Our businesses don’t operate in a vacuum: the market is complex, and numerous indicators are happening at any moment that can affect the decisions our customers make. Competitor activity is one of these indicators, and keeping a regular eye on what your competitors are doing is essential.
Many marketing managers will know the classic forms of competitive digital research. These might include strategic competitive analysis, market research, and industry benchmarking, which involve comparing your own company’s marketing strategy and performance to specific competitors or industry averages. One specific type of competitive analysis that is becoming more and more essential as businesses increase their digital presence is social media competitive analysis.
Social media competitive analysis explained
This is a different type of analysis, often utilizing social listening techniques in order to monitor competitors on social networks and track what their audience is saying about them. It can be done with the use of social media competitor analysis tools, such as Mention as well as digital marketing techniques including keyword analysis and PPC monitoring.
The benefits of social media competitive analysis
Regularly tracking your competitors’ social media activity with social listening can bring an extra dimension to your competitive benchmarking. Social media analytics is free and accessible to everyone and can be a quick, easy way to get deep insights about your competitors and their target audiences.
By using social listening, you can:
1. Track your competitors’ content, PR, and social media strategies
A solid social media strategy analysis involves taking notes on the type of content your competitors produce, who is talking about them, and how regularly they post. Competitive content analysis can provide a minefield of inspiration for your own social media and PR strategies and can be done on a regular basis.
2. Follow what your competitors’ customers and audience think about them
An area not to be ignored is the Facebook and Instagram comments, as well as Twitter replies and LinkedIn reviews. You’ll get access to very honest reactions to the content being posted by both the wider public and your competitors’ customers. Tracking engagement metrics, like the number of likes and reactions on a post, can also indicate how well it resonated with your competitors’ audience.
3. Understand your competitors’ brand reputation
Even the briefest scan of the comments section can very quickly tell you whether a company is going through a brand crisis, or if they’ve recently done something positive. When you add intelligent sentiment analysis into the mix, all of these mentions can be aggregated to give you a more global picture of how positively (or negatively) people perceive your competition.
In short, social listening gives you the opportunity to dive deeper into very specific qualitative data about your competitors. You’ll gain a better understanding of your competitive landscape and their social media presence, gaining inspiration for your own strategy and opportunities to capitalize on your competitors’ wins and shortcomings.
How do I analyze competitors’ social media?
1. Identify your main competitors
As a marketer, you will no doubt have a list of your direct competitors in mind. However, you will get the most value from doing a social media competitive analysis when you focus on a few top competitors, rather than everyone in your market.
When selecting your competitors, try to focus on how much their audience overlaps with yours. If you are a B2B brand targeting a mid-market audience, whereas one of your competitors targets enterprise clients, you may not get the most useful comparisons if you analyze them. Tools such as Similarweb’s Competitive Intelligence can help you to discover the most relevant competitors.
2. Gather social media competitive data
The next step of your social media competitive analysis is to start gathering insights and data. Whichever social channel you are focusing on, there are two types of data that you should take into consideration: quantitative and qualitative.
Quantitative data is anything that can be expressed in numbers, and often gives you a global overview of the situation. They can be very useful for identifying trends, changes and making comparisons between your brand and your competitors.
Some useful quantitative data points to collect for your social media competitive analysis will include:
Social media account health macros
Collecting account overviews, like follower count and number of posts, will provide a baseline of comparison between yourself, your competitors, and the industry overall. Alone, it will not tell you much, but observing these figures over time in the form of follower evolution and post frequency can bring extra insights to your analysis.
Post engagement rate
You will want to calculate engagement rate to know how many people are interacting with your competitors’ posts, relative to how often they are posting and how many followers they have. Keeping track of likes, retweets, comments, shares, and video views will help to determine the strength of their posts. Extra dimensions that can help take this data further will include the time and hour of the day of engagements.
Number of social media mentions
This refers to how many people are mentioning your competitors’ names on social media. This can be via direct mentions, such as using the “@” function to tag a user or simply by writing the brand’s name in a tweet or a post. These can be later filtered and triaged by location, language, sentiment, influence score, and time and hour of the day.
On the other hand, qualitative data is often expressed in words and images, providing specific details and examples. This is useful for doing a deep-dive analysis that goes beyond surface level, and can help to explain some of the quantitative observations you have found.
There’s a lot of elements within the content of your competitors’ posts that you can learn from. Pay attention to the type of media used (text, image, video), captions, hashtags, and other accounts tagged. All of this information can provide inspiration and best practices for your own posts.
Rather than just counting the number of influencers online who have mentioned your competitors, take a look at what people have been saying. This is where the most interesting insights lay. If your social listening game is stronger than your competitors, you may even be getting access to this information before them, giving you a head start.
You will also want to keep an eye on who is talking about your competitors, as well as what they are saying.
Both types of data are equally as important to your social media competitive analysis, as the qualitative details help to complete the picture provided by your quantitative insights.
With the right competitive analysis tools, you can obtain social qualitative insights on a much larger scale, which can then be transformed into quantitative data. All of that social data is aggregated and processed, so you can discover trends, correlations, and spot anomalies from the status quo. This will save you a lot of time – allowing you to focus more on the action and less on the research.
3. Analyze social media competitive insights and take action
The approach that I like to take to complete a thorough social competitive analysis is the MODAL method.
What is MODAL, you ask? It stands for the five key elements of any successful competitive analysis.
This is the key data point that you’ll be measuring. If you were doing a website benchmark, this would most likely be indicators such as web traffic, bounce rate, time spent on site and repeat visits. For social media analyses, common metrics include some of the quantitative data points we discussed in the previous section.
The observation will be something you notice about that metric – like a sudden or gradual change. For example, you might see an unusual spike in engagement volume on one day. Or that one of your metrics, perhaps follower evolution, is declining over time.
D: Deeper investigation
This part takes some time and will take significantly longer if you try to do your competitive analysis without the help of a social listening tool like Mention.
The goal is to find the cause of the observation you noticed. If you noticed a sudden spike or drop, the investigation part is quite easy: browse through some of your competitors’ mentions on the day of their sudden change, and look at the content they posted in the days prior.
The reason might be visible on their social media platforms and be directly related to something they posted – like a controversial image, or a fatal typo in a tweet. It may be something more external, in which looking at mentions in news articles and the wider press can indicate if the change is related to their product, leadership, a high profile customer – or a whole range of reasons.
Now, this is where you come in. Getting all of these social insights and data will not bring much value unless you are able to act on it.
Whether it’s taking advantage of your competitors’ weaknesses and saving the day for their unhappy customers, or preparing for negative press to come your way in the case of an industry-wide crisis, it’s always good to be both reactive and proactive. By setting up your competitor analysis dashboard in advance and continuing to monitor it, you can be sure to never miss an opportunity to act.
This process has given you valuable knowledge – on the state of your industry, your competitors, their audience. Make sure you have this information noted somewhere and shared with relevant members in your team.
Using a social listening tool that enables the creation of customized reporting can help the internal communication process vastly. Having the ability to showcase both quantitative trends and changes with specific details to add detail to this picture makes all the difference when sharing information.
Here is an example where you can put the MODAL social listening approach into action.
Social media competitive analysis in action
When tracking your competitors’ brands over time, you may notice an unusually high spike in the volume of mentions over the course of a day or week. This is a very common occurrence and there is almost always something that you can gain from this. So, what can you do next and what can you learn from it?
By applying the MODAL principles outlined in the previous section, you can follow up on this observed metric by going into a deeper investigation.
You want to determine first of all whether this spike is due to something positive or negative for your competitors. By using an analytics tool that includes sentiment analysis, this is very easy to find out. You can then pick out a few examples of these mentions to identify a recurring theme.
Increase in positive mentions
If the spike is due to positive reasons, it’s time to take notes. This can be an opportunity to learn from your competitors’ successes and see if you can apply those lessons to your own strategy.
Congratulating your competitors for their wins directly on social media is also a great idea. Your brand will get heard in the mix and it also shows that you’re in good faith.
Increase in negative mentions
On the other hand, if the spike is because of something negative, this can mean either good or bad things for your brand. If the negative sentiment is related to an issue or event that affects your entire industry, you should prepare yourselves for bad press to come your way. You may want to prepare your teams and put a crisis communication plan in place.
However, if the issue is localized to your competitor, this is your time to come out on top. Propose your services as an alternative to unhappy customers, or highlight your brands’ strengths contrasted with your competitors’ newly exposed weaknesses. For example, if you’re a software or tech provider and your competitor appears to be experiencing bugs or downtime, you can offer a working solution to your competitors’ frustrated customers by responding directly to their complaints on social media.
Case study: Vox.com
When making a social media competitive analysis for the media publications industry, we noticed that there was an unusually high spike in mentions of Vox with 83% more mentions than usual, particularly compared to its competitors Vice and Refinery 21.
Upon further investigation on what happened on April 29th, we noticed that these mentions were overwhelmingly negative and neutral, with a drop in positive mentions.
The cause of this spike was a largely negative reaction to an article that Vox had posted the day previous on the impact of pets on our carbon footprint:
Weighing the environmental impacts of pets, one expert suggested reducing the rate of dog and cat ownership in favor of other animals.
In The Highlight, find other measures dog- and cat-lovers can take to reduce their pets’ carbon footprint: https://t.co/RQEenJV8VM
— Vox (@voxdotcom) April 27, 2021
Needless to say, this did not resonate well with their audience, who were upset that Vox had decided not to focus on other, larger sources of carbon emissions.
i’ll give up my dog and cat when rich people stop flying on private jets, when they don’t own yachts. when that happens, we can re-evaluate if the dog and cat make that much of an impact
— genius hominidae (@apenotorious) April 28, 2021
I’m betting Vox’s website wastes more energy than what is used for pets.
— Flow (@FlowDelDollfin) April 28, 2021
Punishing my dog for owning several oil platforms, one which leaked for 16 days in the Gulf of Mexico.
— Cam’ron Sandiego (@DROPCOFFIN1) April 28, 2021
So, what would be the key actions and learnings that a competing media outlet could take in this situation?
Action #1: Take advantage of the buzz and comment on it
This could involve writing a counter-piece to Vox’s original publication. By speaking on behalf of Vox’s unhappy followers, the counter-piece can offer another side of the debate while also pleasing the crowd.
Action #2: Avoid this topic in future
In this situation, Vox did not read the room correctly. While they managed to get a lot of additional engagement with this article, it was not for the right reasons. The consequences of this could be potentially huge.
They have most likely broken the trust with their readers who did not agree with the approach that they took with this article. For others who have come across Vox for the first time because of the negative buzz this article generated, they are likely to associate this brand with this type of journalism and this first impression will count for a lot.
If you are a media outlet targeting the same audience, you should steer clear of this type of commentary in the future, unless you want to risk the same fate as Vox.
Learning #1: The pet-lover audience is emotionally charged
If you do want to target the same audience as Vox, you have now learned something new about this audience. It seems that animal lovers will most likely express their anger online if they see something they don’t agree with. Whether it’s animal cruelty or blaming pet ownership for climate change, this is a topic to be approached with caution.
People who have had pets often have an emotional attachment to them. Depending on your brand and how you interact with this audience, this can either work in your favor or work against you. It’s one of the reasons why posting pictures of dogs and cats almost always guarantees an engagement boost.
Learning #2: Vox’s Twitter audience appear to be mostly anti-institutional
Through analyzing the replies to the tweeted article, it appears many of the angry followers feel strongly against large corporation corruption, fracking, the 1% and generally share an anti-capitalist sentiment.
This could be a representation of their Twitter audience only, and may not be the same for their Instagram or Facebook audience. However, it can be an indicator of what types of content people are more likely to engage with or relate to on different platforms. When approaching this audience in the future, this is also something to consider.
Turn these insights into action
Now you have the tools and knowledge to launch your first social media competitive analysis. Here is a recap of the points we have discussed:
- Social media competitive analysis allows you to track your competitors’ strategies, understand how their customers perceive them, and to keep an eye on their reputation in the market
- You will get the most out of this competitive analysis by carefully selecting a few close competitors whose audience and business goals overlap with your own
- By collecting a mix of quantitative and qualitative data points, you will be able to see the bigger picture while also getting detailed insights to fill in the gaps
- The MODAL approach can help to structure your social media competitive analysis and ensure you are able to act upon the insights you’ve found
Remember, for this type of analysis to be effective, you will need to follow up on it regularly. Ensure you plan time in advance to dedicate to following up on your key social media competitors, and use these insights to boost your own growth.
What is the main goal of conducting social media analysis?
The goal of conducting a social media competitor analysis is to understand how well your clients are performing, what competitors are doing right and wrong, and how you can achieve better results.
How you do a social media analysis?
Start by identifying competitors, gather data, then analyze insights, and take action.
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