As an entrepreneur, digital marketing is no longer a nice-to-have – it should form the backbone of your business and be a constant investment.

Whilst pay-per-click is a great way to drive traffic and increase conversions, SEO a method of outmanoeuvring the competition on Google and content marketing an opportunity to share your wisdom and find new warm leads, social media is still considered one of the best ways to interact with customers and find new ones – and it seems like every business is using it.

There are now more than 50 million small businesses using Facebook Pages to connect with their customers, and millions more on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

So how can you stand out from the crowd and encourage potential buyers to listen to what you have to say?

One way to get ahead of the competition on social media and catapult your engagements and followers is through social media competitive analysis – evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ social media campaigns to your own.

By finding out what they’re doing well and where they need to improve, you’ll be able to outsmart them fast.

Below, we’ve put together an introduction to conducting social media competitor analysis…

Identify your competitors

  Let’s start with the obvious: identifying your competitors.

The chances are that you already know the majority of them, but there are many pop-up businesses or firms with poor SEO that may have slipped through the net.

Do some digging on social media search engines and type in keywords and phrases you’re targeting.

A florist might type in ‘Flower bouquets in Dublin’ or ‘Flower delivery Ireland’ into Instagram and Facebook, for instance.

Once you’ve identified competitors, add a couple to a private Twitter list (for future stalking!) or bookmark their social handles.

Review as many local and national competitors as you’d like, and then select two or three to monitor regularly.

If you analyse too many, you’ll have too much data and will likely become overwhelmed with information, so keep it simple.

Get to know them

Now you’ve found some competitors, get to know them by conducting thorough research.

We’ve put together some of the questions you should be asking as part of your competitor analysis – though, depending on your niche, some of these might not be relevant.

  • Who are they following?
  • Who’s following them back?
  • Which networks are they on?
  • When did they last post on their account?
  • How many followers do they have?
  • Are they gaining or losing followers? (use SocialBlade to see)
  • Are they focusing on one network more than others? (i.e. posting more)
  • Do they respond to customers? Are they fast?
  • How many likes, retweets and comments do they get on their posts?
  • What sort of stuff are they posting?
  • Do they post content from news outlets and blogs?
  • What percentage of their content is rich? (images, videos, GIFs)

Conduct a SWOT analysis

When starting a business or analysing competition, it’s always good to look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your competitors.

Start by focusing on their strong points:

  • Are they good at posting content regularly?
  • Are they engaging with their customers in a unique way?
  • Have they found new ways to promote a boring product or service in a fun way?
  • Have they developed a voice and personality for their business?
  • Does that voice work?

Next, look at their weaknesses.

It’s easy to write off a competitor’s social media presence as “rubbish” and think that they’re not a threat, but delving deeper can give you some food for thought and allow you to make improvements to your own strategy.

  • Do they make spelling mistakes?
  • Have they abandoned one of their channels?
  • Are they graphics unprofessional?

Next, look for opportunities.

If you’ve spotted a competitor hasn’t posted on Twitter for a few months, you can focus on becoming the source for your industry on Twitter.

Finally, look at threats:

  • Is a competitor doing something great that you can’t?
  • Do they post amazing videos and graphics?

Identify your weaknesses based on their strengths to improve your content strategy.

Let tools help you

Whilst you’ll need to spend some time analysing your competitors on social media, the data should be left to a robot.

There are a bunch of tools on hand to help you collect information on your competitors, which can be used to refine your marketing strategy.

Facebook’s own business tools, for example.

Under your company page’s Insights and Pages to Watch, you can compare the performance of your page and posts with similar pages and competitors.

Facebook Insights

Brand24 is another resource to add to your social media analysis toolbox, this social media listening tool allows you to monitor competitors and keywords. It’s great for monitoring complaints and reaching out to new leads who are dissatisfied with a competitor’s service – you can offer them a free trial or discount code.

A great Twitter tool is Twittonomy. This allows you to see how many tweets a person does, what hashtags they use and who they are talking to the most. Instagram Audit is a free tool that shows you the engagement on any public Instagram account. It also shows you if there are fake followers and if so how many! This tool is very useful when considering using influencers in your campaign.

Using your data

Once you’ve collated data on competitors and conducted some first-hand research, you’re good to go.

Use competitors’ popular content as inspiration, rather than taking material from their channels and repurposing it as your own – use data to learn why their material worked and create something unique if you want to stand out and find success of your competitors.

Focus on filling gaps, and posting where other people don’t.

Are your competitors only posting their own content? Use feedalpha to post new and trending content that shows you are keeping up to date with what is happening in your industry.

Of course, Snapchat might not be the right platform for a private dental firm, but Instagram, where you can target business professionals looking to offer healthcare to their staff, might be an option to consider.

The same goes for service – if your competitors are ignoring customer complaints, then give that user a follow and nudge them in your direction – you’ll soon see new clients signing up!

Finally, remember that competitive analysis is there to empower you and give you the tools and information you need to improve your own business – not knock others down.

Accept that it can take time to develop and brand voice and a clear strategy; there are no overnight wins unless you’ve got thousands of pounds to spend on paid ads.

Keep data organised, be consistent with your strategy, and in time, you’ll outflank the competition on social media.

Best of luck!