What is OSINT?
OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) is data that is publicly sourced. In competitive intelligence, we focus our research on this kind of data. When it comes to finding information on competitors there is a wealth of knowledge available through public sources, such as news headlines and stock indexes. Companies provide a lot of information on the internet. Information such as; contact info, detailed descriptions of products, and shareholder announcements can often be found via a specified search. Due to the vast wealth of information, on the internet, most people do not see or think to look up these things unless they are specifically looking for them. By looking into OSINT resources, we can make sure you are getting the best competitive intelligence information available.
While looking at the competitive intelligence process, we can see that there are many steps to consider in order to provide the best competitive intelligence recommendations. Gathering research is by far the biggest step and the step in which we really get to show our expertise in competitive intelligence. This is where OSINT is put into play. Knowing which sources to investigate and how to get the most out of its information is a practiced skill. By investigating the proper open source resources, we can ensure our time is spent effectively learning about your competitors and industry and finding news that will truly be of use to you.
Importance of OSINT
OSINT is important to competitive intelligence because it allows for us to get information about competitors and easily learn more about them. By having a real understanding of your competitors, and industry as a whole, we can figure out where you fit into the larger picture. Finding any potential threats to your current business operations or any possible untapped opportunities for you to expand is what competitive intelligence is most valued for.
The value of using public information goes beyond its legality and ease of access. Open source intelligence is essential to competitive intelligence because it is a true reflection of any given company. By basing our research on public information, we are able to see the true consumer perception of a company, brand, industry. By collecting information from published journalists, esteemed analysts, and most importantly real customers we are able view competitors in a realistic light. Having the same information as a well informed consumer allows for us to have a pragmatic approach to creating or competitive intelligence reports.
Overall, having access to a wealth of information is what makes competitive intelligence possible. Basing our analysis off of multiple sources is what allows for us to be as accurate as can be. Working towards a solution that is not only ideal but realistic is what we strive for. It’s one thing to recommend a plan of action that sounds good but another for it to actually be successful. One of the ways in which we can ensure this is by looking at the full array of information for trends and recognizing patterns of thought between sources. If the same story is being told across multiple sources, we can start to figure out where to go in order to avoid similar mistakes or make sure our assumptions are correct.
A wealth of information is also valuable to our work because it means new information is always being reported. By updating our reports, we can track trends of our own analysis. This also means that we can ensure that the information provided to you is relevant to the timeline in which we are working. If we were to only use select databases or indexes we would be confined to updating our analysis whenever they update their reports. By not relying too heavily on one resource or methodology of gathering information we can make sure our reports are truly reflective of your actual market.
The key component to OSINT is that the information is open source. There are so many public resources available online that anyone can access. While these sources are available to anyone who wants them, the real barrier that most people face is that there are so many options they don’t know where to start. This overstimulation can be a deterrent to those looking to investigate competitors, that is why it is important to know where to start looking.
One of the greatest open source resources are search engines. Searching for your competitors and industry updates on Google or Bing can be a great place to start. There will still be an overwhelming amount of information, but it will give you an idea of some of the most relevant sources. Looking through competitor’s websites, social media accounts, and customer reviews can be a great way to learn more about them and how they fit into your industry.
From searching competitors, you might to start finding other sources to investigate, consumer databases, industry reports, financial statements. There are many third-party organizations who specialize in consumer behavior and market research. This information is often available to the public and can offer a different perspective on a company that isn’t directly from them or their customers. If you are a company with publicly traded competitors, they will be obligated to provide annual financial statements to the public. As part of the public, we can review these financial statements in order to get a better idea of their scale and any possible trends across the years.
When it comes to collecting OSINT information it’s more than just knowing where to look. Even when having this insight, there’s still an overwhelming amount of information to process. There are a few tools that can help sort and decipher information.
One of the most useful tools are metasearch engines. If using search engines is a good starting point, a metasearch engine can be the best way to elevate results. Metasearch engines are programs that source information from multiple search engines at once. This way you can submit one search query and get the results you would find by making the same search dozens of times across multiple platforms. By compiling a list of different types of search engines such as app stores, media players, and research databases you can specify which avenues you would like to focus on. This tailor-made list is unique to each client and their industry, which ensures that the most relevant results are shown.
Different types of search engines show different results. Even searches on general search engines will differ results across different platforms. The algorithms that Google, Bing, and Yahoo operate under are all different. While this is mainly due to them being created by different companies, it is also because they have different users who are looking for their own kinds of results.
Even search engines owned by the same company operate with different algorithms for this reason. Search results on Google, YouTube, and Google Play will all show different results because each platform has a different utility. It is programmed that these platforms omit or emphasize different subjects because they know users come to those platforms for specific results. Looking up the name of the same business across these platforms will result in different aspects of that business being highlighted. Google will usually show the company’s website, social media, address, reviews, or any trending headlines as first results. YouTube will usually show informative or promotional videos created by that company as well as user videos reviewing or showcasing that company’s product or service. The Google Play Store will show any apps that that company has created. It is unlikely that you will see app results on YouTube or user videos on Google Play Store; some of these results may show up in the first page of Google results, only if that company has specifically chosen to highlight those subjects.
By considering all of these different search engines we are able to see all of the different aspects of a competitor’s online business. A successful company has many different revenue sources as well as a presence in multiple areas of the internet. Taking all of these aspects of a competitor’s business into account we can create a full picture of who they are. This is also a great time for us to highlight any aspects of their business that your company might not be aware of.
If you are not directly competing with them in a specific market you often don’t know about that side of the businesses, unless that is what that company is known for. Knowing about a competitor’s product mix can be a vital part to understanding their business. Even if you have no plans to compete with them in that given market, it can better explain why that company operates the way it does. Learning that one of your competitors is able to succeed in your industry due to the fact that they fund their endeavors with revenue from other markets, can explain why they seem to have more spending power than you; even if their sales numbers are similar.