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Keeping Your Enemies Closer: Using Social Media for Competitive Analysis

social media tips

If there’s any trend worth observing in this 21st century is how these contemporary times has made activities that would typically be described as frivolous into something considerably more substantial. You can for example turn your hobby of playing video games into an actual, bountiful living or you can simply upload photos and videos of you in social media into an actual career. That last part there is particularly important as the use of social media is still stigmatized as something silly even though they can be particularly useful as long as you know what to look for from social media platforms.

For one, as social media is where the majority of the younger generation spends a part of their time, platforms such as Twitter or Instagram make for an incredibly fertile ground for the purpose of marketing. Social media platforms allow you to do research on your target market and connect with them directly. However, what’s less known is that those very same platforms could be used for the purpose of competitive analysis where your company can scout your competition and see if there’s anything they’re doing that might be worth considering.

The importance of competitive analysis

No matter how specifically niche your business is, you’re bound to have some competition and your competition typically range from bigger, more established businesses to younger, more agile startups. The common sense is that as a business, you’re going to have to find an edge over these competitions to be successful as a business but when you’re going toe-to-toe with businesses with more brand recognition and resources, there might not be a lot you can do. Whatever the case, competitive analysis can be useful in helping you figure out the landscape for your industry.

In layman’s terms, competitive analysis is the practice of data gathering and analysis of other players in your industry and how they handle their businesses and how they deal with customers. Competitive analysis doesn’t fall under the umbrella of corporate espionage because you’re only dealing with data that are publicly available and this practice has long been a mainstay in responsible business practice. In today’s business world, competitive analysis can be incredibly useful because they might help your business survive even when you’re operating with a disadvantage by helping you finding your niche.

If you can’t be better than your competition, try being different instead. The goal of trying to find your niche is to try a segment of the market that’s still relatively untapped and figure out how to enter that market. Using competitive analysis, you can find out what segment your competitors are focusing on and the kind of audience they’re trying to attract and use that information to carve your own slice of the market. Social media platforms can be incredibly useful here as they provide you with all of this information in a single spot.

Establish who your competitors are

The first thing to do is to try and not to limit your scope simply on other businesses of similar sizes and price range. While you might not be directly competing with businesses that are operating in a different segment, market overlaps here and there is to be expected and checking these brands out will help you in finding other segments to fill. If you’re just starting out, it’s incredibly important for you to try and establish yourself outside your competitor’s shadow and that can be achieved by being unique.

Find out how they’re using social media

Some brands use social media simply as a marketing tool while others use them as sales channel and a customer service channel on top of their purpose as a marketing tool. You can also see which of your competitors are getting more engagement in a platform and how they interact with their customers. Follower and like counts aren’t the only metric you should pay attention to and you might want to try posing as customers and try to interact with your competitors on social media just to see how they handle things. For now, focus on gathering and categorizing these data first before trying to make sense of them.

Check out what influencer they’re keeping an eye on

I’m not talking about the Kardashians or the Hadids of the world; I’m talking about industry-specific influencer whose contents are of a specific niche. For example, I know of several accounts that are knee-deep in the world of denim that are fairly influential even when their follower count is negligible compared to some of the more popular influencers. If you’re trying to establish credibility within the experts of your industry, getting to know these industry-specific influencers are a must and this is just one of the many ways social media competitive analysis could help you.

Use all of the collected information to help your business

By now, you already have an idea on who your competitors are and if you’ve been doing your homework, you should already have an idea on the strengths and weaknesses of each account and how they position themselves within the market. With this information, you should be able to make a decision on whether you’re capable of directly competing with your competitors or if it would be too time-consuming and expensive to try intruding in their domain. If it’s the latter, you should try exploiting existing gaps in the market where none of your competitors excel in.

From all the data you’ve gathered on their social media accounts, you should also have an idea on which account is receiving more engagement from customers. It’s important to underline the social part in social media as ideally, you want there to be more activity in your social media feed. What kind of content they’re using, how they respond to queries on social media and the frequency of updates all have an effect on customer’s engagement and you want to use these information to figure out your own social media strategies.

The Plain Language Movement: The Importance of Simple Language in Content Marketing

content marketing tips

Please excuse my vanity for a moment but I like to think of myself as a somewhat respectable writer. I’m almost definitely never going to with either a Nobel Prize in Literature or a Pulitzer but when push comes to shove, I can confidently say that I could write better than the average Joe/Jane you find walking on the street. Even with all of my capability as a wordsmith however, I have the absolute confidence that I could never write as well as the kind of people that works in a corporate legal department. I have right now in my hand a by-the-numbers employee contract and I am amazed at how they could make something so simple sounds needlessly complicated.

If you’ve ever read an employee contract or any other similar form of legal documents such as the ubiquitous terms and conditions agreement, I have the absolute faith you know what I’m talking about here. Legal documents are some of the most obtuse writing the human race to the point that there’s an official government website in the United States of America dedicated to making government communique, especially legal documents, more digestible to the average public. This website is part of the larger plain language movement all over the world and it’s this philosophy that I believe is also relevant to content marketing services and other marketers.

Jargon-filled marketing

Have you ever read a press release or a company profile only to find that you have absolutely no idea what they’re trying to say? Join the club then, my friend because that is exactly how I feel about how most car companies handle their marketing in the past few years. I’m not exactly much of a petrolhead but I do like to follow what’s going on in the greater world of automotive and motorsport and as a result, I get to read a lot about what companies are saying about their new cars and all I can say is the words they’re using and how they use them is a lot which might sound like a good thing even though in reality, it’s kinda not.

Earlier this year, the American Automobile Association or the AAA did a study on the various driver assist systems available in the market and group them based on what they actually do. Based on their findings of 34 automakers in America, they found a total of 20 different variations for adaptive cruise control systems, a system that automatically adjust a vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe distance from vehicles ahead. The variations include “distance assist”, “high-speed dynamic radar cruise control”, Mercedes-Benz’s “distronic plus”, etc. A turd by any other name is still going to be a turd and having 20 different ways to describe what is essentially the same thing is just going to be confusing for customers.

The beauty in simplicity

There’s this webcomic that I infinitely love called Strange Planet created by Nathan Pyle that examines this issue in an absurdly humorous way. The gist of the comic is that there’s these humanoid beings not unlike ours that participates in the usual human behaviors but describing them in a strangely familiar way. One notable example is a parent tucking in their kid into bed but instead of saying “sweet dreams” like you would expect, the parent instead said “imagine pleasant nonsense”. On a purely technical level, these two phrases carry the exact same meaning but if the former is delivered in perfect English, the latter feels like having English translated into German which was then translated into French then into Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Spanish and back into English again.

I completely understand that as a writer, you’d like to showcase what makes you better than everybody else but the mark of an exceptional writer is not someone who sounds like they memorized the contents of every thesaurus known to man but someone who’s capable of conveying the complexities of life using simple languages. As a prime example, I would like to shine a spotlight on the winner of the 2017’s Nobel Prize for Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro. Among his contemporaries, Ishiguro is known for the simplicity of his prose. There are no obvious theatrics in the language that he uses and yet I’m comfortable in saying that at their best, Ishiguro’s work is an emotional tour de force.

The beauty in brevity

Another point I’d like to make is the beauty of brevity. I’m not saying here that you should make blog posts containing less than 1,000 words every single time but even when you’re doing an in-depth piece revolving around a subject, you want to be as brief and as straight to the point as possible. Purple prose, the act of using extravagantly flowery text characterized by an excessive use of metaphors, is a risky technique to employ in literature and they can be even more damaging in the world of content marketing as they’re wholly unnecessary. Try using less complex sentences and break them down to smaller, simpler sentences whenever possible.

That being said, don’t be afraid to use analogies

When used clumsily, analogies can add unnecessary burden to a text but for me personally, I find them to be an excellent tool when trying to explain a relatively complex subject or when I’m trying to prove a point. The whole philosophy of the plain language movement is to simplify obtuse text into something anyone can easily understand and what better way to do that than to use a common analogy as an illustration? Analogies can also be a useful tool for writers to try and inject some of their personality into the writing without having to add unnecessary complexity to the text.

Using conversational language in marketing

The final and most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to language in content marketing is to simply write how you talk. This is plain, simple common sense and yet I’ve lost count of how many supposed writers I know of that can’t even follow this one simple advice. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about the latest developments on Brexit or your thoughts on this year’s The Bachelor; all you have to do is make sure that your writing sounds equally natural. Try reading what you just wrote and if you feel awkward saying them aloud, that’s a surefire sign that your writing could use a little bit more time in the oven.

Communal Living: 4 Reasons Businesses Should Stay Away from Shared Hosting

web hosting tips

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the cheapest option is rarely, if ever, the best option. I would even go as far as saying that the cheapest option is unlikely to even pass the threshold of being merely good. For example, carbonated beverages and junk foods are typically one of the more economical options when it comes to a full meal and while I don’t deny that they can be fulfilling when you’re in a pinch, they’re not exactly what I would call nutritious. I do indulge in junk food from time to time, usually when I’m strapped for cash, but I make it a point to avoid them whenever possible.

You can apply this axiom to life in general and nine times out of then, it’s still going to hold up. I’m not exactly saying that the money you’re spending is always proportional to what you’re going to get but there’s definitely a correlation there and this can also be seen in the world of web development. When trying to determine which web hosting services you should pick for your business’ website, the term shared hosting is definitely going to pop up often. As the most economical option available for web hosting, you’re going to have to properly take shared hosting under consideration but as I’ve pointed out, there are also plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t.

Digital co-living with shared hosting

Those inside the industry tend to think of shared hosting as living in an apartment but that’s too generous of an assessment as in an apartment building, you at least have some personal space reserved for your use only, however limited. No, the more accurate description of shared hosting would be like living in a 4-bed room commonly seen in backpacker hostels. Sure, technically, your bed is your own but pretty much everything else is fair game so if one of your roommates decided to take up the annoying art of manspreading (apologies to men beforehand) and snoring within the vicinity then I’m sorry to say but you’re just going to have to deal with it.

In shared hosting, multiple websites are hosted in a single server and the resource of that server is divided among the websites hosted on that server. The server’s bandwidth, space, computing resource, the maintenance costs, etc are all shared among the tenants. Unlike in VPS (virtual private server) hosting however, where the server is at least digitally partitioned to ensure that each website is isolated from the others, there are no such divisions in a shared hosting plan. This lack of technological complexity is what makes shared hosting cheap but would also lead to several complications you might want to be aware of before committing to a shared hosting plan.

Lack of customization

The very first thing that’s going to come to mind with shared hosting plan is that you have very limited control over the actual server your website is hosted on. In a VPS hosting plan, even if you’re technically sharing server space with other websites/customers, you have complete free rein over the space you’ve been allocated. You’re free to choose your own operating system among other customization options for example, which can be quite useful if you consider yourself to be the more technological-minded. In a shared hosting plan, you’re merely allowed to use the resource provided by the server in lieu of the server itself and that can be quite limiting.

Lack of security

The biggest and most primary concern of course is the lack of security. If your apartment building is the site of a break in, chances are only one of the tenants has to suffer from the fallout but if a 4-bed dorm room gets broken into, every tenant staying in that room suffers equally. In a shared hosting plan, if just one website gets infected by a malware or is the victim of a data breach, there’s a high probability that every website hosted on that server is going to have to suffer from the consequences. In essence, a chain is quite literally only as strong as its weakest link.

It would invariably be inconvenient if you’ve worked hard to make sure your website is as secure as possible only for your lousy neighbor to ruin it with their lack of an SSL certificate. Also keep in mind that since the physical server is still mostly controlled and maintained by the web host, you’re going to be extremely reliant on them to keep your website safe and that’s not a good thing as businesses have to be as self-sufficient as possible. Given how ubiquitous ransomware, malware and data breaches are these days, shared hosting plan’s lack of security is pretty much a dealbreaker.

Lack of compartmentalization

Other than ransomware, malware and data breaches, one other threat modern websites have to watch out for is a denial of service (DoS) attack. Essentially, a DoS attack is a situation in which a website is excessively flooded with superfluous requests in order to overload the system and prevent genuine user requests from being fulfilled. DoS attacks can be quite simple to execute and is capable of taking even the biggest of websites with even Wikipedia playing the victim once. In a shared hosting plan, since you’re sharing a common space with other websites, a DoS attack to even one website would be capable of bringing the entire service down.

Lack of customer support

I’ve been on the other side so trust me when I say that while you’re guaranteed some measure of customer support for your website, you’re just going to be treated as another number compared to if you’re on a VPS or dedicated hosting plan. Because the number of customers on a shared hosting plan is considerably higher than other plans, it’s quite likely that you’re going to have to open a support ticket first and be greeted with generic questions and responses even if your problem is actually pretty unique. Depending on your luck, you might have to wait for several days before getting a respond which can get pretty annoying if your website was rendered suddenly and completely inaccessible.