How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis on Social Media


They say you shouldn’t check to see if the grass is greener on the other side. When it comes to marketing, that’s actually terrible advice. You absolutely should be peeking over the fence to see what your competition has growing over there. If you don’t, you have no idea what you’re up against!

Competitive Analysis on Social Media: Do I Really Need to Do This? 

The role of social media in marketing continues to grow, and it’s more important than ever to stay on top of your social presence. There are plenty of general guidelines about social media marketing; hat to post, when to post, how often to post. None of it means much without context, though. If you’re developing a social media marketing strategy without conducting a competitive analysis, you’re basically flying blind out there.

If you don’t know what’s going on with your competition on social media, you can’t position yourself to stand out from them. 

Ok, so what now? 

Figuring Out Who Your Competitors Are

You can’t size up the competition if you’re not sure who they are.  You may already have an idea of who your main competitors are. If not, here’s how to figure it out.

How big are they? If you’re a small boutique business, you probably aren’t trying to compete with a big box retailer. Don’t spend too much time worrying about how they’re spending their enormous social media marketing budget. Look to the businesses that are roughly the same size as yours for the most useful information.

Where are they located? Depending on what type of business you have, geography might play a big role in determining the most effective way to conduct your analysis. If you have a brick & mortar business, it’s very important to figure out what other similar businesses in your area are doing on social - and whether it’s paying off for them. 

What are they selling? Perhaps the most obvious aspect of deciding who your competitors are is what kind of business they have. If you sell umbrellas, you don’t need to worry about what podiatry practices are doing online. 

Once you know which companies you’ll be looking at, decide which social media sites you’re going to focus on. Figure out which platforms your competitors are using, and which ones they’re seeing the most engagement from. Find out why they’re focusing on certain social media sites and not others, if you can.

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So You Know Your Competitors, Now What? 

The next step is to check out your competitors’ social media pages and look at what they’re putting out there. You may want to organize your observations by social media site. Most companies adjust their posting style based on the platform they’re currently using. What’s best for Facebook may not be the best approach on Instagram. Here’s what to look for.

Type of posts: What are they posting? Is it mostly images, or are there textual posts as well? Are they funny? Serious? Heartfelt? What’s the overall mood of their social page? 

Frequency of posts: Take note of how often your competitors are updating their social media pages.

How they engage: Pay really close attention to the way your competitors are responding to their followers. When someone asks a question on one of their posts, do they answer immediately? How do they handle negative comments? 

Number of followers: Do they have tons of followers and fans? Do they have more followers on one platform than another? 

Popularity of posts: Do their posts rack up the likes and comments? Which types of posts are the most popular? Which ones are the least? Can you see a pattern emerging as you examine the types of posts that get the most engagement vs the ones that get the least?

Now that you’ve made some initial observations, it’s time to dive deeper. 

Just the Facts

Next comes the math. Because you can’t conduct a legit analysis by simply stalking your competition’s social sites. You need numbers. Data. Metrics. This is where analytics software can come in really handy. Programs such as Socialinsider and Keyhole can help you see your competitors’ growth and engagement metrics. And while social media sites aren’t going to tell you what kind of advertising programs your competitors are paying for, you can use analytics tools to see all the ads they’ve posted in one place. 

Putting It All to Use
Now comes the best part. You get to use all the interesting stuff you learned to your benefit. The biggest goal of a competitive analysis should be to use the information to improve your marketing efforts. 

  • What are some things your competitors are doing that are working for them, and how can you implement something similar in your own social strategy?

  • In what areas are your competitors lacking and how can you use this information to create an opportunity for yourself? 

  • What new goals can you set as a result of what you now know about the way your competitors are using social media? 

  • Based on your findings, are you making the most efficient use of your marketing resources? 


A Few More Things Before You Go

This has been a broad overview of conducting a competitive analysis on social media. Each point discussed here could be expanded into an entire article of its own. That’s why you may want to consider bringing in a social media expert to handle things. Whatever you do, keep the following in mind. 

Competitive analysis isn’t a one time thing. Things like constantly evolving algorithms and changing trends mean that what works today may not work next year - or even next quarter! This won’t (or at least shouldn’t) be the last time you do a competitive analysis.

Look at the big guys, too. Yes, the purpose of a competitive analysis is to learn about the businesses who are your actual rivals. However, don’t overlook the importance of keeping one eye on what the big brands are doing. Target. Wendy’s. You may not be in competition with companies like this, but you can always learn from them. If a business is slaying on social media, see what insights you can gain by observing their activity. 

Always set goals. If you go to the grocery store without a list, you’ll probably end up with a bunch of stuff you don’t need - and you may forget to pick up things you did actually need. It’s similar with marketing. Go in to your competitive analysis with a clear idea of what you hope to find out. 

And if you ever question whether it’s really worth all the effort to nurture your social media presence, consider this: 77% of people say they’re more likely to buy from brands they follow on social media

If you could use some help with your social media marketing strategy, contact Madison Ave Media for a complimentary consultation.