A competitive analysis is an analysis of your competition to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how those strengths and weaknesses compare to your own.
It’s a process of benchmarking your own results against the heavy-hitters in your industry, so you can identify opportunities for growth as well as strategies that aren’t performing as well as they should.
A social media competitive analysis, specifically, will help you:
- Identify who your competitors are on social media
- Know which social platforms they’re on
- Know how they’re using those platforms
- Understand how well their social strategy is working
- Benchmark your social results against the competition
- Identify social threats to your business
- Find gaps in your own social media marketing strategy
Learning about your competitors is not the only reason to do a competitor analysis on social media. It will also give you insights into your own business and your audience (which likely overlaps with your competitors’ audiences).
Here are some surprising insights a social media competitive analysis can give you:
- Performance benchmarks for your own business, such as average followers, engagement rates, and share of voice
- Ideas for the best times to post on social media (since your audience is likely online at a similar time)
- An understanding of the potential customer pain points
- New (and better) ideas for content that may resonate with your audience (or that, conversely, does NOT resonate with your audience, and which you might want to avoid)
- An understanding of how to communicate with your audience on certain platforms (i.e., casually or formally)
- Ideas for ways to differentiate your brand
- And more!
Ultimately, a social media competitive analysis will give you as much as you put into it. You may choose to do a one-off social media competitor report or hire someone on your team whose sole job it is to keep track of your competitors. Most businesses do something in-between: a quarterly or monthly report.
Whatever you level of analysis you choose, the insights will be invaluable.
We’ve broken the process of conducting a competitive analysis on social media into four steps that will work for any brand.
Before your start, download this free social media competitive analysis template to keep track of your efforts.
Bonus: Get a free, customizable competitive analysis template to easily size up the competition and identify opportunities for your brand to pull ahead.
Step 1. Determine who your competitors are
Identify your competitive keywords
You probably already know some of the keywords your business is trying to rank for in the search engines. For example, if you work for a Manhattan-based hotel, you’re likely focused on keyword such as “New York hotels,” and “best places to stay in Manhattan.”
But if your property is a boutique hotel with evening wine tastings and local art, you’re not necessarily competing directly with the Holiday Inn. Having a thorough understanding of your keyword inventory will help you develop a clear picture of who you’re really competing against online.
The Google Adwords Keyword Planner is a great place to identify the keywords most relevant to your brand. Even if you don’t advertise with Google Adwords, this tool is free to use.
To start, use the tool to analyze your website. You’ll get a list of relevant keywords, along with the average monthly searches and estimated level of competition.
Or, you can enter your known target keywords into the tool. Again, you’ll get a list of related keywords with data on search volume and competition. Use these related keywords to help you narrow your definition of your competitors, so you can make sure you’re analyzing businesses that are truly competing with your own.
Check who’s ranking for those keywords in Google
Choose the top five or 10 keywords that have the most relevance to your business, and plug them into Google. You’ll soon get a sense of who your top competition is online.
Pay special attention to the brands in your industry that are paying for Google ads to get their names above the organic search results, as they’re putting their money where their marketing ambitions are. Even if they don’t have great organic search rankings (yet), it’s worth checking out how they’re performing on social media.
Click through to the websites of any brands that appear to be potential competitors. Most businesses link to their social channels in the header or the footer of their website. Enter the links to their social profiles in your competitive analysis spreadsheet.
Check who appears in social searches for those keywords
The brands that rank for your keywords in Google are not necessarily the same ones that rank well within the social networks themselves. Since this is a social media competitive analysis, you need to see who comes up tops in social search results, too.
For example, head to Facebook and enter your keyword in the search box. Then click on Pages in the top menu.
For more tips on searching the various social networks, check out our post on the best ways to research online.
Find out what similar brands your audience follows
Facebook Audience Insights and Twitter Analytics can give you some good insights into which other brands your audience follows on these social networks. If these brands are similar to yours, it’s worth considering them as potential competitors.
To find which brands your audience follows on Facebook:
- Open Facebook Audience Insights
- Use the left column to enter the demographics of your target audience OR scroll down to Pages in the left column and enter your existing Facebook Page under People Connected to
- In the top menu, click Page Likes
Want to dive deeper? We’ve got a whole post with more tips on how to use Facebook Audience insights for customer research.