One way to measure your influence in the online marketplace is to do analysis of how your competitors are performing in social media. A competitive analysis is also a good way to identify opportunities for your brand that might be unique for the audience you want to engage with. Standing out, of course, is the goal of brands. Does your brand stand out in social media? A competitive analysis is a good way to find out.
When You Should and Should Not Analyze Your Competitors
While the information gathered and analyzed about how your competitors are performing in social media may be helpful, it's important to pursue this activity with a solid objective in mind. Otherwise, you may become discouraged, frustrated and even angry about how poorly your brand is performing in comparison. The reverse is just as bad. If you do an analysis to prove to yourself how great your brand is doing, you may become comfortable put innovation at risk.
Some worthwhile reasons for doing this type of analysis are:
If your objective is not self-serving for your ego, it probably falls within the boundaries of the plausible reasons to take a hard look at your competitors in the social media channel.
Where To Start
The first step is to identify your competitors. Figuring out who they are involves much more than social media and extends far beyond the scope of this article. However, in order to continue, you must at least have a short list of businesses that are fighting for the attention of your potential customers.
Set Your Objective
A clearly defined objective will keep your analysis on track for the duration of the study. I provided three great reasons to do a competitive analysis above. A practical objective that many brands might use today is to determine if my brand should use Google+.
Choose What to Analyze (And Over What Period Of Time)
There are many ways to analyze your competitors in social media. For our example of Google+, you might analyze type of content shared, functionality used and engagement for each competitor.
For content shared, you could make a list of post types, including pictures, videos, links, text only, or posts shared from another Google+ user.
Parameters for functionality used, in this case, might simply be hangouts with possible values of yes or no.
You'll also want to make a list of engagement KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators. How would you determine success for your brand? This information is what you should measure your competitors against. Some examples for our Google+ example above might be:
Set a specific amount of time that you will gather data from, such as the last 60 or 90 days.
Beware of the hidden KPIs
Engagement KPIs do not tell the whole story. There are some things that you might not be able to measure, but that may indicate success for your competitors. For instance, the revenue or number of page views their links are generating on their e-commerce sites are private metrics that may tell a much different story than the level of engagement they receive.
Make a Spreadsheet
After you have identified your competitors and what data you will analyze, make a spreadsheet that lists each of your competitors and each item you will measure. Compiling all of this information in one data set (or table) will help you look at the big picture when you are complete.
Gather Data & Analyze
Locate your competitor's social media profiles. Meticulously sift through their information to fill out your spreadsheet. Then analyze the data gathered, keeping your original objective in mind.
For our Google+ example above, you may find that you should use the network by embracing the Hangout functionality because all of your competitors neglect this feature. You might also determine that the ratio of engagement to total number people who follow competitor pages indicates that the market is not active enough in the space for you to participate.
When done properly, a competitive analysis takes a lot of time and resources. However, it can expose opportunities for your brand that your competitors may be missing out on (or are executing so well you need to try them yourself). A social media competitive analysis can also help you develop a strategy for your broader social media efforts or choose the tactics your staff should use to improve your KPIs.
Take some time to learn from your competitor's successes and mistakes to improve your own activities.
Image credit: Flickr / FutUndBeidl