Using Word Clouds To Improve Competitive Analysis
There was a time – in the not too distant past – when the chief challenge among organizations was dealing with the dearth of relevant information about the competitive environment. Today, that challenge has largely abated, but it has been replaced with, what some would say, is an even greater challenge – managing the tremendous influx of information that inundates our inboxes, RSS feeds, and news alerts that results from our monitoring activities.
Thankfully the web is full of cheap – often free – utilities that can help intelligence professionals sift through the quagmire of noise to help them better understand the treasure trove of information that is readily available to them on a daily basis. One such product we’ve discovered, http://www.wordle.net — a free service — allows users to create on-the-fly word-clouds that can help analysts understand the thrust of a document by visually arraying the words or phrases that are used most commonly within it. All a user needs to do is to copy and paste relevant text into the text box on Wordle’s main page and within a few seconds an easy to read and interpret graphic appears. In fact, it only takes the site a few moments to parse through documents that can be dozens of pages long.
Using word-clouds in this fashion can make it incredibly easy to identify topics or issues that are most salient to the competition, an industry, or even an individual. In addition, it can allow intelligence professionals to glean insights into the mindset of the competition that would have been nearly impossible only a few years ago.
Here are some other tips on using word clouds to better understand the competition:
- Use Wordle on your competitor’s twitter feed by copying and pasting its text – this practice can often identify consumer facing themes and perspectives that can get lost in the sea of social networking, giving ci professionals a clearer window into exactly how a competitor firm speaks to its customers.
- Word clouds can help generate hypotheses about competitor intent, and help guide research planning to help analysts confirm or refute those hypotheses.
- Word clouds can also be used to identify relevant search terms for ongoing intelligence monitoring and early warning indicator development – just use a site like Wordle to parse through a market or industry research document.
One flaw of the Wordle platform is that it only lets users input text manually. In other words, there is no automation involved which makes tracking trends particularly difficult. Because of this, Wordle is best suited to one-off projects or those that only need periodic updating. There are however, paid products that will allow firms to automate Wordle-like functionality as well as track trends over time.
To be sure, while the use of word clouds themselves can’t answer important questions about the competition, they can be used to help us make certain that we are asking the right ones. And while days of information overload may be here to stay, that doesn’t mean that smart usage of new tools like Wordle can’t help make the information we get more relevant.