As marketers, we are now living in a world where social media is fully integrated in our brand strategy and communication plan. We’re all using social and have a presence on the various social sites; it’s now time to start really analyzing what type of social communication is effective and what’s not. Because of its low cost, many times brands jump into social media without setting tactical goals or developing a strategic plan. This can be extremely harmful as social media is at its core, one of the most effective media vehicles to influence and engage with your customers. It’s also a valuable source of information for brands as it’s a low cost way of getting product feedback and customer input.
One of the best ways to help develop a social media strategy for your brand is to assess what your competitors are doing. In this post, I’m going to share some of the tactics and processes we use here at SwellPath when performing social media competitive analyses for our clients.
So, why is performing a social competitive analysis an essential part of social media success? Because by analyzing your competitors’ you can set realistic benchmarks for your brand based on what others in your industry are seeing in terms of fan growth and engagement. As mentioned, it also helps lay the framework for a successful social media strategy for your own brand based on the successes of others in your space.
With that said, let’s jump into how to perform a social media competitive analysis.
1. Identify Your Competitors
You probably already have a good idea of who the top competitors are in your space. Although, it’s important to remember that based on level of activity, these may vary from network to network. Most brands have an active Facebook and Twitter but many do not have an account on other networks like Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube, etc.
2. Identify Their Voice
It’s good to also take note of whom they post as (e.g. is it as the voice of the brand, or a person within the brand?) While most large brands post as the brand, it can be a more personal approach to post as a person within a brand. ClimbOn Products does a good job with this, posting as Will or Polly at ClimbOn and frequently signs the post as seen below:
Zappos.com is another great example of this.
3. What Is Their Fan to Follower Ratio?
Now that we’ve identified our competitors, login to the various social networks and take note of their fan to follower ratio.
* Don’t forget to track your own metrics during this whole process for comparison purposes.
Are they following everyone that follows them? Do they only follow a handful of people? Here’s an example of some folks in the outdoor space on Twitter:
Here, we can see that Chaco is basically following everyone that follows them and The North Face is much more selective as to who they follow.
4. How Active are They on Social Sites?
Here, we want to look at their post frequency. Warning: This is a very manual process. Look at the previous month and take note on how many times they post unique content during that time period. Don’t include replies or retweets here, as we’ll look at those in a proceeding step.
5. Engagement Rate with Fans:
In this step, we look at how many engagements they are receiving on average per post. Contingent on how thorough you want to be, you can take 10 posts at random or look at a whole months worth of data. Note here how many likes, comments, retweets, repins, etc. they receive on each post and obtain an average for each engagement. Here’s an example of what this would look like on Facebook for the previous brands we looked at:
If you just look at the numbers as is, it appears that The North Face is blowing the other two out of the water in terms of engagement on Facebook. Well, we also have to remember that they have 54 times the Fans of Chaco. In order to compare apple to apples we want to take the average engagement per post and divide it by the number of Fans they have. This would look something like this:
When comparing their engagement relative to the number of fans they have, Chaco is actually doing much better than both Columbia and The North Face. It stands to reason that as Chaco’s social following increases, they’ll overtake the bigger brands in terms of raw engagement numbers, as well as engagement per post.
Now that we looked at how frequently Fans engage with the brand, a second element we want to consider in this step is how is the brand engages with their Fans. Are they responding to posts left on their wall? Do they retweet their Followers? Particularly take note on if/how they respond to dissatisfied customers.
6. What Types of Content are They Posting?
By looking at what type of content your competitors are posting you can measure how successful the various mediums are in regards to fan involvement and engagement. Here’s a list of content types to observe:
- Endorsements/ sponsorships
- Do they repost other brands content?
- Do they use hashtags frequently?
- Are they using a link shortener service?
7. Month-Over-Month Percent Growth:
Now, let’s take a look into social media Fan growth. How you do this varies by network but I’ll outline here some useful tools to calculate this.
First, lets talk about Facebook. If you haven’t been tracking competitors over a series of many months, or if you don’t have access to costly tools, you can simply go to the brand’s feed, scroll to the end of the previous month where you’ll find a box like below:
Locate this box for each competitor and place the number of Likes they gained for that month and divide this number by their total follows to obtain their monthly growth percentage.
For Twitter, a super helpful tool is Twitter Counter. Insert your competitors’ Twitter handles and select “Compare” you’ll then get an excellent chart like the following. With this tool you can obtain follower growth for the last six months.
If you use Curalate to measure your Pinterest analytics, you can select the “Competitors” tab on the left hand side. Here, you can download a report of monthly follower counts for brands they see as your competitors on Pinterest.
As you’re gathering these month-by-month gains, include a monthly percent change and average across 6 months, if possible, to obtain the brands’ average monthly growth on the various social networks. This will be one of the best ways to benchmark your own brand, as it gives you a realistic follower growth of those in your industry, therefore helping you set realistic growth goals for your social media campaign.
8. Don’t Forget Google+, their Blog, and Website
This is the SEO in me making an appearance. Some elements to note here:
- Do they have a Google+ page? If so, are they posting fresh content? How many people’s circles are they in?
- If they have a blog, do they have Google Authorship set up for their employees that post frequently? You can check if they have this configured using the Structured Data Testing Tool.
- On their website, do they utilize FASS (fast action social sharing) Buttons?
- Test their social network rich snippets. Take one of their post URLs and drop it into a Facebook status (but don’t click send). Wait for the link preview to appear and see if they have a nice looking description and picture appear. If there’s no image available for social shares or if their description is cut off, people may be less likely to engage.
All of these elements help to paint a complete picture of their social media activity and competency.
9. Lastly, Paid Media
One of the final elements to consider is paid media. While it is nearly impossible to find the actual dollar amount they spend on social (without having a friend in their marketing department), there are ways to see if they are spending money to acquire new Fans. The first is simply to browse their Facebook or Twitter sites and look for “Sponsored” ads. Are they paying for Facebook ads? Do you see a promoted account under “Who to Follow” on the left hand side of your Twitter feed like below?
Another element to consider here is, are they running a lot of contests with prize giveaways? This tells us if, contingent on the prize value, they are spending a good deal of money to increase their following.
What Does This All Mean?
After collecting all this data and comparing it with your own metrics, you’ll be able to comprehend where you fall, relative to competitors and your industry as a whole. So, while the point of all this is to analyze your competitors, you’re in reality analyzing your own brand. By looking at how your target consumer engages with your competitors you’ll gain insights on how to effectively interact with them through social media. Additionally, after weighing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors you can see opportunities within their shortcomings. You are also gaining a broader understanding of the successes of various engagement tactics and with that, you can craft a well-rounded social strategy that is sure to build awareness and a loyal following.