This article was originally published on April 11th, 2013. We’ve refreshed some of the details and screenshots to give you the most up-to-date information possible.
One area that many businesses struggle with in online marketing is coming up with a social media strategy. Everything from creating social profiles to a social content strategy can be daunting. Fortunately, your business doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Chances are, you can gain a good understanding simply by reviewing your competitor’s strategy. In this post, we’re going to look at how you can scope out your competitors and apply their best tactics to your social media strategy.
Create Your Own Social Media Strategy
Step 1: Identify Your Competitors
Your first step in creating a competitive social media strategy is selecting your competitors. You will want to find businesses similar to yours, but not limit your analysis to competitors of a specific size. For example, you may have a small local marketing agency, but you will want to include other small local agencies along with larger ones that offer similar services in your competitive analysis.
If you have a Rival IQ account, you can add your competitors to your profile. This will help you with your initial research and future monitoring. Also, here is an easy way to use both Rival IQ and Google to find competitors you might have missed!
Step 2: Choose Your Social Networks
Next, you will need to choose which social networks to analyze. Most businesses will find that they want to start with the main social networks first: Twitter and Facebook. If you need to confirm whether a social network will be beneficial to your business, answer the following questions:
- Are your competitors on that particular network? If they are active and have a good following, then you need to be there.
- Are your target customers on that particular network? You can find out in a variety of ways including using the network’s search or outside services like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios. You can also create a test advertisement on that social network to see the size of an audience that fits your target customer demographic.
Having the answers to these questions can confirm your need to invest in social media marketing and help you convince the c-level executives in your company that you need it too.
Step 3: Analyze Competitor Profiles
A great social media campaign starts with solid social profiles and pages. Here are some things you will want to analyze to see how your competitors have set up their social presence.
What wording do your competitors use in their social bios?
Since you usually have less than 200 characters to describe your business to a first time page visitor, you will want it to be great. See what your competitors have to say about their business, particularly noting keywords they include. And regardless of what your competitors do, be sure to squeeze your URL into your description to increase the traffic potential from those networks (*Note: This doesn’t work on Instagram). Especially on Twitter, as you will only see the URL in your profile in some areas of the site like search results.
What images do your competitors use?
Social networks are putting more emphasis on images. Twitter gives you the option to add a background image and header image. Facebook gives you the Timeline Cover Photo. Google+ gives you a cover photo. LinkedIn gives you banner images on your main company page and within the Products & Services section. All of these images can go a long way towards branding your social media presence. See how your competitors use images and find a creative way to brand your own profiles.
What products & services do your competitors focus on?
LinkedIn company pages have an entire tab where you can list your individual products and services. See what items your competitors highlight and make sure you have them on your page as well. People who are researching businesses on social media may choose yours over your competitors’ based on what you have listed. Also see what products your competitors are promoting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
Step 4: Analyze Competitor Content
Once you have a great profile, you will need to create content for your social media updates. Here are some things to note about your competitors social content strategy.
Do your competitors share their own content and/or content from other industry news sites and blogs?
Businesses use social media in a variety of ways. Some use social media as a way to share the latest industry news and updates with their audience by posting links to content on a regular basis. The content may be a mixture of their own and off-site articles. If your competitors are sharing a mixture, see which updates are receiving the most engagement (replies, likes, shares, etc.) to decide on what approach will be best for your business.
Do your competitors use images, video, or other media in their updates?
Photos bring in the most engagement on Facebook, and other social networks are capitalizing on the trend by putting more emphasis on the way they display images as well as video within users’ updates. See how competitors’ media enriched updates perform to determine whether your target audience would be interested.
How often do your competitors post updates?
A key component of social media content is timing. If your business is after a local audience, your updates should be posted when that audience is likely to be online. If your business is after a worldwide audience, then you will need to do some experimentation on when your updates receive the most traction. You can refer to the Science of Social Timing Infographic created by KISSmetrics and Dan Zarrella that shows the most popular time zones for targeting social media updates. You can also use Rival IQ to see how many updates your competitors are posting within a specific time frame.
How often do your competitors engage with others?
Remember that social media is not a one-way broadcasting system. You will probably be able to see the difference in overall engagement between your competitors that are responding to their followers and fans vs. the ones that are not. Regardless of what your competitors are doing, you should always make it a point to engage with your social media audience by responding to mentions and direct messages on Twitter, replying to comments on your Facebook wall and Google+ posts, and replying to comments on posts within LinkedIn groups.
Step 5: Monitor Your Competitors’ Changes
While you will derive a lot of valuable information in your initial competitor research, you will want to make sure you are monitoring them on a regular basis to see if they are changing their strategies. Rival IQ can help you quickly see when a competitor’s approach to social media and their results are changing at a glance on the major social networks.
What do you look for when researching your competitor’s social media strategy? Please share in the comments! Also, be sure to sign up for Rival IQ to research your competitors – the first 14 days are free !