How To

Social Media Competitor Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide

By Editorial Staff

It’s rare to find someone without their smartphone in their hand these days, and statistics show that the average person spends over 2 hours per day scrolling through social media. As social media continues to dominate our daily lives, businesses are increasingly leveraging this trend through social media competitor analysis. This strategy has quickly become one of the most efficient and effective ways of connecting with a wide audience and staying ahead in the digital landscape.

The downside? Everyone is doing it. And, while there are billions of users on social media platforms worldwide, chances are you have plenty of rival brands fighting for your audience’s attention.

So, how do you make sure your social media campaign cuts through the noise? The trick to outdoing your competitors is knowing your enemy.

Why Do You Need a Social Media Competitor Analysis?

If you’re happy with how your social media channels are performing, you might wonder why you need to conduct a competitor analysis. Let’s explore how it can guide your strategy.

Benchmarking Performance

Here’s the deal. Your competitors are fishing in the same pond as you, so comparing your performance to theirs can give you a better idea of how well you’re actually doing.

Do your posts fall flat on a Friday afternoon, but your competitors get sky-high engagement? That’s a good sign that you need to step up your game to get your audience’s attention. If your competitors are hitting 50k+ followers while you’re limping along with 10k, it’s clear you’ve got some catching up to do.

Equally, are you aiming for the impossible? For example, if you’re advertising productivity software and chasing down high engagement rates on Facebook while other companies who offer digital products are scoring big on TikTok, then you might be wasting your time with an audience that isn’t tuned in.

When it comes to hitting those all-important targets, comparing notes with the competition is key. You’ll figure out what kind of content is hitting the mark, which days are prime for engagement, and when your audience is most active.

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

Understanding Audience Preferences

If you ever feel stuck in a content rut, you’re not alone. Constantly developing new and fresh ideas can be challenging for even the most creative marketer. 

Checking out what content is doing well for your competitors can give you an idea of what’s trending and what’s working with the same audience that you’re targeting. Of course—I’m not talking about copying your competitor’s content, but, when you spot a post or content piece that’s engaging your audience, it might spark new ideas that you can run with in your own way.

For example, let’s say you’re in the business of data management, you might focus your social media strategy on sales promotions and customer case studies. However, you spot that your competitors are getting great engagement through educational blog posts on certain topics—with this in mind, you can ramp up your blog content to better engage your followers.

Conducting a Social Media Competitor Analysis

Let’s discuss how to get started on an efficient and effective social media competitor analysis.

1. Identify Your Competitors

Start by identifying your competitors. These are any businesses or brands that operate in the same industry as you and share a similar target audience.

You might think you know who your biggest rivals are, but don’t overlook the underdogs either. Even competitors with a smaller market share can become an overnight sensation in the world of social media.

Think about both your direct and indirect competitors too. It might surprise you—there could be businesses in a related industry that you’ve never even thought of as competitors because they offer a different product or service. However, they’re still fighting for a share of your audience’s attention.

Why should you be worried about indirect competitors? Well, let’s consider the example of a company marketing its Bayesian Neural Network technology for financial forecasting. They’re likely aware of their direct competitors who offer similar predictive analytics solutions. However, there are also other threats lurking in the shadows, like data analytics firms focused on retail sales forecasting. These companies are indirectly competing for the same customers; even though they sell different products, they’re essentially after the same business.

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

2.  Choose the Right Metrics

Next, you need to decide what metrics you’ll use to benchmark your performance against your competitors. This will vary depending on your industry and marketing goals, so think about what really counts for you.

For example, in a specialized niche, having more followers than your competitors might mean you’re winning. If you’re in a broader field, like popular technology products, it’s not just about the numbers; it can be more important to engage those people with your content.

Let’s look at some metrics that you might want to start with:

  • Follower Growth: Check how fast competitors are growing their social media followers.
  • Engagement Rate: Measure interaction (likes, comments, shares) compared to audience size.
  • Content Strategy: See what content they share (pictures, videos, or articles) and how often.
  • Audience Demographics: Understand the demographics (age, gender, location) of their followers.
  • Influencer Partnerships: Identify any partnerships with influencers or brands to expand their reach.
  • Sentiment Analysis: Understand overall sentiment based on comments and mentions.

3.  Conduct Competitive Analysis

Once you’ve established your metrics, it’s time to put on your detective hat and start gathering intelligence on your competitors’ activities. If you don’t have hours to spend trawling through competitor accounts—and let’s be honest, who does?don’t fear; there are some handy tools to do the legwork for you:

  • Social Media Analytics Tools: Platforms such as Sprout Social, Hootsuite, and Buffer provide analytical tools for monitoring competitor activity.
  • Native Platform Insights: The majority of social media platforms come with their own analytics tools, which can provide valuable insights into the performance of your competitors.
  • Third-Party Tools: Tools like SEMrush and BuzzSumo can provide additional data on competitor content performance, keyword rankings, and more.
  • Social Media Listening Tools: Use social media listening tools like Brandwatch, Mention, and Socialbakers to monitor competitor conversations and interactions across social platforms.

With these tools, gather intel on each of your competitors’ social media profiles, keeping a close eye on the metrics you identified earlier.

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

4.  Analyze Findings and Draw Insights

Now that you’ve got all your data in one place, you can start analyzing your findings and devise an action plan.

Some questions you might want to ask yourself are:

  • Which content tends to spark the most interest and interaction from their audience?
  • Are there any recurring themes or topics in their posts?
  • Which social media platforms are they most active on?
  • How do they interact with their audience (responding to comments, addressing complaints)?
  • Are there any gaps or opportunities that your brand could exploit?

This is a good opportunity to complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of your competitor’s social media presence. By examining their Strengths and Weaknesses and identifying any Opportunities or Threats, you can get a better idea of their strategies and uncover any areas where you might be able to get the upper hand.

Let’s take a telecommunications firm as an example. By doing a SWOT analysis, they notice their competitors are all posting the same content around promotional offers and customer testimonials. However, nobody is talking about product features. 

Spotting this opportunity to set themselves apart, they launch a campaign showcasing their call center metrics dashboard. By highlighting how the dashboard can help their customers keep better track of key performance metrics, they offer their audience something new and refreshing, effectively setting themselves apart.

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

5.  Benchmark Against Your Own Performance

Once you’ve collected your data and analyzed your competitors’ social media strategies, compare their performance against your own. Look for areas where you have an advantage and any areas where you’re falling short. 

With this information, you can adapt your social media strategy to up your game. Don’t just aim to outdo your competitors, though—also look for any gaps or opportunities where you could set yourself apart by doing what no one else is doing.

6.  Iterate and Adapt

Social media rarely stands still. What works today might not work tomorrow. It’s essential to keep a close eye on your rivals and continuously monitor their activity so you can stay competitive. You never know when someone lagging behind will suddenly catch up in followers, or when a new trend will emerge, leaving you in the dust if you’re not paying attention.

Consider a software company that specializes in big data analytics. One day, the term “what is PySpark used for?” starts trending on various platforms, but our software company has taken its eye off the ball. 

While they’re happily continuing with their usual social media strategy, competitors have quickly picked up on the trend and are busy posting informative content and tutorials. As a result, these competitors see a surge in followers and engagement, leaving the unaware software company trailing behind. To ensure you don’t get left behind, keep coming back to your competitor analysis to stay in the loop about trends, shifts in audience behavior, and any new players entering the game.

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

The Power of Competitor Analysis

A thorough social media competitor analysis is an essential yet often overlooked element of building a successful social media strategy. Just looking at your own performance isn’t enough—you need to see how you measure up against others in your industry. 

Understanding your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, and tactics can give you an edge in setting your brand apart and stealing the attention of your shared audience. Plus, you might get some great ideas from seeing what others are doing well.

This article was written by Pohan Lin

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