For Whose Ears? Social Networks Give Competitive Advantage

business man listens at wall with his ear pressed to a glass Is being social with social media in the confines of a corporate structure a real possibility?

Interesting article on MarketingVox– Competitive Data Ripe for Picking on SocNets— reveals the numerous ways savvy companies can collect information about competitors based on the information freely posted on social networks. Everything from LinkedIn to Twitter is open real estate for collecting a competitor’s info– “competitive intelligence.”

The article is inspired, no doubt, by a recent study by Cisco that indicates, “Despite Increased Adoption of Social Networking Tools, the Absence of Policies, Process and IT Architecture Puts Organizations at Risk.”

The article quotes a few corporate strategists that advise business entities from small entrepreneurs to large corporations on the advantages to staying abreast of your peer’s social network behavior. It’s a perfectly legal strategy to siphon all the online news and banter you can about a business, company and competitor and to use it to your competitive advantage.

Because people have so much freedom to talk and share with abandon on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere, many fail to realize how often they might disclose potentially sensitive information in the course of casual online socializing. OR they might fail to anticipate just who’s eyes are watching.

Sources could track any and all mentions of a company in social media, keep tabs on newly hired personnel thanks to public profiles on Monster, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn and more; follow employees on Twitter unaware that their casual banter about work could at some point “out” a sensitive topic. Fact is there are smarties out there divining all manner of corporate flux and movement from the “casual” banter being dished online.

Monitor competitor’s social network mentions, their customer relationships and their employees’ social conversations and you could come up with a rich and intriguing “data” map. I can see how this might have benefit for a variety of applications and not just for large corporations.

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