Circa 2010, Instagram was a casual photo-sharing app for silly selfies and over-saturated food pics. In just over a decade, the app has evolved into one of social media’s most prominent platforms with over 1 billion users. Some 90% of users follow a brand on Instagram and there are over 200 million business accounts on the app as well. According to the 2022 Sprout Social Index™, 49% of consumers and 59% of marketers anticipate using IG in the next 12 months.
It’s imperative for brands to craft a game plan to stand out against their competitors. An Instagram competitor analysis can help brands compete with rivals in the marketplace by highlighting pieces of their strategy from content gaps to publishing behavior.
You can seek opportunities in the data to outperform your competitors and think about what is most valuable for your followers. This will save you time because you aren’t reinventing the wheel, but rather using what you know will work.
Let’s break down how an Instagram competitor analysis can help level the playing field so you can reach your goals.
What is an Instagram competitor analysis report?
Competitive analysis refers to the process of strategically researching, evaluating and comparing the strengths and weaknesses of rival companies. It involves taking a deeper look into every aspect of your competitors’ businesses from pricing to marketing strategy. A competitor analysis can also help you establish what makes a product or service unique, including the attributes that attract your target audience(s).
To enable brands to understand their competitors’ Instagram strategy at the profile level, Sprout Social created the Instagram Competitors Report—available in Professional plans and above. Similar to the Facebook Competitors Report, you can use this report to track fundamental metrics, such as audience growth and engagement, for any public Instagram profile.
Why should you do an Instagram competitive analysis?
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or starting a new account, an Instagram competitor analysis report provides insights that inform and improve your social strategy, so you can maintain an edge on the network. Here’s several reasons why you need to conduct an Instagram competitive analysis:
Establish your own KPIs through competitive benchmarking
Benchmarking your brand against competitors and related businesses will help you see how your business stacks up against others in the industry. Comparing your brand to a business of comparable size and resources can assist with setting goals on Instagram.
By analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs), your brand will be able to determine what type of content performed best, how often to post and more. Tracking your Instagram competitors’ KPIs will also help you keep a pulse on industry and social trends. Even better, you’ll be able to spot what doesn’t work for your peers and identify ways to stay ahead of the competition.
Which Instagram competitive metrics are important?
Sprout’s Instagram Competitors Report includes average metrics for followers, engagement, audience growth, publishing behavior (the different types of content posted) and top posts. Interactive graphs and accompanying data charts showcase trends over time, making it easy for you to visualize growth patterns. You can also use Sprout’s Advanced Listening tools to learn about industry trending topics and hashtags.
We have plenty of metrics for your brand to learn from. Here’s a quick overview of what they mean and why they’re important:
A company’s number of followers represents social proof and brand affinity. Although follower count is a good indicator of audience size and brand loyalty, think of it as a complementary metric for engagement. In the early days of social, follower count was the main goal, but things are more complex now.
If an account has thousands of followers, but consistently low engagement, chances are they aren’t truly connecting with their audience. Conversely, a brand could have fewer followers, but consistent engagement, which could indicate they are tuned in with their audience and produce quality content.
Sprout offers several different metrics for measuring engagement, including competitor averages. Engagement is one of the top metrics because it reflects how well your brand’s content resonates with your target audience. Engagement includes likes and comments, and each plays a different role in your analysis.
A post with a lot of likes and comments validates its quality. Likes show if users enjoy the post, while comments are more open ended . Instagrammers flock to the comments to share reactions and feedback, indicating common sentiment—both positive and negative.
3. Audience growth
Remember that follower count is a form of social proof and brand affinity. More followers mean more eyes on your products and services, along with increased reach and engagement.
Use the Audience Growth section to pinpoint peaks in new followers, and pair with the Sent Messages Report to understand what posts drove that growth. You can use this data to help inspire your upcoming content.
4. Publishing behavior
Publishing behavior refers to the different types of Instagram posts published during a selected time period. These include photos, carousels and video posts. Sprout Social offers an Optimal Send Time feature, but viewing the frequency of your competitors’ posts can help you determine if you’re publishing enough content.
5. Top posts
Like engagement, analyzing top posts is an important metric because it highlights your competitors’ best content. Along with seeing high-performing posts, you can view how many engagements the post received. Use the Competitor Posts Report to dive deep and draw conclusions about why a post was so successful.
Did the post perform because it’s a valuable product tutorial? Was it part of a campaign? Find out what these posts accomplish that your content doesn’t and get back to the drawing board to improve your strategy.
Many brands use hashtags to boost their organic reach, so knowing which tags are the most relevant is key. Hashtags can drive growth to your page over time and capture brand sentiment.
Avoid copying competitor hashtags verbatim. Aim for a mix instead and try generating new ones, such as branded hashtags. Along with the most popular hashtags, pay attention to the number of hashtags per post.
You can view your competitors’ top three hashtags underneath the Profiles tab of the Instagram Competitors Report. Hashtags are ranked by the total number of public engagements the competitor received on all posts that use the hashtag. You can conduct further hashtag analysis with Sprout’s Advanced Listening tool. With Advanced Listening, you can learn more about relevant hashtags by using the Competitive Analysis Topic Template. This is a great tool for finding trending hashtags and conversations you might be missing out on.
Identify content gaps by analyzing competitors on Instagram
Analyzing your Instagram competitors will help you identify content gaps in your strategy. For example, if you notice your competitors’ top posts include videos with high engagement, then you should consider investing more in video.
On the other hand, you can use an Instagram competitor analysis to identify where your competitors are falling flat. If you notice your rivals aren’t posting frequently or never respond to comments, take it as a sign to fill a gap for your audience.
Even the biggest brands have room for improvement, which leads us to our next point about crafting better content for your audience.
Create better content for your followers
Although they are your rivals, your Instagram competitors can help you craft better content for your followers. Look to your competitors for inspiration and add your own spin to it. If you notice a brand telling a story well, brainstorm a different angle.
If you notice an industry trend on Instagram, how can you use that to promote your products or services while showcasing your brand’s personality and value? What brands aced the trend and why did their content gain so much attention?
Consider the always-popular Instagram giveaway. They typically encourage followers to enter by completing several tasks such as following the brand and tagging a friend in the comments. In this situation, you would look at brands within your niche and take note of the type of prize, the call to action, and which companies received the highest engagement and largest audience growth. After determining the top brand giveaways trending in your market, ideate how to stand out based on your analysis.
How to analyze competitors on Instagram with Sprout
Sprout’s Instagram Competitors Report is intuitive and simple, yet extensive enough to provide the insights you need to build your brand and engage with your audience. If you need a metric defined, simply hover over the word and a definition will appear.
To view the report, click on the Reports icon on the left hand side of the screen. Click on Competitors by Network and select “Instagram Competitors.”
Select the timeframe you would like to analyze by clicking on the calendar icon in the top right corner.
Click on Your Profiles and Competitor Profile to select the Instagram accounts you would like to compare.
From here, you can simply scroll down to view various metrics.
If you would like to see more Top Posts, click View Competitor Posts Report. To view an exact post on Instagram, click on the timestamp at the top of the post.
Understanding your Instagram competitor analysis
Now that you have an Instagram Competitor Report, you can begin your analysis. Take the time to soak in the details and reflect on your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Pay attention to high engagement rates and top posts to pinpoint potential tactics in your strategy.
If you notice any major spikes or dips, see if the brand has been doing anything differently. For example, if you notice increased followership, look at their profile to see if they have partnered with any influencers or completed giveaways.
Sweep the competition with analysis reporting
The Instagram Competitor Report is part of Sprout’s analytics suite. Share competitive insights—as well as your brand’s Instagram Profiles Report—with stakeholders by emailing PDF reports from Sprout. By doing so, you can demonstrate your brand’s success or secure buy-in for future campaigns.
To learn more about our Instagram Competitor Report, get hands-on and sign up for a free 30-day trial.
13 Ways to increase your Instagram engagement ratePublished on January 31, 2023 Reading time 9 minutes
Instagram marketing: 4 ways to update your strategyPublished on January 17, 2023 Reading time 12 minutes
Instagram Stories: The complete guide for your brandPublished on January 10, 2023 Reading time 13 minutes
How to craft an impactful Instagram bio for business (+ examples)Published on January 4, 2023 Reading time 8 minutes