If hindsight is 20–20, then foresight is SWOT analysis. It investigates internal and external factors that could potentially benefit or negatively impact your business. Ultimately, when used to analyze social media, SWOT analysis represents another layer of strategizing your social data in pursuit of better returns on your invested time or money.
The acronym breaks down into four elements: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal to the company and can be controlled by it. On the other hand, opportunities and threats are external, and the company can only try to anticipate or react to them. So, while SWOT stands for four key words, what it really signifies is a total analysis of your company’s social media efforts across the board. Having this perspective of a business enables you to combat elements that could harm your brand image and potential sales. Maintaining the company’s image is of utmost importance to a social media manager. So, this type of analysis helps them to uncover areas where their company can improve then set specific enrichment goals.
While thinking critically about your business opportunities and threats, it is also important to analyze businesses in you brand neighborhood to find areas that your business sector has missed and should explore further. This portion of the SWOT analysis may even require you to conduct in-dept competitive research about what your competitors are up to or examine wider economic or business trends that could have an impact on your company. In this way social media managers are able to compare and see just where their company stands in their sector of the market.
Besides evaluating their brand’s external threats and opportunities, it’s also very important for social media managers to know their target audience. Developing a deep understanding of them is the basis for strategizing and positioning their brand to become what their target audience needs. Learning who they are, and their preferences and behaviors will greatly enhance the social media campaigns. Once they know these characteristics, strategists will know where their target audience will be spending their time on social and how best to engage with them while they do so.
A great example of the benefits of utilizing SWOT analysis occurred online recently when Wendy’s consistent social listening paid off. They could not ignore the outpour of responses following Chance the Rapper’s tweet requesting they put spicy chicken nuggets back on their menu. Without this technological aid, Wendy’s probably never would have known the impact this menu change had on their customers.
On the other hand, McDonald’s must have been keeping an eye on Wendy’s, their direct competitor, and decided to make a change to their menu to combat this sudden threat by introducing spicy chicken nuggets to their menu. Up until then, perhaps McDonald’s thought Wendy’s nuggets and dipping sauces were no match for theirs. Obviously, they decided to take this nugget sales threat seriously and being the overachievers that they are, Mickey D’s also added a new spicy sauce to their already excessive number of nugget sauce options.
McDonald’s perceived the threat that the demand for Wendy’s spicy nuggets presented and decided not only to react, but to supersede that threat. Their choice reveals that they discovered an opportunity to align themselves to be more than what the customer seemed to desire (a spicy chicken nugget) by extending their menu to include that item and offer an enhancement that their competitor does not offer (a spicy condiment).
While the public can only see the external battles between brands based on perceived threats and opportunities, there is also an internal assessment that takes place as well. The strengths evaluation during your SWOT analysis are the factors that give your company an advantage that others don’t currently have. These are the factors that social media specialists could use when promoting their brand.
Continuing with the Wendy’s versus McDonald’s example, while McDonald’s is probably currently evaluating how well their new nugget campaign has been received by the masses, Wendy’s should be considering which of their strengths or market advantages to promote next. Trumpeting the advantages their company has over the competition is a great way for social media strategists regain their target audiences’ consideration. The fact that Wendy’s is considered one of America’s fresh fast food chains is one major advantage they have over McDonald’s. Finding a way to emphasize this much as they did in their “Where’s the beef?” campaign would be a great way to respond to their competitor’s attempt to up the ante.
Overall, although this type of analysis does require quite a bit of research and brainstorming, it is definitely time well spent. Just think of it as a golden nugget of foresight that provides a proactive edge to your social media strategy.