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social media how toDo you want to freshen up your social media marketing?

Have you thought about looking at other accounts for inspiration?

Checking out what other companies are doing on social media can help you brainstorm your own content tactics.

In this article you’ll discover how to analyze your competitors’ social accounts to inspire new marketing ideas.

analyze competitors social media activities

Discover how to easily analyze your competitors’ social media activities.

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Why Look at the Competition?

Researching your competitors on social media not only provides an overview of your industry, but it also gives you insight into the current habits of the audiences you’re targeting. By answering a few key questions, you’ll see what kinds of posts are effective for the people you want to reach.

#1: Analyze Facebook Pages

If you want to gain insight into a company’s Facebook page, here are some questions to consider:

  • How many followers do they have?
  • What are they posting about?
  • Are their posts mostly internal (company-based) news, blog posts and articles; mostly external news, blog posts and articles; or a mix of both?
  • What’s their brand voice?
  • How often do they post?
  • How many likes/comments/shares do they get per post?
  • Do they run any polls, contests or fun games with their brand?
powell's books facebook page placeit image

Powell’s Books Facebook Page. Image: Placeit.

The Facebook page for Powell’s Books, a famous independent bookstore, is worth checking out as inspiration if you’re a local business hoping to make a national footprint.

One of the first things you’ll notice is that Powell’s takes the time to create their own graphics, which often include quotes from authors. It’s a great twist on a sharable meme for a bookstore.

powell's books facebook post

Powell’s Books creates graphics that incorporate author quotes.

They post photos of customers at individual stores and events, so you can assume their staff participates in social sharing (a great idea for local businesses). They also share interactive posts and comment on national conversation topics to keep the feed relevant to non-local fans.

Interestingly, one of the biggest buzz-generators for Powell’s Facebook page is when they share posts on books and publishing from other media, such as The New Yorker. Remember that sometimes social media successes can come from other sources.

Key takeaway: A brick-and-mortar brand can serve both local and national audiences with the right mix of photos and interactive content.

#2: Look at Twitter Accounts

If you’re analyzing a company’s Twitter account, here are some questions to answer to gain insight into their activities:

  • How many followers do they have?
  • How many accounts are they following? A good rule of thumb: An account with 50,000 followers that’s following 500 users probably has more influence than an account with 50,000 followers that’s following 49,000 users, unless they bought followers.
  • What do they tweet about? Are they mostly mirroring their Facebook content, or is their content unique to the channel?
  • Are their posts mostly internal, external or a mix of both?
  • How many favorites/replies/retweets do they average per post? Does one engagement stand out over the others?
  • Have they created lists?
  • What hashtags do they use?
  • Do they run any Twitter chats?
  • Do they use Twitter cards for lead generation, email signups, etc.?
moz twitter placeit image

Moz Twitter account. Image: Placeit.

If you look at the Twitter account for Moz, you’ll notice that they use a photo in almost every Twitter post. Their photos all follow the brand’s style and color scheme, and they’ve created a template for their Twitter images to accompany guest posts.

moz tweet

Moz’s Twitter images follow the brand’s style and color scheme.

Brand-wise, it’s interesting that the “owner” of the Moz account is a robot named Roger. Choosing an on-brand character to run social accounts is a way the Moz brand stands out as playful in the generally more serious SEO industry.

moz twitter owner

A social media character, a robot named Roger, “runs” Moz’s Twitter account.

Key takeaway: Templates and a social media character can help a large brand stay consistent in social, even if multiple people are behind the account.

#3: Examine Instagram Accounts

Answer these questions to evaluate a company’s Instagram account:

  • How many followers do they have?
  • How many accounts are they following?
  • Are their posts mostly internal, external or a mix of both?
  • How on-brand are their photos? Do they show the product or service in each shot, or do they follow a more lifestyle-oriented content strategy?
  • What hashtags do they use?
  • Do they tag other accounts (such as employees or partner companies) in many of their photos?
nikerunning instagram placeit image

Nike Running Instagram account. Image: Placeit.

If you’re selling a product that works as a tool, the Nike Running brand is a great example of turning a physical object into an emotional campaign, and their Instagram feed reflects this. How do you get people excited about a shoe? You make them feel something about what the shoe can do.

Nike Running’s Instagram feed shows off both the product and its successful users. Recently they posted #thankspaula photos to coincide with the brand’s online and offline campaign to celebrate the career of London Marathon winner Paula Radcliffe.

nike running instagram post

Nike Running celebrated the career of Paula Radcliffe with the hashtag #thankspaula.

They also showcase stories of non-professional runners, accompanied by stunning photography.

nike running instagram post

Nike Running showcases their shoes along with runners who use them.

Even if you can’t hire a world-class photographer, you can learn from the narrative style of Nike Running’s Instagram account. With smartphones that snap high-quality photos, even smaller companies like a local shoe store or a small accessories brand can find ways to use photography to humanize their products.

Key takeaway: Instagram can be about more than showing off the product with fancy filters. It can tell stories worth a thousand words.

#4: Review YouTube Channels

If you’re reviewing a company’s YouTube channel, keep these questions in mind:

  • What’s their video content like, and how on-brand is it? Do they stick to product tutorials, or do they branch out to product non-specific tutorials? Do they show off company parties and happy hours?
  • How many subscribers do they have?
  • How’s their video engagement (for example, the number of comments, tone of comments, number of likes and dislikes per video)?
  • What are the related videos on their watch pages? This should give you a good idea of how the YouTube algorithm categorizes their video metadata.
home depot youtube placeit image

Home Depot YouTube channel. Image: Placeit.

Unless you have an employee with a vlogger-like personality, YouTube can be hard to pull off without a nice video budget. But if you have the resources, or the means to bootstrap them, YouTube is a great social channel for any vertical that intersects with how-to tutorials.

It doesn’t get more DIY than the home improvement space, and Home Depot’s YouTube channel nails it when it comes to how-to video content. One of the first things you’ll notice about the channel is the lack of overt product pushing. You can learn how to install a new toilet or design a patio without feeling like you’re watching an advertisement.

Home Depot organizes their channels like a directory for various around-the-house projects, a useful tactic for any brand with advice to share.

home depot how to youtube videos

Home Depot offers how-to videos on their YouTube channel.

Home Depot also uses their channel to show off their brand’s community-serving mission for improving homes for veterans. If you’re already involved in community service, posting about non-profit projects on YouTube, even in a lower production-value setting, can spread the word about your mission.

Key takeaway: How-to’s don’t have to be on-brand to be effective for YouTube marketing.

#5: Evaluate Pinterest Accounts

If you’re reviewing a company’s Pinterest account, consider these questions:

  • How many followers do they have, and how many users do they follow?
  • How do they show off their product or service in pins?
  • How do they organize their pins? What are their board names?
  • Are their pins all brand-generated (product pins) or do they repin others?
manly pinterest tips placeit image

Manly Pinterest Tips on Pinterest. Image: Placeit.

Want to know if your product has competitors on Pinterest? Just search for your products or services. For example, search for “sportswear,” “seafood” or even “SEO.” That’s how you might find Jeff Sieh’s page. He’s the creative person behind a social media and SEO agency in Texas, and the personality behind a 25,000+ Pinterest following on social media and copywriting tips.

As a man, Jeff is in the minority of frequent Pinterest users, who skew female. But rather than try to blend in, he flaunts his difference, including hosting a podcast on Manly Pinterest Tips. And his team creates pin-worthy images for each episode, as shown here.

manly pinterest pins

Jeff Sieh posts creative pins to promote individual podcast episodes.

If you look through his account, you’ll see that Jeff breaks up his boards by medium: Instagram Tips, LinkedIn Tips, etc. And he gives a nod to Pinterest success staples with Manly Food and Funny boards, too.

In a medium that focuses on visual collections, Jeff has found a way to flaunt his marketing personality on a few dozen boards.

Key takeaway: If you’re a nontraditional member of an online community, you can use your uniqueness as a marketing advantage.

#6: Monitor Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat Accounts

Due to the nature of their content, it’s difficult to evaluate these channels in one go. But if your competitors use them, follow their accounts and check out their content when it goes live.

Eventually, the 24-hour time limit on this content may be lifted. For now, you have to stay updated with your competitors’ feeds in real time. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What content are they posting?
  • How many interactions (on Periscope and Meerkat) do they garner from their fans?

Final Thoughts

A thorough competitive analysis takes time to compile, and it may feel like you’re watching the other guy rather than focusing on your own game. But checking out what other companies are doing on social can give you inspiration for your own social content.

Going through a checklist of questions is only the beginning. Putting together a quantifiable measurement method is a great way to dig into other business’s successes, but let yourself wander a bit, too. Explore posts and videos that you find interesting, because those often lead to the best new ideas.

As a bonus to this article, I’ve created a Google Doc template that you can copy and use for your own competitive analyses.

What do you think? How well do competitive analyses work for developing your marketing brand and campaigns? Do you have other items to add to the checklist? List them in the comments!

Powell’s Books Facebook Page image, Moz Twitter account imag, Nike Running Instagram account image, an Manly Pinterest Tips image created with Placeit.
how to analyize competitors social media activities

Tips for analyzing your competitor’s social media activities.

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  • Kathryn J

    Thank you for these tips. This is a really good jumping off point for building a social media strategy, and one I’d not thought of. Very helpful! 🙂

  • Megan Hannay

    You’re welcome! It’s amazing how much an analysis of the marketing will get your own creative thoughts flowing.

  • Solid list with some cool ideas. I think Yelp would be another great place to check out your competition. If you are looking at a restaurant or brick n’ mortar, it can give you solid info on how well they manage their customer service.

  • Megan Hannay

    Thanks Ryan. And I agree; review sites can help you see what your competitors’ customers are saying about them *and* how your competitors react to positive & negative feedback.

  • You can also use listening and monitoring tools. So you can also see what percentage of your competition’s audience is on which medium. Are they 75% on facebook? Then you also know where to find them and focus your marketing efforts.

  • Hi Megan 🙂 thanks for the post. It really helps tailoring the right strategy for your competitors. I have been using automated tool like Rival IQ to help getting an insight – what my competitors are doing? What post they lately made official? How much engagement they are getting on trending topics. Do you yield to the point that automated tools can do acceptable task for us or following them; wandering through their post or doing root through analysis is indespensable?

  • Megan Hannay

    True! There are tons of great listening tools out there, and for companies with a restricted budget, even Google Alerts are great. Though at the same time, we don’t want to assume everything our competitors are doing is the most strategic. It’s good to get a feel for the market with a Comp Analysis, but we should also make sure there aren’t niche audiences our competitors haven’t discovered yet.

  • Megan Hannay

    Definitely. Tools like Rival IQ, or listening tools like Sysomos are great ways to keep up with competitor conversations in the long term. This post is more geared toward a social marketer in a new client or vertical, trying to get a feel for what’s out there. In that case, I think manual research can give you a thorough overview of the market as you’re developing your strategy.

  • I also like to use “Pages to Watch” on Facebook – It’s bring their best content to the surface. Also FollowerWonk and Twitonomy are 2 tools I like to use for analyzing Twitter accounts – especially FollowerWonk because it easily identifies their influencers. On Pinterest I like to see if they’re using community boards to drive more engagement and finally I simply Google them!

  • FollowerWonk is an amazing tool for Twitter! It’s like a search engine for Twitter bios, comparison, analysis or it may be used for tracking followers. Lately, I have also used SocialBro, a sheer emerging automated marketing tool for Twitter.

  • Megan Hannay

    Love these suggests, Angela. Thank you!

  • Thanks 🙂

  • Thank you for the article and even more the Google Doc Template:)

  • Great tips!

    I’m a solopreneur and get overwhelmed with ‘doing it all’, including analysis. But I know it’s important.

    My concern with looking at the number of followers and likes is how do I know if they were bough? Does it matter in today’s climate? And what about engagement? A company may have 180,000 likes on Facebook but hardly any likes, comments, and shares on posts. Isn’t this odd?

    Perhaps I’m over analyzing. 🙂

  • Absolutely right megan 🙂 It might just show you the gap in the market i.e. instagram where you can strike where your competition are not 🙂

  • Sophia

    Great post!

  • Megan Hannay

    Hi Amandah, good point! I think it DEFINITELY matters if they were bought, but I also think a thorough analysis will make that clear pretty quickly. Like you said, if accounts have very high followings and low engagement rates, that’s often a sign that something is fishy. And you could always use Twitter Audit if you really want to know ;). But an analysis is about so much more than just numbers – it’s about their content, tone, their posts that are working and not working – just as qualitative than quantitative, in other words 🙂

  • Thank Megan for the tip about Twitter Audit!

    I agree that an analysis is more than numbers. It’s why I wrinkle my nose and raise an eyebrow at accounts with large likes and followers and low engagement and so-so posts.

  • Megan Hannay

    Thanks!

  • Carolin

    Great tips, thank you! It’s always good to have a list of questions to analyze upon which I probably would have forgot half of 😉

  • Peggy

    If you need extra paycheck on the side averaging 50-300 bucks a day for doing basic work over internet from your couch at home for few h each day then check this out…

  • treb072410

    Thanks for the tips Megan, very informative and useful.. Awesome!

  • Megan Hannay

    haha, exactly! It’s always good to have list of questions beforehand.

  • Megan Hannay

    Thank you!

  • Rian Gtohish

    Cool! Thanks!
    I agree that an analysis is more than numbers. It’s why I wrinkle my nose and raise an eyebrow at accounts with large likes and followers and low engagement and so-so posts.

  • Jeff Sieh

    @meganhannay:disqus Thanks so much for mentioning some of my pins and the Manly Pinterest Tips Podcast. Pinterest is a great way to keep tabs on the competition!

    I also use Pinterest secret boards feature to pin competitors content or services to keep track on what is working for them.

  • Megan Hannay

    Hey, you’re welcome! Thanks for being such a great example of Pinterest content creation.

  • I always do it with an excel matrix by putting all their followers and posts in each and every social platform. This one even looks better . I will give it a try . Thanks !

  • ” A good rule of thumb: An
    account with 50,000 followers that’s following 500 users probably has
    more influence than an account with 50,000 followers that’s following
    49,000 users, unless they bought followers.”
    How can an account that follow few people have more influence than that that follow more people. I am very slow to follow people who do not follow others, I often follow those who follow me, so if an account has 50,000 followers and follow only 500 other users how influential are they?

  • Megan Hannay

    Good point, Gracious! That’s definitely why it’s a “rule of thumb” and not an absolute rule :). It definitely is important to follow others on Twitter and other social networks, but usually (though not always) those who are following tens or hundreds of thousands of people have followed those accounts in an attempt to get a follow-back. Whereas, if you see an account with many followers that has followed much fewer people (in proportion to their number of followers), that’s a good sign that their followers have followed them for reasons other than a follow-back.

    That being said, I’m always a little annoyed when brand or personality accounts only follow 15 or 20 people. Who are their influencers, then? 🙂

  • Loveness Chikozho

    This provides great hands-on tips for developing a social media strategy! most appreciated.

  • connie.ocasi

    ====

  • These are all the core activities I do when analyzing my competitors! Helps to get a basic idea of what separates their social existence from ours. Regarding the updates as to what or how they perform, their are social media monitoring tools as well that can be used like Mention, followerwonk, Topsy etc. Google alerts is also one of the best options, as far as I know.