Deriving Competitive Intelligence from Social Media: Microblog Challenges and Opportunities

Deriving Competitive Intelligence from Social Media: Microblog Challenges and Opportunities

Elisa Arrigo (University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan, Italy)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJOM.2016040104
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Abstract

Marketing managers in many industries are seeking to provide their companies with new tools to detect market changes early and quickly enough to defend their competitive position. Social media has been recognized to be particularly relevant for both marketing strategies and competitive intelligence purposes since the information required to deal with competitive challenges has been recently relocated from published and proprietary sources to open social platforms. Among social media, microblog is one of the most convenient platforms since it is short, instantaneous, spontaneous and mobile and has become a great source of consumer opinions. Although there has been an increase in the number of companies developing a microblog presence, so far, very few academic research focused on microblog as a marketing intelligence tool. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is twofold: to provide a theoretical framework for microblog competitive intelligence, and to discuss its opportunities and limitations.
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1. Introduction

In global markets, firms face with an increasing competitive rivalry that often undermines the sustainability of their competitive advantage; consequently, they need to acquire a large amount of data and information to be aware of the competitive scenario. To obtain a deep market knowledge, competitive intelligence has been developed; it provides companies with ‘actionable intelligence’ that compares the company performance against that of their rivals and orientates the internal decision-making (Bose, 2008).

Competitive intelligence can be defined as the combination of outlining, gathering and analyzing intelligence about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives in making strategic decisions for an organization (Dey, Haque, Khurdiya, & Shroff, 2011). It goes beyond market research and enables firms to observe the external competitive environment by monitoring its development.

Social media can play a critical role in developing a market knowledge since the information required to deal with competitive challenges has been quickly relocated from published and proprietary sources to open social platforms (Harrysson, Metayer, & Sarrazin, 2012). Social media platforms have empowered customers to publish opinions and spread new content via social networks, blogs, content communities, etc. Moreover, user-generated content is argued to be particularly valuable in marketing strategies (Kaplan & Haeinlein, 2010; Lee, 2014) for both marketing communication and intelligence purposes (He, Whu, Yan, Akula, & Shen, 2015). In fact, by collecting data about customer desires and competing offers, firms can obtain a multifaceted vision of the market and a good understanding on current or potential issues inside (Arrigo, 2014).

Among the many social media, microblogs are one of the fastest-growing categories similar to blogs and utilized for posting brief updates, ideas or quick reflections (Ebner & Schiefner, 2008; Burkhalter & Wood, 2015). Their popularity has increased among several customers and has made them very attractive for companies in order to reach business objectives (Jansen, Zhang, Sobel, & Chowdury, 2009b; Yue & Xuecheng, 2010). By providing people with a channel to broadcast brief texts about what they are reading, thinking and experiencing in their lives, microblogs have an enormous potential for marketing strategies (Hsu & Liao, 2015; Zhao & Lu, 2012).

Although there has been an increase in the number of companies developing a microblog presence, a need is growing to efficiently employing and analyzing the user-generated content inside the online platform; so far very few academic research focused on microblog as a marketing intelligence tool. Therefore, the paper aims to analyze microblogs in a business context illustrating how microblog conversations can help firms to understand the evolution of market trends, as well as to monitor competitors’ strategies in order to provide a theoretical framework for microblog competitive intelligence and to discuss the benefits and limitations of this latter.

The rest of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 presents the theoretical background on competitive intelligence and microblog in the marketing literature; Section 3 proposes a theoretical framework for microblog competitive intelligence; Section 4 considers the limitations and portrays future research directions; and, finally, Section 5 draws the conclusion.

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