With social media, the focus for most companies is on the customer: building relationships, fielding support requests, or identifying sales prospects. But there is a major element to the social world that could pose a problem to businesses if left unattended. That’s competitive intelligence.
A savvy company can do just a little research into your profiles and put together a thorough idea of who you follow, what your online voice is, and even what your broader social strategy may be. This easy availability of strategic information is an inherent risk of any public forum. However, there are steps you can take to protect your company from being an open book to your rivals. Here are some effective tips for watching your back on Twitter.
Guard Your Lists
There’s no way to keep your connections, both the accounts you follow and that follow you, private on Twitter. The network has always favored a high level of transparency, and a competitor will be able to see all of your relationships.
However, careful use of Twitter’s available tools can help you protect the nature of those different bonds. The network allows its members to categorize the accounts they follow in lists. While this can be invaluable for tracking your potential customers, existing clients, and ongoing partners, you don’t necessarily want to make those lists visible to the Twitter public.
Lists can be made private, but the default when you are creating a new collection of profiles is to be public. You can double-check the privacy settings by clicking on ‘Lists’ from the menu options on your company’s profile page. This will show all of your lists. If a gray padlock symbol appears next to the name and creator of the list, then it is private. If there’s no symbol, anybody can take a look.
Of course, you don’t need to lock down all your lists. Some lists may be a good fit for public viewing, such as a collection of all the company employees’ profiles and tweets.
Police Your Profiles
Most information that you share in your brand’s bio can lead to information that your competitors may be interested in and use to their advantage. Think carefully about the copy that you include in your profile. Is it different from other material on your website or other social profiles? Is there anything that a rival could glean that you don’t want them to know?
A thorough sleuth will also look at the profiles of your employees as well as at your company’s main account. Your employees should be maintaining a professional front on social media.
Decide if your company needs to adopt any policies about how your team members present themselves on social media. Are they highly visible and public faces of your brand? Do they mention your company in their bios or in their tweets? Consider how strict or lenient you want to be with your team members and determine with your brand’s leadership what an appropriate policy will be.
Anyone who will be publishing tweets for your company should be thoroughly trained before receiving access to the account. Your social media team should collaborate with your legal team and your executive team to set standards for what your tweeting employees can and can’t discuss. The content of your company tweets will be easy for your rivals to analyze, so plan to walk the line between providing information that your followers will want and protecting your business.
Clearly, confidential company information should not appear on your feed. But your team should also understand what elements of day-to-day business, client relationships, and finances would be inappropriate to share on Twitter. What counts as confidential will vary by industry and by the services or products you provide.
And as discussed above, some guidelines may also apply to the personal accounts of your employees. Be sure to outline all of the rules and the consequences for your entire team so that there can be no misunderstandings, and hopefully no mistakes.
Remember, two can play at this game. One of the best strategies for countering competitive intelligence is to go on the offensive. Check out what your main rivals are doing. Have they adopted a tone, strategy, or approach that’s similar to yours? Or have they gone in a vastly different direction?
You certainly don’t need to take the same approach to Twitter as your competitors do, but taking some time to observe what they are doing in the social world can be helpful. That information will be great to have in your back pocket, should you ever plan on going head-to-head with your competition.
How do you protect your company against competitive intelligence on Twitter? Let us know in the comments!