Use social media for competitive intelligence

Here is another article about the dangers of social networking for companies.   The article’s recommendation is “be careful” and I think that’s insufficient.  Training, training, training, I believe is the key to a successful corporate approach to handling employees use of social networking.

The article starts out discussing a more interesting issue which is utilizing social networking for competitive intelligence.  They use LinkedIn as an example and warn about the dangers of allowing people access to your network.  The first point is that for a corporation, this could be like handing over a client list to a competitor.  The second point is that this list is great competitive intelligence as it could show an outsider who the key people are in a particular industry and how your company connects to them.

Point one:  There are good reasons to keep your network private based on who you are and what you do.  As an attorney, clients might not want other people to know about the relationship so that is a critical issue.  If you work for Microsoft, you may not want your bosses to know that you just accepted a Google HR recruiter to your network.  Or maybe you do.  But there are downsides to privacy.  Restricting access to your network deprives you some of the benefits of reaching out to others based on who you know. 

Point two:  LinkedIn is a great tool for competitive intelligence, learning about who knows who and how they know them.  This can be great information for a meeting.  You can ask with some confidence if the person you are meeting with knows someone else in their network that you know.

Twitter is also a great tool for competitive intelligence.  In face by utilizing the Twitter’s advance search, its possible to refine a search and get very real time information.  For example, I did a search on various law firms and found that an attorney at Wilson Sonsini tweeted about his being made partner before the firm had made the announcement public.  Typically, firms like to control these kinds of announcements carefully so this might be exploitable intelligence.  Who might have been overlooked?  What else might this person tweet about that could be revealing?

By the way, I will be speaking about competitive intelligence for law firms in San Francisco on Tuesday.

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