Don’t let competitors get an edge over you on social media — conduct a competitor analysis to stay ahead of the game.
Here, you’ll find:
- Steps for conducting a competitor analysis for social media
- Why it’s key to understand your competitors’ social media strategies
- How to differentiate your brand on social media
- Top social media analytics tools when doing a competitor analysis
Sprout Social reports that 55% of consumers learn about new brands through social media.
So, it’s no surprise that social media is one of the most popular ways to engage with customers and effectively reach your target audience.
But just like in search engine results, there’s competition for eyeballs and attention on social media platforms. That’s why understanding how your brand stacks up against the competition is important for developing your social strategy and making it work for you.
Conducting a competitive analysis for social media can enhance your social media performance. Besides better understanding your competition, a social media competitor analysis puts helpful information in your hands on how to improve your brand’s strategy.
Let’s explore the best methods and tools for conducting a competitive analysis for social media.
Top tools for social media competitor analysis
Offers in-depth insights into indirect and direct competitors. For instance, you can analyze competitors’ audience demographics, content performance, and engagement metrics. Brands can use Sparktoro to identify trends, discover new opportunities, and refine their social media strategies based on competitor analysis.
Allows brands to monitor their competitors’ social media activities, track their content performance, and compare engagement metrics. Brands can use Sprout Social to gain insights into their competitors’ strategies and identify areas for improvement, such as the kind of content they create and the formats they use.
Provides data on competitors’ social media profiles, top-performing content, and audience engagement. Brands can use Semrush to benchmark their performance against competitors and identify growth opportunities.
Offers insights into competitors’ content strategies, audience demographics, and engagement metrics. Brands can use Emplifi to understand what works well for their competitors and adapt their strategies accordingly.
Allows brands to identify the most shared content from their competitors, analyze their content performance, and track their social media engagement. Brands can use BuzzSumo to gain inspiration for their content strategy and identify gaps to fill.
Provides insights into competitors’ social media conversations and sentiment analysis. It allows brands to track mentions of their competitors, monitor industry trends, and understand the sentiment around their brand and competitors. Brands can use Brandwatch to stay updated on competitor activities and identify opportunities for engagement.
Helps brands monitor their competitors’ social media accounts, track their content performance, and compare engagement metrics. Brands can use Hootsuite to gain insights into their competitors’ strategies and identify areas for improvement.
Offers features such as benchmarking, content analysis, and audience insights. Brands can use Rival IQ to track their competitors’ social media activities, identify industry trends, and make data-driven decisions for their social media strategy.
Allows brands to monitor conversations around their competitors, track their social media performance, and analyze sentiment analysis. Brands can use Mention to stay updated on competitor activities and identify opportunities for engagement.
Lets brands track and analyze their competitors’ performance on the platform. It provides insights into audience demographics, engagement metrics, and content performance. Brands can use Facebook Analytics to understand their competitors’ strategies, identify popular content, and gain insights for their own Facebook marketing efforts.
Facebook Ad Library:
Allows brands to explore and analyze the ads run by their competitors on the platform. It provides information about the ad creative, targeting, and performance metrics. Brands can use Facebook Ad Library to gain insights into their competitors’ advertising strategies, identify trends, and refine their own Facebook ad campaigns.
Allows brands to monitor their competitors’ social media activities, track their content performance, and compare engagement metrics. Brands can use Sociality.io to gain insights into their competitors’ strategies, identify industry trends, and optimize their own social media presence.
Benefits of tracking my competitors on social media
There are many advantages to conducting a competitor analysis for social media. According to Nicole Goodnough, senior paid social media manager at HawkSEM, analyzing your competitors can you do three main things:
- See gaps in the market and how your business can do better
- Position your business above the competition
- Discover industry trends
“Sometimes it can be difficult to step back and take a look at your own social media,” says Goodnough. “So reviewing your competitors’ efforts can help you identify improvements for your own social, or even determine what you’re doing really well already.”
A thorough competitor analysis can also unearth customer insights and feedback so you can be sure your business does things better and meets the needs of your customer base.
Pro tip: Researching your competition isn’t about stealing ideas or mimicking them — it’s to see what they’re doing well, what they could do better, and how to position your business ahead of them. The insights you uncover will inform and strengthen your social media strategy and drive growth for your business.
Now that you understand the advantages, here’s how to conduct a competitor analysis for social media like a pro.
1. Determine your top competitors
You probably already have a good idea about who your top competitors are. If not, it’s worth taking the time to identify your top five competing companies.
To identify your competition, using Google to search for keywords your target customers use to find your business is a good place to start. Once you’ve made a list, you can put on your detective hat and dive a little deeper to determine how active each of them is on social media. Of course, you want to focus your efforts on brands that have a social strategy, so you can effectively compare.
Pro tip: Visiting your competitors’ websites is usually a quick and easy way to find their social media profiles, as they often link to them in their site’s header or footer.
2. Set your goals
Before you get too far in your social media analysis, identify the purpose of running one in the first place. Without knowing why you’re conducting an analysis, it will be difficult to measure and evaluate your results.
You’ll find a lot of data when digging into your competitor’s social strategies, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for to ensure you’re not wasting time gathering irrelevant data.
Some common goals of conducting a competitor analysis for social media are:
- Improving organic reach
- Determining the best social platform for your brand
- Increasing engagement or followers
- Optimizing social ads
3. Pick the social networks to monitor
Most companies stick to the main social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. They also may be more active on some than others. Look to see which social media channels your competition leverages the most and why that might be.
Do they see the most engagement on Instagram or LinkedIn? The answer could indicate where your target audience is spending most of their social media scrolling time, which can help inform your own social strategy.
Pro tip: Review your target customer demographic information to see if you should expand beyond the “traditional” social media networks. TikTok and Pinterest, for example, have massive user bases and could be a platform where your business would have the most market share.
4. Track key social media metrics
After identifying the social media platforms your competitors are most active on, you can work to gain a better understanding of how they engage with and grow their network.
The following key metrics can help you examine and track their performance.
- Profile metrics: Note things like the number of followers, average weekly posts, and engagement
- Content metrics: Note the types of social media content shared, number of ads or boosted posts, and image to video post ratio
- Brand metrics: Note the tone of voice, key issues most often addressed, and interaction from followers
- Engagement metrics: Note the likes, comments, and shares of their content and the number of customers using their branded hashtags
Pro tip: It’s a good idea to look at the average engagement by post type (video, photo, text, link) to compare to your posts as well.
5. Determine the prime time for your social media audience
Ensuring your content is seen by followers at the best times of day and days of the week will help you work smarter vs. harder when it comes to social reach. While consistent posting is key to an effective social media strategy, it’s not enough to just post as you please. Rather, it’s helpful to know when the largest number of targeted users are online.
Looking at each of your social platform’s analytics is a good starting point. From there, noting your competitor’s posting times and their engagement rating can help determine if adjusting your posting times will increase the chances of reaching more targeted consumers.
6. Don’t forget about paid media
While it’s almost impossible to determine the exact amount your competition spends on paid media marketing campaigns, you can try to determine if they’re paying for increased followers or post engagement.
Plus, conducting a social media analysis without considering if they’re boosting or running ads could skew your results and have you setting unachievable organic goals.
The tools in the next section can help you run an analysis or browse each social platform individually to look for any sponsored ads. Then conducting a complete PPC competitor analysis will also give you more information on improving your paid reach.
Pro tip: The Facebook Ad Library is helpful for checking if your competition is actively running ads on Facebook or Instagram.
7. Find the proper tools
Automating the tracking of competitors is the most effective way to get up-to-date data. While you can conduct a competitor analysis for social media on your own, using the proper tools makes the process more efficient and allows for easy tracking of both your and your competitors’ results.
You can use a mix of the tools we listed earlier. Or you can partner with HawkSEM’s social media experts to run the competitor analysis and recommend methods to improve your social media marketing strategy.
How to identify your customers on social media
Understanding who you’re selling to makes it easier to design products that meet their needs, and social media marketing strategies to drive them to buy your goods.
You may have an idea of who’d want your product, but it’s ideal to get data to back it up. Here’s how to do that.
Step 1: Start with your existing customer base
Look at your current customers and identify the ones who are the most engaged, loyal, and happy with your products or services. These customers are likely to be your niche customers, so pay close attention to their demographics, preferences, and behaviors.
Step 2: Conduct market research
Dig deeper into your target market by conducting market research. This can involve surveys, interviews, or analyzing existing data to gain insights into your audience’s needs, pain points, and desires. Understanding their motivations and challenges will help you refine your marketing approach and tailor your offerings to better serve them.
Step 3: Analyze your competitors’ customer base
Study your competitors and observe who their most loyal customers are. Identify the gaps and opportunities in the market that they might have missed. In other words, perform a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
By analyzing your competitors’ customers, you can determine if there’s a subset of customers who align better with your unique value proposition.
Step 4: Identify distinctive traits and behaviors
Take a closer look at your niche customers and identify any distinctive traits or behaviors that set them apart from the broader market. This could include their specific interests, preferences, shopping habits, or even their preferred social media platforms. Understanding these unique characteristics will allow you to tailor your marketing messages and approaches to better resonate with them.
Step 5: Use social listening tools
Leverage social media listening tools to monitor conversations and engagement rates related to your industry or product. This will provide valuable insights into the discussions and sentiments of potential niche customers. Pay attention to the pain points they express, the influencers they follow, and the hashtags they use. These insights can help you identify and connect with your niche audience on a deeper level.
Pro tip: After identifying your niche customers, continuously engage with them, gather feedback, and refine your offerings. Your niche customers are your biggest advocates and can provide valuable insights into how to improve and grow your business. Foster strong relationships with them to sustain long-term success.
10 steps to conduct a social media competitor analysis
No need to keep it all in your brain — jot down our checklist to keep on hand for your next social media competitor analysis:
1. Identify competitors:
Make a list of your main competitors in the industry or niche you are targeting. This will help you focus your analysis on the right competitors.
2. Analyze social media platforms:
Determine which social media platforms your competitors are active on. Look for their presence on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.
3. Assess follower base:
Evaluate the size and demographics of your competitors’ follower base. Look for patterns in terms of age, gender, location, and interests. This will help you understand their target audience.
4. Dig into content strategy:
Examine the type of content your competitors are posting on social media. Look for the frequency of posts, the format of content (images, videos, text), and the tone of voice. Identify what resonates with their audience.
5. Evaluate engagement metrics:
Review the engagement metrics of your competitors’ social media posts. Look at the number of likes, comments, shares, and views to understand how well their content is performing and resonating with their audience.
6. Monitor influencer collaborations:
Keep an eye on the influencers your competitors are collaborating with. Look for partnerships and sponsored content to understand their influencer marketing strategy.
7. Assess advertising strategy:
Analyze the social media ads your competitors are running. Look for the type of ads, targeting options, and messaging used. This will identify their advertising strategy and identify potential gaps or opportunities.
8. Review customer feedback:
Monitor customer reviews, comments, and mentions about your competitors on social media. Pay attention to both positive and negative feedback to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
9. Check benchmark performance:
Compare your own social media performance against your competitors. Look for areas where you can improve and identify opportunities to differentiate yourself.
10. Plan for recurring monitoring:
Continuously monitor your competitors’ social media activities and adapt your strategy accordingly. Keep an eye on new trends, campaigns, and initiatives they undertake.
Social media competitor analysis checklist
Analyze social media platforms
Assess follower base
Dig into content strategy
Evaluate engagement metrics
Monitor influencer collaborations
Assess advertising strategy
Review customer feedback
Check benchmark performance
Plan for recurring monitoring
Comparing your social media presence and results to your competitors gives you insight into their social strategies and shows you the best ways to outrank them.
With most of the data being public knowledge, conducting a competitor analysis for social media is easier than you might think. However, compiling the data is only the first step.
Effectively analyzing the information and results requires using the top competitive analysis tools and understanding what it all means. From there, you can post more like-worthy posts, tweets, and Stories — and feel confident that you’re on the right track.
This article has been updated and was originally published in April 2021.