When we talk about Competitive Intelligence we refer to all the information that exists (and one can gather, define, analyse and distribute) about competitors, products, customers, and basically everything else that’s needed to make a strategic business decision.
Seeing how Social Media is oftentimes treated very lightly or even worst, ignored altogether when it comes to Competitive Intelligence, we decided to create a guide for those who want to take their digital presence one step ahead of their competition.
Step 1: Know Your Competition
The first thing that you have to do is to create a list with your most important competitors (direct and indirect, if applicable). Quick tip: Ask your colleagues that handle Sales/Business Development/Management or anything related. They may have already made such a list in the past and all you have to do is update it with current information.
If you have to create it from scratch, you can start by Google-ing a couple of industry-relevant solutions similar to the ones you are offering. For us at Beaglecat, it would be “Inbound Marketing Agency”, “Digital Marketing Agencies”, “Content Marketing Solutions”, and so on. You can also search for curated lists of similar keywords: “Top Digital Marketing Agencies in 2015”, “Best Inbound Marketing Agencies in the US”, “Most Creative Content Marketing Agencies of 2016”, etc.
Jot everything relevant down (names, URLs and other details you think will help) in a document of your choosing. I personally prefer an MS Word format, at least initially. If you want to go the extra mile, you could analyse your competitors’ websites/apps/etc with a couple of very interesting Competitive Intelligence Tools. Try to focus on the Social data as it will be the most useful asset for what we are about to analyse next.
Step 2: Create ”The Social Media List”
When you have a list of all your competitors’ websites, try to find out what Social Media platforms they are using for their business. These should probably be somewhere in the header or in the footer, or even in some kind of a sidebar.
At Beaglecat, we have them in the footer, next to the contact details.
The next thing you have to do is write down all the Social Media channels where your competitors have accounts. For example:
Doing this for all your competitors will make the next steps a lot more time-efficient.
Step 3: Look Into what They are Posting
Companies can post an extremely wide variety of topics and visuals on their social media channels: from photos of what it’s like to work with/for them, to competitions with prizes, blog posts (their own or from external sources), various promotions/ discounts, events they attend/ organize, what others post about them, funny/ motivational photos/ videos coupled with “Good morning”/ “Good night” messages. We’re going to try to create a bit of order within this chaos of Social Media posting possibilities and classify them into two categories: Internal Posts and External Posts.
Everything that companies post about themselves (competitions, blog articles, photos from the latest team building, etc.) can be added to this category. This is a great way to promote your brand and all the great work you are creating, but if you only talk about yourself all the time, you won’t be engaging for a long time. It also looks like you are obsessed with your own brand and desperately trying to sell something to your Social Media friends/ followers/ fans. You also look like a brand that is not a team player, because you don’t recognise the great content that’s being created on the internet by other entities in the same business categories as yourself. To balance this out, you’re going to have to share some external posts.
Everything that is not created by your brand can be added to this category. This is a great strategy if you want to look human on Social Media. Brands that share content from around the web that is relevant to their fans and their business sector prove they are human; they admit they are specialists only in a certain niche and show appreciation for those who create great content that brings added value.
Try to identify how often your competition posts from each of these categories. Hint: They should be sharing 30-40% internal posts and 60-70% external ones. It depends of course on the industry, business model, etc. but it’s always a better idea to look extra altruistic rather than extra eager to make that sale.
Step 4: What are Competitors Saying?
Tone is extremely important when posting on Social Media. You don’t have to say much, you just have to say something that defines your Brand from a positioning point of view. If it is also relevant and somehow brings added value to your fans, that would be great.
The other extremely important element is copywriting. Each Social Media channel calls for a different message that is adapted to that specific audience. The only thing your competitors can do to botch this is if they use the same text when posting across every platform they use. That just looks lazy and overall unprofessional, especially taking into consideration that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram use #Hashtags.
Try to write down what tone your competitors are using, if they are using #Hashtags appropriately, if they have different texts for different channels and how engaging their posts are. Do this separately for every Social Media channel that they have.
Step 5: Analyse Social Media Posting Frequency
Being “Missing In Action” on Social Media is one of the worst things you can let happen to your brand. It denotes the fact that you are either too lazy or don’t know how to handle this element of your online presence. It really doesn’t take that much time and effort to post something on your Social Media channels at least a couple of times a month/ once a week. This is only a minimum posting interval so that your fans don’t assume something in your company went horribly wrong. On the other hand, individual posting strategies for each channel can differ a lot based on industry, business model, brand equity and so on. You can’t go wrong with posting around 4-5 times per week, though.
Try to see how often your competitors post on Social Media and write down the different intervals for specific channels.
By now, you should have a consistent list of your competitors’ Social Media highs and lows. What you should do now is take each channel and analyse it by placing all of your competitors side by side. You can then see what opportunities you can create on which channels. Maybe your competitors are doing a stellar job on Facebook but their LinkedIn account looks like a sad, digital ghost town. You’ll definitely find out something interesting if you look hard enough.
We really enjoyed sharing our insights in this Social Media Competitive Analysis step-by-step guide that will hopefully prove valuable to you. If you enjoyed reading it and found it useful, don’t hesitate to share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Thank you!