If you want to succeed as a business, you need to keep an eye on your industry through competitor analysis. It’s like preparing for a championship game. You need to study the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors to help identify opportunities for plays and boost your competitive edge.

Competitor mapping is the cornerstone of competitive analysis. By visualizing opportunities, businesses can make strategic decisions when launching a new product/service or new social media marketing strategy. In this guide, we’ll walk through some of the benefits of competitor mapping and how to create your map.

What is competitor mapping?

Competitor mapping is the process of identifying competitors and analyzing their market position to visualize the overall competitive landscape. Competitor mapping involves using competitive benchmark data to help you make decisions about the business, and gain intelligence about your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.

To help visualize your competitive analysis, competitor maps contextualize your research and competitive data, enabling you to make informed business decisions. For example, monitoring competitive benchmark data can help you set realistic goals and metrics.

The benefits of competitor mapping

There are many competitor analysis tools out there—which is a testament to the benefits of competitor mapping. Competitive data unveils advantages and opportunities for your business by analyzing your competitors’ products, marketing strategy and social media. Examining your industry peers will help you better understand your customers’ needs and brand perception. There are more benefits to competitor mapping, but let’s walk through some of our favorites: competitive product analysis, marketing competitive analysis and social media analysis.

Competitive product analysis

Through competitive product analysis you can build a stronger product. Comparing your product to your competition highlights areas to improve whether it’s adding additional features or using better quality materials.

Marketing competitive analysis

Through marketing competitor analysis, you can pinpoint iterations for your marketing strategy. For example, you can determine how to optimize product placement by looking at how your competitors position their products through messaging, branding and packaging. This type of analysis can help you discover how your brand can differentiate itself through marketing.

Social media competitive analysis

Social media competitive analysis is another key benefit of competitor mapping. Through tools like Sprout Social you can use social listening to help identify conversations involving your competitors and what your audiences are talking about. With Sprout, you can also conduct sentiment analysis to compare how people feel about your brand vs. your competitors.

A preview of Sprout’s Listening dashboard highlighting negative, positive and neutral sentiment trends across time.

How to create a competitor map

Analyze and visualize your brand’s competitive intelligence with these steps:

1. Identify your competitors

Consider all of your competitors. This includes your direct, indirect and emerging competitors.

Direct competitors offer similar products and/or services as your business. Indirect competitors target the same market or customer segment, but offer a different product or service. For example, cable and streaming services are indirect competitors because they both offer film and TV shows. SEO competitors—businesses that outrank you in search engine results—can also be indirect competitors. Emerging competitors are companies that just entered the market and have the potential to disrupt the industry.

You can also consider replacement competitors. Replacement competitors offer products or services that fulfill a similar need or problem. For example, a bowling alley and roller rink may be replacement competitors because they both offer family-friendly entertainment.

Once you consider all of your competitors, select about four to 10 businesses. Review their websites, social media and overall online presence to discover more about their product, target audiences and marketing strategies.

2. Select a focus area

Identify focus areas such as product range, pricing or other variables to niche your research down and concentrate on the most relevant things to analyze. For example, if you wanted to create a competitor map for social media, you would take an in-depth look at your competitors’ profiles, from monitoring their engagement and most active channels to their overall content strategy. To help you get started, think about which areas you want to analyze deeper based on your goals. For example, if your brand is launching a new product, one focus area could be price.

3. Write a list of your strengths and improvement areas

List out your brand’s strengths and weaknesses. Consider brand perception in comparison to your competitors. What do people think about each brand and product? After considering strong and weaker areas, brainstorm a list of solutions or gaps to fill.

4. Create a competitor map

After all of your data is collected, you can create your competitor map. A competitor map can be visualized in a variety of formats such as comparison charts, pie charts, scatter graphs and bubble maps. You can create these through design platforms like Canva, but there are also tools like Sprout that can automate visuals as well.

For example with Sprout’s Competitive Analysis Listening tool, you can view and export a side-by-side competitor comparison of key performance metrics across social, including share of voice, engagement, sentiment and impressions.

Sprout Social's Listening competitive analysis dashboard showcases metrics such as share of voice, total engagements, total impressions and average positive sentiment.

If you want to track and compare your competitors’ social media profiles, Sprout’s Competitor Performance Report shows analytics across major networks like Instagram, Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter).

Examples of competitor mapping

As you execute competitive monitoring, you may discover you want to visualize the information differently based on your findings. Here are some examples of competitor maps to get you inspired.

SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis chart is a classic example of a competitor map. It enables you to simply organize your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, making it easier to understand the insights and compare them directly against yours.

For instance, in the example below, high engagement and social following are listed as strengths while not publishing as frequently as competitors is listed as a weakness. Also notice how in the “Opportunities” section, the brand has a chance to target a male audience better since they make up 20% of their market’s audience. And lastly, things out of their control like algorithm changes causing dips in performance is listed as a threat.

A SWOT analysis chart example.

Comparison table

A comparison table is a traditional method for mapping. It involves making a list of factors and scoring each attribute per competitor. In the example below, quality, price, customer service and SEO rank are included as attributes. When using comparison tables, you can use numbers, stars or another system to indicate score.

A blank comparison table with columns dedicated to the example brand and five competitors, comparing quality, price, customer service and SEO rank.

Create a solid foundation of competitor analysis

Remember that competitive analysis is like preparing to face an opposing team. You need to study their strengths, weaknesses and behaviors to help identify opportunities for stronger plays that boost your competitive edge. If you haven’t already, consider signing up for a free Sprout trial and get started on finding the white space for your brand to fill in.