How to Do a Social Media Competitive Analysis

Posted on March 3rd 2013

How to Do a Social Media Competitive Analysis


Stand Out in Social MediaOne 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:

  1. To get ideas for how your brand can engage in the social media channel
  2. To identify opportunities your competitors may be missing (and therefore your brand can uniquely offer)
  3. To gage how the overall market for your product or service engages in social media or a specific social network

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:

  • Shares per post
  • Comments per post
  • +1s per post

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



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Klara Jahrig
Posted on March 3rd 2013 at 5:28AM

Hi John,

I like how you pointed out how competitive analysis relates to branding as many websites seem to ignore this.

I like the briefness of your article but it would have been better if you included examples especially in translating the metrics into the spreadsheet :)




Posted on March 3rd 2013 at 8:26PM


Perhaps a better headline may have been, "An introduction to social media competitive analysis." It's always tricky trying to keep things simple yet giving enough detail to be helpful.

I appreciate your honest feedback!

Mohamed Elsherif
Posted on March 3rd 2013 at 6:47AM

Nice, thanks John!


Posted on March 3rd 2013 at 8:26PM

Thanks for reading, Mohamed! 

Aahh Motherland
Posted on March 3rd 2013 at 8:51PM

Great post that details the importance of cross brand analysis in the social media field in order to gauge performance.

Posted on March 4th 2013 at 2:24PM

Thanks for reading, Konstantin!

Posted on March 3rd 2013 at 10:10PM

Great article John... I really enjoyed reading your work...



Posted on March 4th 2013 at 2:24PM

Thanks, Treb. Great to know you enjoyed it!

Posted on May 29th 2013 at 2:39AM

Great work Mr.John,

I liked your description about the importance of competitor analysis to measure the influence of a brand in the online market. It's true that the competitor analysis is the basis of brand building. But the brand building is a very slow process. If we got the sentiments or shouts about our brand in the social media immediately, then we can change our business strategy accordingly. Then, they can ensure that the brand building process will not be very slow. With the help of some social media monitoring tools available in the market we can measure the sentiments (positive or negative) immediately.