Online Content Analysis Is the New SWOT

In today’s fast-paced, customer-oriented marketplace, there’s more pressure than ever for businesses to gain and maintain a competitive edge. Compared to 20 years ago, the marketplace is global and crowded with competitors. The growth of e-commerce has leveled the playing field for small businesses and has forced the marketplace to become more nimble.

How do businesses grow or maintain a competitive edge? Typically, businesses would rely on tools like a SWOT analysis to provide insights to leverage. But based on the dynamics of today’s consumer-oriented marketplace, is SWOT the most suitable tool? Or is an online content analysis more effective? Let’s explore.

What Is a SWOT Analysis?

SWOT is an analytical technique that was designed to uncover business insights by focusing on how a company is performing. The four areas of focus (for which it is named) are: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The goal is to capture relevant insights based around a company’s performance.

Typically, a SWOT is conducted by answering a list of questions from each area of focus. Strengths and weaknesses normally focus on internal performance while opportunities and threats focus on external observations. All four segments are analyzed and insights are gleaned. The results of the analysis are typically business-focused insights.

What Is An Online Content Analysis (OCA)?

An online content analysis is the process of gathering and analyzing the content a company has published online—everything from blog posts to whitepapers, social media, videos and everything in between. Content analysis provides an avenue to better understanding your consumer, allowing benchmarking and performance tracking to ensure the maximum experience during the customer journey. An OCA has a different focus than the business-oriented SWOT. The aim of the OCA is to understand all of the different types of content published by a company and how the users or consumers are responding to the content.

An OCA starts by understanding a company’s online behavior, such as where they post content and communicate with consumers. Then, using various analytical tools like web crawlers, raw data is pulled and analyzed to understand things like how long a person is on a webpage, or understanding consumer feedback from social channels on a recently launched new product.

Understanding the difference between the two types of techniques before starting either is important because typically a SWOT cannot deliver the results of an OCA, but an OCA can deliver business-oriented insights.

A brand is no longer what we tell consumers it is – It is what consumers tell each other it is.

— Scott David Cook, Co-founder of Intuit

Consumer Insights (Not Business Goals) Drive Success

The most compelling reason why an online content analysis helps businesses more effectively grow and maintain a competitive edge in today’s marketplace is because consumer insights, not business goals, drive success.

Every business with a website should have content and every piece of content should be considered an opportunity to gain consumer insights. The interactions people have with a company’s content or their competitors’ provide rich and often actionable information that a business can then put to use.

Today’s consumer is marketplace-nimble and equipped with resources. Consumers can competitively shop via their mobile device while at a retailer’s storefront, using the power of reviews to share their experience with a business and create rapid-fire social influence.

Consumers are using their multiple devices to help them stay flexible and agile in the modern marketplace. According to comScore’s 2016 US Mobile App report, mobile represents almost two out of three digital media minutes. Mobile usage has also outpaced desktop usage, shifting the digital media landscape completely.

These consumer interactions translate into data that can be harnessed and analyzed for behavior patterns, preferences and performance against competitors. The insights gathered from this type of analysis can be as simple as updating meta tags to help rank stronger with search engines, or as robust as product ideation to improve customer service workflows. Basically, any area of a business open to consumer feedback online can be tracked and analyzed.

Acquiring insights directly from the consumer through an OCA allows a business the opportunity to respond in a way that’s not offered from the insights gathered from a typical SWOT analysis. The reason? Mainly because there’s no inherent mechanism within a SWOT analysis to guarantee that the business insights will consider the consumer.

The purpose of a SWOT analysis is to help a business reduce its threats and seek out new opportunities or even improve an internal process. The purpose of the online content analysis is to gain insights on what consumers think.

In today’s fast-paced society, businesses have to be smarter, more efficient and more insightful—often in less time. Using consumer-rich data allows a business to make decisions directly against customer demand. The goal of an online content analysis is to work smarter, not harder, by gaining more relevant insights in the same amount of time (if not less) than you would with a traditional SWOT analysis.

There is no magical, “one-size-fits-all” solution to understanding an ever-changing audience, but the online content analysis comes close.

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