In my work with large companies one question arises consistently: Who should we be watching? Who are the companies to watch and benchmark our social media metrics against? A common mistake brands have with their social media strategy and competitive analysis, is keeping an eye on the wrong companies--because your greatest insight does not always come from your direct competitors.
Sometimes you've identified and evaluated some of the most obvious competitors in your space, and even s reduced this sample down to regional players. The obvious companies are directly in your space, or even regional brands in the same vertical, but are those the only pages you should be tracking? The companies you need to be evaluating your social media effectiveness against are not always the most obvious ones, and may need to be discovered using a different set of standards.
I've found that many brands don't have any idea where to start when it comes to social media profiles to monitor using various analytics platforms. Aside from narrowing down the obvious competition, they get stuck due to time limitations, low resources or creative reasoning because of limitations of internal organizational silos. They also tend to not have a defined standard for benchmarking performance, or something original and thought-provoking. For example, we've researched W and X to better understand Y and Z.
Identifying the metrics that matter to you most, is a good first step. Gauge not only your competitors, but also the companies you've identified as socially interesting or progressive.
The two most significant metrics are: engagement rate and response rate, which is how quickly is the page admin able to respond and react to the posts of the customers on the wall. One tends to be the focus of marketing department and the other is a focus of customer service team, respectively. Although the department that this matters to are sometimes one and the same and should be, but they're not recognized as such.
I've also found that it's no guarantee that a large fan base equals a high engagement rate. Engagement rate by definition, is a number of total interactions drawn by your content, divided by total audience of your Facebook page.
Interactions are defined as sum of Likes, comments and shares. Depending on what matters most to you, your definition of a valuable interaction may be different. I recently spoke with a shoe company that boasts a lofty 18 Million fans, and they do count likes and shares as buying signals. Comments are the shoe on the other foot.
In the same way, response rate may or may not be a key metric that is valued in your space. For example, if you are a CPG, airline, telecom or hospitality provider, this may be one of the most crucial touch points for customer interaction and satisfaction. As most turn to social today for feedback, rather than email and phone. And it's a lot more cost friendly for companies too (Forrester's Top Trends for Customer Service in 2014.)
On another hand, for entertainment brands, artists, national sports leagues or some luxury brands these may or may not be a metric to focus on: sharebility on Facebook, pinning on Pinterest or CCing friends on Instagram might be more applicable. Again, it all depends on what you think will help you progress your brand message and engage your consumers or advocates.
In closing, I'd just like to recommend always having an open mind to seek inspiration and performance metrics in new and unrelated sectors. It doesn't have to be a major brand or label that you emulate as long as you do it with class, style, and focus on your fans (read community) and the objectives you are looking to achieve in meeting and exceeding the expectations of your customer.