Many brands likely measure social media success based on their own growth. Your followers increased 20%, great! You’re averaging 10% more comments per post, awesome! Or is it?

While all those numbers are great, how do they stack up against similar brands in your industry? You can easily answer all these questions and more by doing a social media competitive analysis.

Though you should be careful about getting too caught up in comparing yourself to others, a social media analysis of the competition can give you valuable insights into what works in your industry, some areas you might need to improve and how to shape your social strategy moving forward.

According to our recent survey of 250 business executives, 60% identified investing more resources into social media as a key way to gain a competitive advantage.

The question is, how do you start? Don’t worry, we’ve boiled down the process into five simple steps.

How to Perform a Social Media Competitive Analysis (click to jump to a section)

  1. Identify your social media competitors
  2. Gather data
  3. Analyze competitors’ activity
  4. Step up your competitive analysis
  5. Using the data

Don’t want to start from scratch? We’ve got you covered. Download our free social media competitive analysis template.

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 actively use social media marketing to grow their business.

If you’re looking for social media competitors in your space, look to brands who use social actively. These are brands whom you can learn from and benchmark against. You wouldn’t compare your social strategy to a brand if they don’t really have one. Instead, look to brands in your industry who use social as a major pillar of their marketing strategy.

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 sells ground coffee, you would Google “ground coffee” or “instant coffee.”

example of competitors for a coffee company

You can rule out large online marketplaces like Amazon or Target. Look for websites that are in your specific industry. In our example, La Colombe and Folgers could 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.

example of social buttons on a site

Also look through the social networks you’re interested in pursuing. Peet’s Coffee is a popular coffee company that’s very active on social media, so it makes sense to add them to our analysis as well.

Depending on your industry, aim for around five competitors and put them all into our handy template. This is where you’ll store all of your data.

example of a competitor analysis in our template

Notice that our spreadsheet has sections 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.

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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.

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Let’s take a look at how to compare your brand to the competition. For our purposes, we’re going to stick to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram since they’re the most common.

Facebook competitive analysis

Start by doing a manual review of your competitor’s page. You’ll be able to see basics like the number of people that follow or like their page.

Folgers Facebook example

It’s also a good idea to jot down any specific tabs or features they have. Some coffee roasters might have the shop section enabled. If we notice the same trend with other competitors, it’s likely a good sign it’s working for them.

Follower count is nice to know, but that’s not where your competitive analysis should stop. Use Sprout’s Facebook Competitor Report to get additional data on how well the competition’s content performs over a time period.

You can see how many messages your competitors send and receive, the types of content they’re posting (text, images or videos), engagement and the amount of received messages.

Sprout Facebook competitor report

Include all of this in your spreadsheet, as well as any additional metrics that are important to your brand.

Twitter competitive analysis

Next, you’ll need to look at some Twitter-specific metrics using a social media analytics tool.

Sprout’s Twitter analytics software 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 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.

Twitter competitors report in Sprout

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: Gauge whether your competitors growing their audience quicker than you are?
  • 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.
Sprout IG top posts report

Another interesting tactic is to do a search for #Folgers 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, Folgers has a few hashtags. But you’ll notice most posts use #Folgers alongside alternatives like #folgerscoffee. In this scenario, it makes more sense to just use #Folgers.

folgers hashtags on IG

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 because some brands end up battling for the same hashtags.

Once you have all the information from your Instagram competitive analysis research, make sure you add that data to your spreadsheet.

3. Analyze competitors’ activity

If you’re just starting out with competitive intelligence, you can gather your numbers and then start looking at how your competitors use each platform manually. Why should you do this? According to Crayon’s 2021 State of Competitive Intelligence, 96% of businesses say their competitors’ social media accounts are valuable sources of intel.

The first thing you want to look at is how active is the competition. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • When was the 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 brands are by answering these three questions. Brands should post at least once every couple of days to be considered active.

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. Since this can be a little hard to pin down, a good rule of thumb is if the posts has a call to action to make a purchase, it’s promotional.

Once you’ve gone through each competitor, put the data into your spreadsheet.

Some marketers like to look at their competitor’s brand voice when doing a social media analysis. Voice describes the tone and POV a brand uses on social media. Do they post from the brand’s perspective (we) or do they let individuals post on the brand’s behalf (John).

Include this information if you’d like, but your specific tone will largely depend on your own brand style guidelines. It shouldn’t be too swayed by what your competitors do.

Then, take a look at your competitors websites. As you know, content marketing and social media are closely related. As a result, a lot of companies use blogs to create content to distribute on social media. Take a look at your competition and see how many of them have blogs.

4. Step up your competitive analysis

If you’re new to social media competitive analysis, getting a manual start with our template can help you familiarize yourself with how your competitors are performing and can start uncovering patterns for you to tune into.

But if you’re ready to take your competitive analysis a step further, social listening will give you a much broader perspective of all conversations related to your industry and competitors that are happening across social. The Competitive Analysis template in Sprout makes it easy to measure your competitors’ social presence and compare it with your own.

Sprout competitive listening template

With this template, you can identify the top competitors you want to track and include specific profiles, keywords, phrases and hashtags that you want Sprout to listen to.

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 can compare your profiles to the competition. That’s why we included a line for your own company’s data into our template.

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! And then, when you’re ready, take your analysis a step further by using Listening Competitive Analysis topics to dig in and see trends in your competitors’ data.

Have you ever completed a social media competitive analysis? If you’re looking for more insights, consider testing out competitive analysis tools.