There are tons of moving parts when it comes to keeping up with your competitors’ digital footprints. Tracking your rivals’ social media movements, in particular, is critical due to its widespread usage across nearly every industry. Social media is truly one of the strongest tools in marketers’ toolboxes, helping to improve brand visibility, bring in new leads, and engage with the community.
The ubiquity of marketing activity across platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn has given rise to social media competitive analysis—an exercise that companies undertake in hopes of improving their own strategies. In fact, our 2021 State of Competitive Intelligence Report found that a whopping 96% of CI professionals say social media is a valuable source of intel.
This blog will guide you on what social media competitive analysis is and how to create a template that will set your marketing team up for success!
What is social media competitive analysis?
Social media competitive analysis is the process of pinpointing your top competitors and gathering information about their results (both good and bad) to benchmark against your own. It is one of the most effective and organized ways to see how your online presence is stacking up against the competition, and both B2B and B2C companies can benefit from it.
This type of analysis will push you to examine metrics such as follower counts, posting frequency, engagement rate, hashtags, and more. You’ll gain an understanding of what works (and what doesn’t) and discover new ways to improve your strategy.
It’s important to note that there are six main steps to take when performing a social media competitive analysis:
- Pinpoint your competitors
- Create your template (or use ours)
- Gather your data
- Analyze your data
- Present your analysis
- Take action
Let’s dive in and explore these steps in more detail!
Creating a social media competitive analysis in 6 steps
1. Pinpoint your competitors
The first step to performing a social media competitive analysis is identifying who your top rivals are. Focus on the brands whose service or product most closely aligns with your business. And chances are, you already know who they are. To start, you’ll want to target somewhere between three to five competitors. Explore each of their social media pages and you’ll likely want to target the companies with the strongest follower counts and activity.
On the contrary, if you’re unsure who your main competitors are, use Google to find them! Search for related keywords for your solution. For example, let’s say you are an industrial automation company—type into Google search “robotics company” or “material handling company.” The results that pop up are potential competitors to target with your analysis. It’s that easy!
2. Create your template (or use ours)
Now that you’ve identified your competitors, determine which platform(s) you want to target and the goals you want to achieve through your analysis. Answering these two questions will provide you with direction and allow you to begin the process of putting together your template and plugging your findings into it.
Using Microsoft Excel to create it, below is an example of what a social media competitive analysis template could look like for LinkedIn. All categories and subcategories are subject to change depending on the platform(s) and your marketing team’s interests/targets. But in this particular example, I focused on followers, performance, and hashtags.
3. Gather your data
To find stats for each subcategory, many companies just manually scope out their rivals’ pages. This approach is straightforward, but it can also be tedious—and it comes with the risk of missing or overlooking important insights. Another method is utilizing your own company’s LinkedIn page. Admin rights permitting, click on your company’s analytics tab. At the bottom of that page, it spotlights your top competitors and their metrics in comparison to your own. Another option is investing in an automated tool/platform to gather these metrics for you. Regardless of the method you choose, it may take some digging, but the outcome will be worth it!
To know if you’re on the right track, you’ll start finding the answers to questions such as: What is their follower count? How many times do they post weekly? How many likes are they receiving? What hashtags are they using? And at the end of the day, there’s no doubt that this side-by-side comparison will be a great asset for your team to improve your company’s social media strategy.
4. Analyze your data
Your next step, and debatably the most important one, is taking the data you’ve collected and identifying what it actually means. Based on your findings, start drawing conclusions, and don’t be afraid to make some educated guesses. In the template above, I included a summary section. Either fill in your conclusions there or create a separate document to go into further detail.
As an example, let’s say you make two observations about Competitor XYZ:
- Their follower count on LinkedIn is growing remarkably fast, and
- Their average number of hashtags is nearly double that of the next-closest company.
Clearly, the hashtags this competitor uses are helping to get their content in front of the right people—i.e., your prospects. Taking a close look at these hashtags will enable you to strengthen your understanding of how your audience behaves on social media, and will most likely spark some new ideas of your own.
This is just one example. Specifics aside, the most important takeaway from analyzing the data will be understanding your company’s (and your competitors’) strengths and weaknesses. Taking it one step further, this is the perfect opportunity to perform and leverage a SWOT analysis—a helpful tool that highlights strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Follow that link if you want to learn more about how to create one!
5. Present your analysis
Next, set up a time to present your social media competitive analysis to your marketing team. Be prepared to summarize your findings and share some fresh ideas on how to improve your company’s online presence. And keep in mind that not everyone on your team is well-versed in social media, so you may need to break down the meanings of metrics like impression share, engagement rate, etc.
Now that you have benchmarked your results against competitors, you (and your team) will have a much deeper understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and will be able to brainstorm ways to improve lackluster areas in your social media plan.
This analysis could truly be a game-changer for your company’s success, leading to improvements in the number of inbound leads coming in and your online visibility for potential customers.
6. Take action
Lastly, after you’ve met with your marketing team, make sure to take action based on your findings and begin implementing changes into your social media strategy. For example, try out some new hashtags that your competitor has had success with that you haven’t used before. Or, explore posting more evergreen content because those types of posts receive high engagement rates for your rivals. You could even optimize your account bios with newly discovered keywords in order to make your brand more visible to users who are actively searching.
Regardless of the route you go, here's the bottom line: Take what you’ve learned and actually apply it, and don’t be afraid to experiment with your strategy. After all, that’s why you conducted a social media competitive analysis in the first place!
A competitive advantage on social media
Analyzing the movements of your rivals is a vital component of any marketing strategy. Due to social media’s wide usage, understanding the complexities of how your rivals are using their social media platforms can provide you with a great competitive advantage and should be a priority for any company.
Following our guide on how to evaluate and organize your competitors' data with a social media competitive analysis can put you ahead and help your enterprise dominate the market. Be sure to keep this blog handy as you begin your process, and drop a comment below if you have any other suggestions!
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