How To Use Social Media To Spy On Your Competition
When you think of corporate espionage, what comes to mind? Is it spies and thrilling late-night break-ins? Or perhaps you think of some geeky yet heroic hacker (usually played by some hot actor or actress with a pair of glasses slapped on them) who figures out a major corporation’s passwords in the nick of time? Or do you tend to drift more into James Bond territory?
Well, how about the image of some dude from your company, checking out your business rival’s Facebook page? Kind of removes a lot of the glamor from the situation, doesn’t it?
And yet, you can use social media as a means of spying on your competition. With anyone who wants to increase their visibility turning to the Internet for more exposure, there comes a certain amount of vulnerability that can be exploited. Put away your laser-pen and wristwatch garrote, and check out these tactics!
Web Scraping Software
There’s software out there that harvests personal details from Internet users. By taking unstructured data and images and turning them into a structured form, someone looking for information can glean useful details about the target. Using that software on the personal profiles of your rivals’ employees may get you details about upcoming product roll-outs, new promotions, even possibly dissension in the ranks.
Naturally, there is risk here, since using web scraping software may violate the Terms of Service of some sites.
Get An In With LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a great site for making all kinds of professional business connections. As a result, it’s also a good way to glean basic information about other companies, and thus it’s a great place to start off. Once you get that basic information, you can do searches for blogs, as well as profiles on sites like Facebook.
Yeah, something like this…
Facebook – Loose Lips Sink Ships
What is it about social media that makes people run off at the mouth? Is it that they aren’t looking at their audience and therefore not realizing that by posting information on their Facebook pages or making constant tweets, they are in effect standing in front of a large crowd and singing like a canary?
You can turn this into an advantage by conducting searches on social media pages, looking for employees of your competitors, and visiting their pages. Now, granted, many of them will have privacy filters and circles in place, but not all of them. And all you need is one well-informed person who is sloppy with security and tends to go into WTMI (Way Too Much Information), and you’re set. Just like that, you have details on what your rivals are doing.
Just Visit Their Page, Already!
If your competitor’s company has a page on Facebook, for instance, then just go to their page and get their information! When most people put together a page for their company, they’re thinking more about who they want to reach as opposed to who else may be looking at the information. If the page includes a way to follow them and get updates, then by all means, sign up, click away, whatever! You’ll be treated to alerts and status changes without you having to go looking for them.
That’s The Way I “LIKE” It
Let’s assume that both you and your biggest competitor each have a page on Facebook. You want to reach out to the same customers that your competitor has, perhaps even lure them away with a better deal. If you click on the thumbnail on a page’s Likes, you are treated to awesome information about your rival’s followers.
This is enough to get the corporate espionage ball rolling. But be warned that if you are caught, the agency will disavow any knowledge of you.
Byline: John Terra has been a freelance writer since 1985. When he’s spying, he prefers his Diet Coke shaken, not stirred, which usually results in a big mess. John writes about everything from SEO tips to reputation safeguarding sites like Reputation.com.
Photo Credit: x-ray delta one