There is a universal (and obvious) truth in business: in order to win, you need to beat the competition. And in order to beat them, you need to understand them. This means learning about their strengths and weaknesses–both in business and marketing–and understanding how your audience perceives them. For social marketers, gaining these competitive insights has become an increasingly critical tool to help them differentiate their brand and strengthen their share of voice (SOV) in the conversation. 

With this in mind, we’re excited to share that we’ve released a powerful new template for Competitive Analysis in Sprout Listening. This update provides a comparative insights view that makes it much easier to compare and contrast your social performance with competitors across key metrics, including SOV, engagement and sentiment. These metrics are crucial for understanding who is dominating the conversation, how your audience feels about your competitors and, most importantly, how you stack up against them.

While Listening gives you insights into competitors’ organic presence in broader conversations across social (aka “earned content”), our Competitor Reports provide performance data for content published by your brand across social platforms (aka “owned content”). Together, these tools offer a holistic solution to understand where your brand stands against the competition and where you should be investing your social efforts. Below we break down the key strategic elements of a strong competitive analysis strategy and discuss how you can leverage the Sprout platform to strengthen your brand position and grow your share of voice.

  1. Benchmark your social performance

Benchmarking is the foundational step in a good competitive analysis strategy, as it helps you gain critical context to understand your social performance and brand health. Without it, you’re essentially measuring data in a silo. For example, let’s say you double your audience engagement over a six month period. That’s great news, right? What if you then learn that your top competitor has quadrupled their engagement over the same period? It certainly impacts the way you view your own performance and likely will motivate you to learn how your competitor achieved such impressive results.

When benchmarking your social performance, there are two key aspects that you need to examine: owned content and earned content.

Owned content refers to content that brands publish from their own social profiles. Sprout’s Competitor Reports, available in our Premium and Advanced plans, give you in-depth data around your competitors’ content performance within major social platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can track key metrics like audience growth, post volume and engagement, and then filter down by date range, profile and content type for a more focused analysis. This gives you a better sense of how your competitor’s social content is resonating with your shared audience and how strongly they’re performing within individual platforms, which we will discuss in more detail in the next section.

On the other hand, earned content refers to brands’ organic mentions in broader social conversations, so this is where social media listening comes into play. Our new Competitive Analysis template makes it easy to compare SOV data, which is one of the most powerful social metrics you can use to gauge your brand’s competitive position and industry relevance. You can also analyze sentiment scores and trends to see how your audience feels about your competitors (and relevant topics) compared to your own brand. As you track SOV and sentiment, you can now filter down by competitor to analyze smaller subsets or conduct a head-to-head comparison, in addition to using existing filters such as network, profile, content type and demographics. 

Once you compile this benchmarking data, you will have much more meaningful context for your brand health and content performance. These insights will help you understand where you’re performing well and where you should be investing more efforts to improve your social game.

  1. Learn what content works—and what doesn’t

The next step in your competitive strategy is to analyze your competitor’s content and how it’s performing to learn what resonates with your audience and industry.

Since each network is unique, start by looking at content across each individual social network. For example, the curated photo and video content that performs so well on Instagram may not have the same resonance on Twitter, where content is geared more towards short-form text dialogue and timely updates. Using Sprout’s Competitor Reports, you can evaluate in-depth content performance and engagement data for your competitors across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

It can also be helpful to evaluate your competitor’s content by a specific topic or campaign. That’s where social listening comes back into play. Our Competitive Listening template helps you identify top keywords and hashtags in competitor-related conversations, so you can easily spot common topics and industry trends. You can then click into the Messages tab for more detailed insights on individual posts, including the content, profile and engagement data.

  1. Discover new business opportunities 

Beyond just measuring your brand health and marketing performance, social listening is an extremely powerful tool for gaining insights around industry trends, product feedback and customer pain points. When it comes to your competitive strategy, you can and should be leveraging these listening insights to spark new marketing ideas and identify product and business opportunities that will help you differentiate your brand. 

James Hardie®, a leading brand in the building materials industry, is a great example of leveraging listening to improve business strategy across an organization. Using Sprout Listening, James Hardie is able to engage in audience and trend analysis, research sentiment regarding their products, identify industry influencers and conduct competitor comparisons. Even better, they can take the insights they uncover and use them to optimize their business operations outside of digital marketing.

“Not only is it good from a brand health and marketing angle, it’s also important information we can pass on to our sales teams and product teams. We can find trends and common themes that come up in conversations. We can identify not only our own brand advocates, but brand advocates for our competition. It’s been good from so many perspectives.” 

– Bridget Kulla, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at James Hardie

Get started with competitive analysis today

No matter your business size or industry, competitive analysis is one of the most important tools you should be utilizing to differentiate your brand and grow your share of voice. Sprout’s platform makes it easy to benchmark your performance, analyze competitor content and gain deeper insights around your industry, products and customers. Not only will these insights help improve your marketing strategy, but they will also provide significant business value across your organization.

Visit our website to learn more about Sprout’s competitive analysis offering.