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What to Watch on Your Competitors’ Social Media Accounts

by aschmidt

watching_your_competitors_social_media_accountsThe strategic use of social media is one of the most important tools in a marketer’s arsenal and has skyrocketed over the past decade, with over 90% of all businesses now reporting that they regularly utilize social media as a part of their marketing strategy (as compared to only 20% in 2007). This means that the social media landscape is crowded, and unless you can become exceptional at standing out on social platforms, you run the risk of blending into the white noise, which is almost as bad as not being present at all. So how can you identify key opportunities that will help you stand out from the competition?

The answer lies in the age-old practice of social media competitive analysis, or in simpler terms, “spying” on the competition. In order for you to find out how you stack up against your industry rivals, you’ll need to become keenly aware of what they’re doing on social media. The best way to go about this is to first of all make a list of your primary competitors (this shouldn’t be difficult at all). Next, visit each of the following social media accounts for each competitor:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Pinterest

While there are a myriad of other social media sites where businesses have set up shop, the above list details the sites most frequently used by marketers across the board. If one of your competitors is crushing it on a particular social platform outside of the above list, you’ll definitely want to take note of that as well.

For each of the social media sites listed above, your “surveillance” should be comprised of the following items:

  • Number/frequency of posts or status updates – This gives you a clue as to how often they’re “watering the garden,” so to speak. Observe which platforms garner the largest quantity or frequency of posts from your competition; this can be an indication of what type of priority that particular platform holds in their strategy.
  • Number of fans or followers – This will tell you how effective they’ve been able to be in attracting and retaining an audience on that platform.
  • The type of content they publish – This will help you determine what type of angle they’re using to appeal to that particular audience. Are they using primarily visual content, such as images and videos, or are they sticking with regular text-based updates? Does the majority of their content stick to the subject of the industry or do they incorporate alternate or even unrelated topics into their social feed? How many of their posts are promotional versus non-promotional? Also take note of whether their content is primarily original, or if they curate or appropriate content from other sources.
  • Use of features – How proficient are they at utilizing that particular social site? For example, do they have custom headers and profile pictures? Do they know how to use the various applications and functionality that the platform offers (embedded HTML apps on Facebook pages, etc.)? If they’re maxing out all of the platform’s major features (and even taking advantage of the more obscure ones), that should be a clue that their investment into that social platform must be paying off fairly well.
  • Engagement with fans/followers – How many comments, likes, shares, reposts, etc., are they receiving on that platform? This will be a clue as to how well they’ve been able to engage the audience that favors that particular social media service. While you’re at it, visit your competition’s blog or website to see if they have added social media share/follow buttons for each platform on their web pages. Take note of whether or not their readers are using those buttons. If you see, for example, that a particular blog post received over 1,500 Facebook likes but only 25 tweets, it is fairly safe to say that Facebook is the platform that is working the best for your competition.

Each of the data points listed above can give you valuable clues as to how your competitors are leveraging these social platforms to build their fan base. If you see that one particular social network seems to produce the most outstanding results for your competitor, that could be an indication that that platform may be a safer bet in terms of where to direct the majority of your resources and attention. At the same time, don’t be afraid to devote a portion of your time to experimentation; the very platform that your competition is under-utilizing at the moment could be a gold mine for your business if you adopt the right type of approach.

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