“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” – This is the famous answer Abraham Lincoln gave after being criticized for promoting a benevolent treatment for the Southern rebels. This time we won’t make friends out of our competitors though, but instead, make friends with our competitors’ strategies. Their social media strategies, to be precise.
Almost 3,2 billion people today use social media and many businesses have already established a great presence to better monetize this huge consumer base. And in this highly competitive landscape, having a competitive edge is no longer a luxury but a necessity for any business looking to create brand awareness and boost their marketing capabilities.
The easiest way of achieving this is identifying the right competitors and the strategies they implement, researching those strategies and in the end, using what’s good and discarding what isn’t. This article covers some basic phases this process goes through.
Recognize your competitors but also yourself
You start by realizing what your brand is. Do this by answering questions like:
- What is my industry?
- What service or product do I offer?
- What is my core demographic?
This will bring you to the next step: finding who your competitors are. Use the replies from the previous questions as search parameters and look for companies that respond like your brand. You will probably get a big number, but don’t let that discourage you. Pick those that are often compared to your brand and those you lose your business to. Lastly, divide them into three distinct categories:
- Direct competitors, whether they’re a big national brand or a small local company
- Companies that compete for similar audiences
- Companies with similar content strategies, regardless of their audience and industry
Remember to look for competitors that have an online presence. Even though almost 50% of small businesses depend on social media for brand awareness generation, you may have found those which don’t use social media at all.
Realize where they are active
Now you need to research where they are on social media. Begin with their websites, as this is usually the place with all their blog platforms and social profile links. Then compile a specific list for each competitor that includes:
- The platforms they use
- Their number of followers on each platform
- Their handles on each platform
- Engagement on each platform (averages of likes, shares, repins or retweets)
- Brand flair – what adjective would you use to describe them? Are they funny, professional or inspirational?
When the list is done, visit these pages and gauge how they stand compared to your brand and other similar brands on the list. What channels do they use? Can they be found on novel and emerging networks? This way, you will know where you stand when compared to your competitors and industry as a whole.
Read between the likes
There are many different types of interactions that the posts of your competitors can spark – likes, comments, retweets and shares being some of them. These metrics can vary greatly and understanding which piece of content was successful and which didn’t perform well isn’t just about counting them.
You need to put these numbers into the right correlation. An average of 20 comments per post may seem like a lot at first look, but when you compare these interactions to the number of the company’s followers – the so-called conversation rate – you may realize this isn’t such a big deal.
And the number of likes and shares are just “vanity metrics”. Even though significant to really comprehend how someone’s social media strategy really affects their ROI and brand awareness, it’ also important to monitor click, reach, the number of followers, audience growth rate and especially social mentions. Social mention monitoring data shows why someone mentions a certain company, how often and in what sentiment, and allows greater perspective since it adds context to all those numbers of shares and likes you are tracking already.
Also remember to follow the key differences that separated successful post from unsuccessful ones, such as setup, used media (images, videos, text) and themes. Are there any tricks your competitors used to raise the community’s interest?
Who are they using?
Influencers are the name of the game in social media marketing. Fyre festival organizers understood this and created one of the biggest social media marketing campaigns by using over 250 of the most important influencers for the promotion of the festival. Be on a lookout for influencers your competition uses, understand how big of an impact they’re making and use this to your advantage by either replicating the methods involved or approaching those influencers yourself.
In the end
Identify your competitors, research their top content and analyze their online activity and all the KPI involved. This is how you answer the question of how your competitors have the results you wish for yourself. Don’t ignore the mentions so you can calculate how efficient these methods are at building relationships between the audience and the company. In the end, use what you have learned to adjust your tactics instead of copying them without any plan involved. Because this is the only way you will develop a strategy and content that truly resonates with your target audience.