4 reasons to keep an eye on your competitors’ social mediaSocial media platforms afford brands many opportunities to further their business goals, often with an emphasis on strengthening the consumer relationship; however, social media is also a great tool to easily monitor your competitors.

Before you dive into a competitive social audit, there are a few things you need to do to prepare. First, identify your top competitors and take a look at how active they are on social media. The companies you consider to be your top competitors in the offline space may not be your main competition in the social media space. Knowing this now will save you from extra work later. If all of your competitors are active on social media, you’re ready to start your audit. If you notice that a good number of your competitors aren’t active on social media, now is the time to identify additional companies to include in your audit. Again, you’ll want to ensure these additional competitors are active on social media before diving into your audit. There’s no right or wrong number for how many companies you should include in a competitive social media audit, but keep the amount manageable. We’ve gleaned a lot of insights from landscapes consisting of four or five competitors.

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We’re advocates for conducting annual competitive social media audits, and here are four reasons why:

1. See how you stack up against your competitors

Social media platforms are a place to connect with your current and potential consumers and to exemplify your brand’s voice and thought leadership. It’s important to monitor how you’re doing compared to your competitors and what it means for your brand. Using a tool like Rival IQ, will help you quickly gather information so we can compare different metrics like followership, platform use, and post frequency among our brand, competitors, and overall competitive landscape average. Knowing how you stack up against your competitors can provide insights into how each brand is perceived and who has the highest reach and share of voice on social media.

2. Identify what content performs best in your competitive landscape

Another reason to conduct a competitive social media audit is to understand what performs best in your competitive landscape. To be impactful, you need individuals to see and engage with your content. In a cyclical fashion, the more people who engage with your content increases the number of people who see it and so on. Rival IQ and Facebook’s in-platform competitor analysis tool allow us to identify things like which platforms are used most, what hashtags garner the most participation, post types that are most engaging, if and how influencers are used, and any new formats or platform capabilities that competitors are using. Understanding what performs the best will allow your team to make strategic recommendations on new ways to engage with your audiences, whether that’s through exploring the use of new platforms, tapping into new hashtags, investigating the use of an influencer, or testing different post types like 360° content.

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3. See how audiences engage with your competitors

Compelling content generates engagement, and from this, you can learn a lot about a group of people. A competitive landscape social audit is beneficial to understanding how users engage with your brand. It’s likely your company’s target audience overlaps with your competitors’ audiences, so we encourage taking every opportunity to get to know and understand them better.

Through user engagements you can learn how active or passive your audience is. If they’re commenting on content, you can learn what they’re thinking and feeling, what’s impacting their decision making, how brand loyal they are, and more. Tools like Brandwatch make it very easy to monitor conversations taking place on social media relating to a particular brand, product, or industry as a whole. Understanding exactly how your audience and your competitors’ audiences engage on social media can help you create better, more compelling content (both on and off social media) that resonates with users as they make their way through the decision-making process.

4. See how your competitors engage with their audiences
The expectations for how brands communicate and engage with their followers on social media have changed drastically in recent years. Users expect quick responses, sometimes in less than an hour. Understanding how your competitors engage with their audiences can help shed light on the expectations of your audience, because it’s likely if they aren’t happy, they’ll make it known.

When looking at how a competitor engages with their followers, note what kind of content they’re engaging with (positive, neutral, and/or negative), how they’re engaging (likes, comments, recommendations, or answers with external links), and who is responding (company, employee of company, or brand ambassador). Taking a look at how your competitors do it may give you an idea on how to further develop and improve your response plan. It also may offer insight into how to or how not to respond. For example, if your competitors take days to reply to comments, you can work at increasing the efficiency in your response plan so you stand out as more responsive on social media.

It’s important to keep in mind your social media strategy plan and social media audit efforts are not a one-and-done task. Want to stand out in the social media space? Keep an eye on your competitors and plan on conducting in-depth audits at least once a year. Of course, you may choose to conduct mini audits more frequently depending on your industry, your competitive landscape and the social media channels. As you build up your research, you’ll be able to compare how you’ve advanced compared to your competitors. These audits will help guide you strategically as you continue to look for ways to stand out in the social media space, especially as your competitors, the landscape, and the platforms evolve.

About Erin Fry

Erin Fry is a social media specialist that enjoys strategizing how to effectively use social media in a marketing campaign and gleaning insights from these efforts. When she’s not working at Two Rivers Marketing, she can be found testing new recipes in the kitchen, playing with her westie, Max, or cheering on the Cyclones in basketball or football. If you want to chat about social media, food, dogs, or college athletics, send her a DM at erinf@2rm.com.