How to Spy on Your Competitors Using Twitter Search Operators

By Steph Von der Heyde | Content Marketing

Oct 16

By now, most businesses are aware of the fact that social media can be used for more than just social, but few realise just how deep it goes. Here  to give us some in-depth insight and expert tips is guest author, Jared Carrizales, a digital specialist and Twitter aficionado. Enjoy!

In case you didn’t know, Twitter is a treasure trove of opportunity when it comes to your business, and these opportunities extend far beyond just increasing brand awareness. Everything from links, press, new recruits, speaking opportunities, and even warm leads are plastered throughout the Twittersphere, ready for you to capitalise on if you just know how to look. I wrote about this not too long ago, but one thing that I left out was the fact that you can also use Twitter to get a look at what your competitors are up to.

Admit it: you know you’ve used social media to spy on your son/daughter/friend/ex and you know just how effective it can be. Now it’s time to use those sleuthing skills to benefit your business; this time with a few extra tricks that will help you delve much deeper.

All you’ll need to do is brainstorm some key phrases like the ones you see below, pair them your competitors handle or keyword, and let the spying begin.

Find out what moves your competitors are making:

Suggested Search phrases:

  • [“join us” marketing near: [location]
  • [competitor handle + “featured in”]
  • [competitor handle + “will be”]
  • [competitor handle + “we’ll be”]

This batch of searches is perfect for finding out what your competitors are going to do in advance (with the exception of the “featured in” phrase). Like most of us, they’ll be unwilling or incapable of not bragging about the oh-so-marvelous things they’re doing, right? So be it. Use these phrases in Twitter to keep up with some of these announcements.

For example, if you were working with a local brewery, you might spy on a competitor like Community Beer Co. with a search like this:

@CommunityBeerCo “will be”

And just like that I’ve found out that CommunityBeerCo is very involved with local events, and will even be unveiling a special beer that day.

Find out what events they’re getting involved in:

 

    • [competitor handle +  “having us”]

 

  • [competitor handle +  “had a great time”]

 

 

  • [competitor handle +  “be speaking”]

 

 

  • [competitor handle + “conference” -room]

 

 

  • [competitor handle + “a pleasure”]

 

 

  • [competitor handle +  “thanks for”]

 

 

  • [competitor handle +  “great time”]

 

 

Similar to the previous group of queries, these can be used for local spying. Even if their business is solely online, there’s still plenty of activities that they may be doing in the physical world. Perhaps you’re a lawyer in Sydney and you want to find out what your fellow attorneys are up to, you might use a search like this: “thanks for” legal near:Sydney

Find out what kind of jobs are they hiring for:

  • [competitor handle +  “hiring”]
  • [competitor handle +  “looking for a”]
  • [competitor handle +  “open position”]
  • [competitor handle +  “a position”]
  • [competitor handle + “join the team”]
  • [industry keyword + job near:City]

This is extremely handy. One of the best ways to know what direction your competitor is going is to know what type of people they are hiring. For example, digital marketing is always rapidly changing, so knowing what your competitors are willing to invest in gives perspective of how the market may be shifting. Are my competitors willing to fill a UX role instead of a technical SEO position? With queries like this, I can start to answer that question intelligently.

Let’s say I run a marketing or advertising agency in Melbourne – one search I might use would be: job “marketing” near:Melbourne

Keep abreast of their breaking news:

 

    • [competitor handle + “announcing”]

 

  • [competitor handle + “upcoming”]

 

 

  • [competitor handle + “our new” -post -links]

 

 

  • [competitor handle + “new addition” -post -links]

 

 

      These searches are the equivalent of having your competition give you the evening news…about themselves. Infrastructure changes, rebranding, even employee announcements are all things that can be found with these queries. Let’s look at an example from the payroll/HR industry: “announce” @zenpayroll  

Grab bag:

  • [competitor handle + “the feedback”] ← Good for SaaS
  • [competitor handle + “interested” “?”]
  • [competitor handle + “shoutout”]
  • [competitor handle + “the mention”]

These particular searches generally have fewer relevant results, but different industries have different queries that are popular, so make sure and test our several for your niche. If you have a tool, software, or product that isn’t limited by location, you can always take out competitors altogether and do a more generic search. Going this route, you might be able to sneak in and swoop some customers away from your competitors by sneaking in at a conversation at just the right time.

Case in point, using a feedback-oriented search, we see a perfect chance to get involved in a conversation if you’re in the telecom niche: “the feedback” phone

As you can see, there’s a wealth of information that can be gathered from Twitter in regards to your competitors. The possibilities are almost limitless, simply use your imagination and continue to add new queries to your selection.

Bonus:

For you power users out there, add multiple phrases or competitors handles in a single query by adding the operator “OR”. For example, to get news on several of your competitors, you might try something like this:

announcing “@competitorX” OR “@competitorY” OR “@competitorZ”

Have some suggestions on what kind of searches work for spying on competitors? Let me know in the comments!

Jared Carrizales leads the crew at Heroic Search, and search marketing agency in the Dallas area. They focus on SEO, content marketing, digital PR, and link building. In his off time, Jared enjoys playing tennis, volleyball, and a good brew.

Featured image courtesy of WillGrant on Flickr.com

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