Facebook is a valuable resource for gaining insight about your competitors and market space. Though Facebook recently disabled its popular Facebook Lexicon analytic tool (in order to better optimize the tool for future use), there are still a multitude of opportunities to uncover competitive intelligence data. Here are a few of our favorite tips for competitor analysis using Facebook.

1. Join Facebook groups sponsored by competitors.

Not only will you gain access to official marketing swot reports communications from your competitor, but you will also be able to view the other members or “fans” of the company. Take time to see how these fans are interacting with the group and its official messaging. Are they commenting on the posts made by the company? Are they mostly silent? Frequent commentators are the ones to watch as they are likely influencing your competitors through the feedback and commentary they are posting. It is best to keep a low profile when joining these groups because group moderators do have the ability to remove and block you from the group if they choose.

2. Search for unofficial groups to listen for complaints about competitors.

Complaints and negative news may appear in independent Facebook groups for product users, disgruntled customers, former employees, or general industry-related groups. Finding these complaints will help you uncover your competitor’s repeated product or customer support issues, especially if you expand this listening tactic to other social media platforms like Twitter. Another benefit to this strategy is that you will eventually hear feedback about your own products, allowing your company to respond quickly and appropriately.

3. View discussion board topics to find opinions and unofficial news related to your industry.

What are the hot issues? Pay attention to the hot topics for the most information because discussion board participants often provide information about companies or products that is not included in the company’s public communications. They are also a great source for uncovering industry rumors before they become official news. You may find employees talking about product development specifics or hear from product users with honest, unfiltered opinions about your competitor. You can also gain insight on how customers are responding to ads or marketing campaigns. Armed with this information, your company will be better prepared to focus your own messaging.

4. Find current and former employees of your competitors.

Use the names and contact information available to find and track the same individuals on other social media networks where you will see more conversational activity, like Twitter and LinkedIn. Track employees at all levels of the organization since useful information is doesn’t always come from the top. Follow your competitor’s tweets and conversations to piece together small gems of information and provide greater insight into your competitors’ strategy and operations.