCIP’s (Society of Competitive Intelligence Professional’s) annual conference in Chicago last week. Roger Phelps and Suki Fuller facilitated this open dialog.
Almost all attendees use LinkedIn, while not even half use Twitter. Social networks even less used are Xing, Plaxo, Spoke and Namyz. Some still use listservs within organizations like AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals), which alone is worth the annual dues IMO. Although it wasn’t listed, over 700 in competitive intelligence use our Ning group. I think people were confusing Xing and Ning. Xing is a Hamburg, Germany based social network group with over 7 million members while Ning is a social network that lets you create your own social network according to specific niches such as competitive intelligence.
One person boycotts all forms of social networking and differentiates himself by only using email, phone calls and meetings. Others use several social networks as a relationship builder towards email, phone calls or in-person meetings. I prefer to use SN as a relationship builder and use more personal communication with individuals I resonate with. Suki builds relationships to get introductions within a specific industry. The point is: be creative with your connections and cooperative to help others connect.
Spoke is mostly used for obtaining contact information, especially email since it’s an impersonal way to get some competitive data.
Linked In is used by CI pros in collection. It’s the fastest way to find niche experts. You can get names off Linked In and warm up your phone call by asking for a person by name, and know something about them beforehand. You can also use Linked In’s Advanced Searching to find former employees at companies you’re researching who are more likely to share information, although be aware it might be dated or they might be jaded if they were laid off.
Another great use of Linked In is to pose questions within specific groups, whether within a discipline like competitive intelligence, an industry like legal or former employees if you or a friend used to work there.
To be found, create a group to draw on, such as Competitive Intelligence Software within Competitive Intelligence. Answer questions in industry or discipline specific forums. Write e-zine articles which link to your blog and website. Track your industry, company name and key individuals and comment on other’s blogs or connect with them through LinkedIn or Twitter, for example. As with Google Alerts, you can set up Twitter Alerts through Twilert or through Twitter. You can have the results sent to your RSS feed or emailed. Actually you can “find” using many of these tactics too.
Another great source of intelligence in consumer marketing is epinions, which are consumer/loyalty panels, basically unpaid advertising. You can find out if your competitors are developing new products and perhaps why through this channel.
Issues around ethics were discussed since it’s easy to misrepresent yourself through social media. People might have several Twitter accounts, for example and don’t use their name or actual photo for some of them. The usual issues of: “Do I connect only with people I know or everyone who asks?” were brought up. In general I notice that consultants are more likely to connect with anyone, while corporate managers are more conservative and connect mostly with people they know, even if only slightly.
I was interested in learning how you can protect yourself within the social networking space. Apparently Beth Shankle, Chief Research Librarian at the National Press Club’s Library is a great resource and teaches courses on the various social media.
How do you use social media for competitive intelligence?