It’s Twitter Tip Tuesday — every Tuesday we’ll focus on one Twitter Tip and show you how to integrate it into your social media strategy. This week we show you how to use Twitter Mentions for competitive intelligence.

With the exception of Direct Messages, Twitter is an open, public forum. While having conversations with customers and prospects is generally the goal of social media, it can provide some important information about your competitors as well. Here’s how a simple Twitter search for mentions of your competitor’s name can provide you valuable insights about how and who your competition is interacting with on Twitter.

Start With a Twitter Search

It’s easy to find out basic information about a competitor on Twitter. Start by looking up your competitor in the Twitter search field in the top right hand corner of your Twitter home page. Twitter shows you matches for “People” (or Twitter accounts), by default. When you’ve found the account you’re looking for, click on its icon or name in the search results. You’ll see a small selection of the most recent tweets from that account. To view all the tweets from that account, click the “View more Tweets” link.

You can find out a great deal about your competitors by regularly reading their tweets. You can determine what type of information is usually posted from those accounts, including links, product mentions and so on. But you can access even more relevant and real-time competitive intelligence by making a small change to your search results.

Instead of clicking on “People” in your initial search results, click the link entitled “Tweets.” Now, instead of seeing what your competitor is tweeting, you’ll see everyone who is tweeting about your competitor in their tweets. This could include everything from customers mentioning or reviewing your competitor’s products (either positively or negatively), to people directly conversing with the person behind the account.

The results can provide you valuable insights as to how you competitors are engaging with their customers and prospects on Twitter. For example, let’s say your competitor tweets a question about one of its products. By searching tweets mentioning your competitor’s name, you’ll be able to determine if, who, and how many people directly replied to that question. If there are lots of replies, you may be able to conclude that your competitor has very good engagement with its followers on Twitter.

Conversely, if nobody replies directly to your competitor, or if no one is mentioning your competitor at all, you may conclude that your competitor is not as influential on Twitter as you once thought. You can also discover some of your competitor’s best customers, prospects, and brand advocates simply by monitoring who’s regularly mentioning your competitor’s account name on Twitter.

Discovering how your competitors interact with people on Twitter, and more importantly, how people interact with your competitors is a powerful way to gain some real competitive advantage over your business rivals. Just beware that a savvy competitor is likely compiling the same competitive intelligence on you, too!