How To Analyze Your Competitors Using Social Data

by · January 28, 201412 comments

If your business is taking social media seriously, you will have noticed that social media is gradually getting harder to succeed at.  This is a natural progression of the channel, and the changes made by the platforms are largely to be expected.  Take Facebook for instance.  They have little choice but to reduce NewsFeed reach algorithmically for certain types of posts as there is only limited space, and the volume of content being produced by users and pages is constantly growing.

With this in mind, the need to get ahead of your competitors and leverage every impression your content receives is key.  To do this, we recommend analyzing your competitors’ efforts and comparing key performance metrics to your own.  By understanding their performance in detail, you can optimize your plans for success.

The first step is to decide who you’re classing as your competitors – this may not be as obvious as you think.  With social media platforms, your competitors should be classed as any of the following (with the more you can track the better):

  • Your direct, traditional competitors
  • Those competing for the attention of a similar audience to you, even if in a different sector
  • Businesses with a similar content strategy, albeit for a different audience

Valuable insights can be gained from all three categories, although naturally you want to beat your traditional competitors the most!  Those that are competing for the attention of the same audience as you are also very important, so ensure you track at least one of these.

Once you’re happy with your competitor set, it’s time to start pulling out some data.  The key data we’re after here varies by channel, with Facebook & Twitter currently holding the best competitive data.

Facebook Data

On Facebook the first metric to track is the ultimate vanity metric, but tracking the size of your Facebook page over time versus competitors allows you to see growth rates.  This may be influenced by advertising and offline campaigns, but is worth monitoring as a judge of overall performance.  You can measure your page size growth easily in Facebook Insights, but to measure others comparatively you will need to use a paid analytics tool.

Beyond page size, the data available on Facebook on competitors starts to become more interesting.  The key metrics to analyze in terms of your competitors is engagement rate, broken down by a variety of factors.  For instance, comparing engagement rates by days, time of post, by content type and content topic allows you to really start learning.  Some of this data can be pulled from Facebook Insights, whereas some needs to come from paid analytics tools.

There are a number of paid tools available on top of Facebook Insights to help you extract all of the data you need.  I personally use tools like Socialbakers, & Optimal Social, as well as proprietary data mining tools to get this data out in an efficient way.

Examples of the kinds of data you can see, and how to present it to gain the best insight are below:

 Graph 1

As you can see from these graphs, comparing the volume of posts on a topic and the average engagement of these posts gives you an indication of strong and poor performance.  By doing this for your page and your competitors pages you can get strong indications of where to amend your content in the future.

Twitter Data

On Twitter, you need to keep a track of your competitors overall following, their daily mentions, and their Tweet engagement rate.  Twitter’s analytics platform is still fairly new, and doesn’t give much to compare to competitors as of yet, but there are plenty of free and paid Twitter tools to help you out, such as Topsy, Twitonomy, and Twitalyzer.

 Graph 2

Tracking daily mentions, following and average engagement rate at a top line level allows you to analyze on which days you are performing better or worse than your competitors.  This allows you to step back and see what content was posted on those days by you and your competitors, to see how you did well, or where you can improve based on what your competitors activity was.

The same can be said for any other social media platform where any public data is available.  Generally speaking the other social media platforms are not as developed analytically, but if you are prepared to put in a little manual effort to calculate your engagement rates and that of competitors then you can follow the above techniques to compare engagement rates by various factors across different companies.

We’re not suggesting copying your competitors, but simply learning from their activity, as well as your own.  The performance of their content across social media channels is an indication of how similar content may perform for you.  You may see certain elements in their strategy or specific content elements that you can use to your advantage straight away, or over the longer term by tweaking your content strategy.

Make sure you are constantly optimizing your content posting strategy by looking at your data and comparing it to competitors.  Learn from their mistakes, as well as their successes and gain a true understanding of your performance to allow you to constantly improve over time.

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About Ben Harper

Ben Harper

Ben is co-founder of Datify, a data driven digital marketing agency in the UK.  With a passion for data-led digital marketing that can be fully tested and optimised, Ben is ideally placed to provide our social and paid media strategies for clients. Whilst providing strategy, Ben still loves to get hands on with the data to validate tests provide optimisation plans, and enable transparent reporting. Connect with Ben on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+.

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://indispensablemarketing.com/ Patrick McFadden

    Sane social media marketing efforts are created according to dreams adjusted to competitive activity. Great marketers are rarely taken by surprise.

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  • http://www.gmrwebsitemaintenance.com/ GMR Website Maintenance

    Nicely written on comparing your competitors based on their presence on
    Social media. The key note that you have given that ‘We’re not
    suggesting copying your competitors, but simply learning from their
    activity, as well as your own.’ is praise worthy. Thanks for it.

    • Ben Harper

      Glad you enjoyed it – that’s definitely a key part, it’s crucial to understand what they’re doing without being tempted to just copy paste their strategy!

  • http://www.digitalinsights.in/ Digital Insights

    Great article, its always good to keep an eye on your competitors. Like you said not to copy, but it is simply bench-marking.

    • Ben Harper

      Thanks – glad you found it useful!

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  • Nishant

    Its really a great article. Can’t we pull data from facebook graph API then clean and preprocess it for analysis.

  • presschoice

    What’s an amazing experience! It is really informative for me. I read
    the article and enjoyed a lot. Thanks a lot for sharing.

    British news

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