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7 Sneaky Ways to Use Twitter to Spy on Your Competition

Following your competition on Twitter?

These days, it’s easier than ever. And with Twitter topping over 325 million active monthly users, it’s a huge opportunity for your market research.

No matter what industry you’re in, you probably have a competitor on Twitter. And by tracking their strategy on the platform, you can glean valuable insights for your social media marketing strategy.

With so much data on Twitter being public, you can easily use that data to learn about your competitor’s followers and strategies.

In this post, we will look at seven ways you can use this data to look behind the scenes of what your competitors are doing.

As a quick note before we get started, I recommend using a Twitter management client like HootSuite. You can do a lot with its free account, and I’ll reference it a few times in this post.

If HootSuite isn’t for you, there are also Tweetdeck and other applications.

1. Follow your competition on Twitter

One of the best ways to get to know what is working for a competitor is to watch what they do.

You don’t even have to directly follow them.

Just create a private Twitter list (only visible to you) and add your competitor to that list. If the competitor has more than one primary Twitter account, or all of their employees are on Twitter, include them as well. This way, you will have a stream of incoming information telling you exactly how they handle their Twitter strategy.

You can create a private Twitter list on Twitter by selecting “New List” on your homepage sidebar, or create it directly in HootSuite by adding a new stream, selecting your Twitter account, and Create a New List. Then add all of the relevant Twitter accounts.

Within just a few minutes, you’ll start to see the type of content your list is sharing.

2. Monitor their replies

Why watch just one side of the conversation?

Setting up a search for your competitor’s username will give you a look at the conversations your competitor is having with fans.

This way, you can see what their fans (or enemies) like or dislike about them, as well as questions they have.

You can create a search in Twitter by simply searching for the @username of your competitor and using the “Save this Search” option, or creating it as a new stream in HootSuite.

For example, here are conversations with Wendy’s.

You can click on any tweet to see how they’re interacting with fans.

Now, imagine if, while analyzing your competitor, you find that they are not answering their customers’ questions, but you can.

Or you are seeing specific complaints about your competitors about a particular product or service, and you can offer them something better.

For example, when I was having hosting issues, a few of my followers @replied me to tell me about hosting services they used that didn’t have the same kind of problems.

When three different people told me about the same host, I went and checked out their company. Word of mouth is powerful.

Please note, however, that you have to have a good strategy in place to let those people know about your site. I might have been less likely to check out another company if the business had messaged me instead of my followers.

The lesson?

Replying to someone with a blatant sales pitch might get you labeled a spammer. But simply offering a helpful suggestion about how to choose the right product, and then leaving it up to them to make the decision is a lot more likely to pay off.

3. Analyze their followers

Have you ever wanted to get some insight into your competitor’s client list?

Well, now you can.

Services like Tweepi allow you to bring up their follower list and sort it by the number of updates their followers have, their following count, and other metrics.

You can essentially find out who some of their most active and influential fans are.

Use this information wisely, though. Don’t just start spamming your competitor’s followers with tweets, hoping to grab their attention.

Use the above tool to find out who the influential people in your niche are, and then work to build a genuine relationship with them.

4. Keep tabs on what they post

Want to start tracking every move a competitor makes on social media?

Well, there’s an app for that. Specifically, there’s an app with lots of capabilities, and downloading every tweet into a Google Sheet is one of those capabilities.

It’s called If This Then That, or IFTTT for short. They have dozens of applets for Twitter.

But the one we’re talking about you can use to save a competitor’s tweets to a spreadsheet.

To start, just click the giant “Turn On” button.

Then choose the parameters IFTTT will use to find which tweets to record. In this example, we’ll save the tweets from retailer Target.

Now, enter the name of your spreadsheet and optionally the drive location.

Hit save and you’re all set!

You can now see all their tweets, track strategies, and improve your marketing campaign from the knowledge you gain.

5. See what they do on other social networks

Many people connect their Twitter account to other social networks like YouTube, Facebook, and others, so many of their status updates from those networks will trickle through their Twitter stream.

These will be good opportunities to find out what other networks your competitor uses and how they use them so you can include them in your own strategy.

6. Keep up with their external content

Blogging and other forms of content marketing are great strategies for generating traffic and building relationships with your customers.

It gives new visitors a reason to visit your site and current customers reasons to keep returning for more.

If your competitor is getting a lot of attention based on their blog posts and articles (something you will likely see if they get a lot of article retweets in their @replies), then this is a strategy you will want to start using as well.

Use Ubersuggest to find the type of content that is performing best for your competitors.

The first thing I want you to do is to enter your competitor’s URL and click the “Search” button.

From there, click “Top Pages” in the left sidebar. This provides a list of the top traffic pages for your competitor.

In addition to the SEO Title and URL, which you can use to more closely examine the page, the results also display:

  • The number of estimated visits to the page each month
  • The number of backlinks to the page
  • The number of social shares on Facebook and Pinterest

Now that you know what type of content is performing best for your competitor, you can create 10x content with the goals of beating them to the top of the search engines and engaging your audience on Twitter.

7. See whose content they share

Want to learn more about who your competitor is talking about and sharing?

Enter BuzzSumo. It’s a tool most people only use for finding highly-shared content, but you can use it to reverse-engineer those shares as well.

To start, go to the influencers tab.

Now, enter the name of the influencer you’d like to research on Twitter. In our example, we’ll follow Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb.

Once BuzzSumo finds the profile, just click the “View Links Shared” button.

You’ll be presented with a graph of the sources that Twitter account tweets out the most, a ranking by engagement and even with suggested topics.

If you want to keep track of who your competitors are talking about, this strategy is gold.


If you’re looking for better marketing methods, your competitors are one of the best places to look. With a few hidden techniques, you can understand their strategies.

With that knowledge, you can work to build your own Twitter following and brand to rival the biggest names in the industry.

What strategy will you use to find your competitors’ best practices?

About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing, including social networking strategies and blogging tips.

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