The early days of social media marketing were like the Wild West. Everyone was on the same level, trying a million different tactics to find the secret sauce. Whether it was spamming people to death, Tweeting 50 times a day or trying to figure out the all of the social media image size guidelines, nothing was off limits. We just wanted to know what worked.
Fast forward to present day and things aren’t as crazy. Instead of trying to guess what works, you have a treasure trove of data to help you make informed decisions. More importantly, you have examples and historical data.
Performing a social media competitive analysis allows you to get an in-depth look at what your competitors are doing to be successful. The best part is it’s much easier getting the data than you think.
Here’s how to do a social media competitive analysis in five simple steps:
1. Identify Your Social Media Competitors
First, identify your social media competition and find which platforms they use. Hopefully, you already have a general idea of your main competitors. But there’s more to it than that. You want to focus on the competitors that use social media marketing to their advantage, not just the ones that are successful.
Even though most businesses can benefit from social media, there are many that succeed without it. So keep that in mind when you’re looking for competitors.
The easiest way to find your competition is Google. Search for the keywords consumers would use to find your business. For example, if your company sold watch straps, you would Google “watch straps” or “watch bands.”
You can rule out online marketplaces like Amazon, Best Buy, etc. Look for websites that are in your specific industry. In our example, Hodinkee, Crown & Buckle and Strapped For Time could all be good options. The second step is to go to each website and identify whether or not they’re active on social media, and which platforms they use.
Most websites link to their social media profiles in the header or footer of their site.
Depending on your industry, aim for around five competitors and put them all into a social media competitive analysis template. This is where you’ll store all of your data.
Notice that our spreadsheet has columns for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For your analysis, you can choose any social networks you’d prefer. You’ll likely notice most brands in your industry have three or four main platforms in common.
This process can take a lot of time if you’re in a highly competitive industry. But the more thorough you are, the better results you’ll get.
2. Gather Data
After you’ve narrowed down your competitors, the next step is to gather data. The process will be slightly different depending on which platforms you target. First, you want to get a picture of their audience size. Start by gathering up their follower counts for each social network.
Use Sprout’s competitor reports to make this process much easier:
Facebook Competitive Analysis
One cool thing about Facebook is they give you a little extra data besides the amount of likes for a page. When you click on the “X people like this page” text, you’re brought to a page with more information.
Sprout’s Facebook Competitor Report will give you additional data that’s very helpful as well. You can see how many messages your competitors send and receive, the types of content they’re posting (text, images or videos), engagement and much more.
You want to include all of this in your spreadsheet. If you’re a brick and mortar business, you’ll want to include the “People checked in here” number as well.
Twitter Competitive Analysis
Next, you’ll need to look at some Twitter-specific metrics using a social media analytics tool.
Sprout’s Twitter Comparison Report is the perfect tool for the job. It compares your Twitter profiles against each other, or a competitor. Select your Twitter account, then enter a competitor for the other slot.
The report shows you engagement, influence, followers gained/lost and mentions. You can change the time period, but it’s best to stick to the last 30 days to keep the data relevant.
Once you’ve looked over all the competitive social media analysis from the Twitter report, be sure to enter the data into your spreadsheet. Tracking this information can be extremely valuable down the line.
Instagram Competitive Analysis
Instagram doesn’t have a lot of public data available about your competition. However, with Sprout’s Instagram Competitors Report, you can easily compare and benchmark your brand against competitors in key areas:
- Audience growth: Are your competitors growing their audience quicker than you?
- Media sent: Get a sense of how frequently your competitors are publishing. You may find you’re not posting enough to keep your audience engaged.
- Engagement: See how many likes and comments your competitors are getting on their content.
- Hashtags: Find your competitors’ most frequently used hashtags. You may be able to use the same ones in your posts if they’re relevant, and get exposure to more people.
- Top posts: Take a look at your competitor’s most popular posts. Try to get an idea of why these posts are performing well. Are they product photos? Do they use certain colors? Find out what these posts have that your content doesn’t and use the info to improve your images and videos.
Another interesting tactic is to do a search for #brandname on Instagram and see how many results come up.
This gives you a good idea of your competitor’s popularity. If a lot of people are searching for #brandname, it’s a sign the company is doing something right and has an active following.
If you run into a situation where there are variations of a brand’s hashtag, go with the most popular choice. This will usually just be the company’s name. For instance, Hodinkee has a few hashtags. But what you’ll notice is most posts use #Hodinkee alongside alternatives like #Hodinkeestrap. In this scenario, it makes more sense to just use #Hodinkee.
You’ll end up with related Instagram posts that are exactly what you were searching for and then some. Make sure that your findings are relevant to the business as many companies constantly battle over hashtags.
Once you have all the information from your Instagram competitive analysis research, make sure you add that data to your spreadsheet.
Notice how we put a tilde for Strapped For Time’s hashtag. That’s because this number is skewed since a lot of people use #strappedfortime for posts unrelated to the brand.
3. Analyze Competitors’ Activity
You’ve gathered the numbers, but you also need to look at how your competitors use each platform. This requires a manual review.
The first thing you want to look at is how active is the competition. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- When was last time they posted?
- Are there long spans of time between each post?
- Do they respond to comments?
It’s fairly easy to gauge how active brand are by answering these three questions. They should be posting at least once every couple of days to be considered active. An example of inactivity would be Strapped For Time’s Instagram page because it goes weeks without a new post.
Next, look at the type of content your competitors publish. Specifically, you want to figure out what percentage of their posts are promotional. Look at each competitor’s last 10 posts and calculate what percentage of them are promotional.
Promotional posts include links to a product, a sale or a contest. For retail brands, it can be a little tricky to decipher between promotional and non-promotional posts. A good rule of thumb is if the posts has a call to action to make a purchase, it’s promotional.
Just wanted to say thank you to our amazing customers who have been dm-ing us pictures of their watch + strap combo with their box! So many customers love the face that all our bands come in this little black box, and it's fun to see what other uses it serves around their home (one guy keeps his watch-repair tools in it!) #clockworksynergy #watchfam #littleblackbox
For instance, this isn’t necessarily a promotional post, even though it features a product. But the post below has a specific call to action, asking people to shop. So it would fall into the promotional category.
@nomos_glashuette is full of announcements at #baselworld. Introducing the Campus series: a new Club tailor-made for those ready to start a new chapter in life and the Aqua series – life’s a beach, every day with these new watches. … #Baselworld2017 #watchfam #wotd #watchesofinstagram #watchoftheday #nomosglashutte
Once you’ve gone through each competitor, put the data into your spreadsheet.
Some marketers like to look at their competitor’s voice when doing a social media analysis. Voice describes the tone and POV a brand uses on social media. Do they post on behalf of the brand (we) or do they allow individuals to post (John).
You can include this information if you’d like, but your specific tone will largely depend on your preference. It shouldn’t be too swayed by what your competitors are doing.
4. Analyze Their Website Content
The last part of your social media competitive analysis involves their website. As you know, content marketing and social media are closely related. As a result, a lot of companies use blogs to create content that can be distributed on social media. Take a look at your competition and see how many of them have blogs.
Looking through their blogs will give you ideas for the type of content that might resonate with your audience. If you’d like, you can even go the extra step of plugging each site into Buzzsumo to find the posts with the most social shares.
This step is optional for most industries. However, if you’re in an industry where blogging is extremely popular (fashion, SaaS or fitness), then you’ll probably want to follow this step.
5. Using the Data
Now that you’ve compiled all of this data, you need to put it to use. Using your brand’s own social media analytics, you’ll be able to compare your profiles to the competition.
It’s important to keep in mind that this social media competitive analysis isn’t for you to copy exactly what everyone is doing. Instead, it will guide you toward getting started on the right foot.
For example, maybe your analysis shows most of the competition only publishes promotional posts 10% of the time. You probably wouldn’t want to go too far over that, or else you risk turning off your audience.
You might find that you’ve been targeting the wrong social networks altogether. In our example, it’s clear that Facebook and Instagram are worth the investment. Any competitors not using these two would be losing out.
Pay Attention to the Data
In the end, it’s all about comparing your brand’s metrics and data to the competition. Make any necessary adjustments to your strategy based on what you find. If you’ve never done a social media competitor analysis, give it a try. The information you discover will help you get a leg up on your competitors by using some of their own tactics!
Have you ever completed a social media competitive analysis? Leave a comment and let us know what you include!