How to Perform a Competitive Analysis on Social Media (Tools & Templates)

How can you stay ahead of the competition and win on social media? Start with a social media competitive analysis.

It will tell you how you compare to others in your industry, and uncover new opportunities and potential threats.

This guide will teach you how to do your own social media competitive analysis. We also list those The best tools for competitive analysis on social media and give you a free template to get you started.

Bonus: Get a free, customizable competitive analysis template to easily assess the competition and identify opportunities for your brand to move forward.

What is a Social Media Competitive Analysis?

A competitive analysis is an analysis of your competition to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how those strengths and weaknesses compare to your own.

It's a process of comparing your own results with the heavyweights in your industry so you can identify growth opportunities as well as strategies that aren't working as well as they should.

A social media competition analysis will help you in particular:

  • Identify who your competitors are on social media
  • Know which social platforms they are on
  • Know how to use these platforms
  • Understand how well your social strategy is working
  • Compare your social results with those of the competition
  • Identify social threats to your business
  • Find gaps in your own social media marketing strategy

Why do a competitive analysis on social media?

Getting to know your competitors isn't the only reason to conduct a competitive analysis on social media. It also gives you insight into your own business and audience (which will likely overlap with your competitors' audiences).

Here are some surprising insights a social media competition analysis can give you:

  • Performance benchmarks for your own business, such as average followers, engagement rates and share of voice
  • Best times to post on social media (since your audience will likely be online at a similar time)
  • An understanding of the potential customer pain points
  • New (and better) ideas for content that may appeal to your audience (or, conversely, do NOT appeal to your audience and that you may want to avoid)
  • An understanding of how to do it Communicate with your audience on certain platforms (i.e. casual or formal)
  • Ideas for possibilities Differentiate your brand
  • And more!

Ultimately, a social media competitive analysis will give you as much as you put into it. You can create a one-time social media competition report or hire someone on your team whose only job is to keep an eye on your competitors. Most companies do something in between: a quarterly or monthly report.

Regardless of the level of analysis chosen, the insights will be invaluable.

How to Perform a Competitive Analysis on Social Media: A 4 Step Process

We've broken the process of doing a competitive analysis on social media into four steps that will work for any brand.

Before you get started, download this free social media competitive analysis template to keep an eye on your efforts.

Bonus: Get a free, customizable competitive analysis template to easily assess the competition and identify opportunities for your brand to move forward.

Step 1. Determine who your competitors are

Identify your competing keywords

You probably already know some of the key words your business is trying to rank for in the search engines. For example, if you work for a Manhattan hotel, you are likely to focus on keywords like "New York Hotels" and "Manhattan Best Places to Stay".

But if your property is a boutique hotel with nightly wine tastings and local art, you're not necessarily competing directly with the Holiday Inn. A thorough understanding of your keyword inventory will help you get a clear picture of who you are really competing with online.

The Google Adwords Keyword Planner is a great place to find the keywords that are most relevant to your brand. Even if you don't advertise with Google Adwords, this tool is free to use.

First, use the tool to analyze your website. You will get a list of relevant keywords, along with the average monthly searches and the estimated level of competition.

Or you can enter your known target keywords into the tool. Again, you get a list of related keywords with data on search volume and competition. Use these related keywords to narrow your definition of your competitors so you can make sure you are analyzing companies that are truly competing with your own.

Check out who is ranking on Google for these keywords

Pick the top five or ten keywords that are most relevant to your business and link them to Google. You will quickly get a feel for who your main competitors are online.

Pay special attention to the brands in your industry who pay for Google ads to get their name above organic search results as they put their money where their marketing ambitions lie. Even if they don't have great organic search rankings (yet), it's worth checking out how they're doing on social media.

Screenshot of Google search results for

Click through to the websites of brands that appear to be potential competitors. Most companies link to their social channels in the header or footer of their website. Include the links to their social profiles in your competitive analysis table.

Check out who appears in social searches for these keywords

The brands that rank for your keywords on Google are not necessarily the same ones that rank well on the social networks themselves. Since this is a social media competitive analysis, you also need to see who comes first in social search results.

For example, go to Facebook and enter your keyword in the search box. Then click Pages in the top menu.

Screenshot of Facebook search results for

For more tips on browsing the various social networks, check out our post on the best ways to research online.

Find out which similar brands your audience is following

Facebook Audience Insights and Twitter Analytics can give you some great insight into what other brands your audience is following on these social networks. If these brands are similar to yours, they are worth considering as potential competitors.

Here's how to find out which brands your audience is following on Facebook:

  • Open Facebook Audience Insights
  • Use the left column to enter your audience demographics OR scroll down to Pages in the left column and enter your existing Facebook page under “Connected People”
  • Click on "Likes" in the top menu.

Do you want to dive deeper? We have a whole post with more tips on using Facebook Audience Insights for customer research.

Screenshot of the Audience Insights dashboard from Facebook

You may find that none of the identified pages are relevant to your industry, but if they are, add them to your competitor list.

On Twitter, instead of checking your entire audience, you can see who your top followers are connected to.

  • Open Twitter Analytics.
  • Scroll down to your top followers for the past few months
  • For each top follower, click View Profile
  • On their profile, click "Follow" to see the full list of accounts they are following, or click "Tweets & Replies" to see which accounts they interact with.

Select up to 5 competitors to focus on

You now have a huge list of potential competitors – far more than you could reasonably include in a thorough competitive analysis. It's time to narrow your list down to the top three to five brands that you compete most with on social media. Pick the brands that best fit your target niche.

Step 2. Gather information

Now that you know who your competition is, you need to find out what they're up to on social media.

Click your way through the social networks of each of the brands you've identified as top competitors. As mentioned above, these links can usually be found in the header or footer of their website. In your social media competitive analysis template, note the following:

  • What social networks are you on?
  • How big is their following and how fast is it growing?
  • Who are your top followers?
  • How often do you post?
  • What is your engagement rate?
  • How high is their social share?
  • Which hashtags do they use the most?
  • How many hashtags are they using?

You can find a lot of this information by simply clicking on your competition's social profiles. For more streamlined data collection, check out the tools below.

Don't forget to keep track of all of these things for your own social channels as well. This will help you with your analysis in the next step.

Step 3. Do a SWOT analysis

Now that you've gathered all of this data, it's time to analyze it so that you understand where you stand compared to the competition. As part of this analysis, you will also look for ways to improve your strategy and potential hazards to look out for.

A SWOT analysis is a great tool to help you think clearly about all of this information. In a SWOT analysis, take a close look at your business and the competition to identify:

  • S. – strengths
  • W. – Weaknesses
  • Ö – Opportunities
  • T – threats

It is important to know that strengths and weaknesses contain internal brand factors. Basically, these are things you are getting right and areas you could do better.

Opportunities and threats are based on external factors: events in your competitive landscape that you need to know about.

Chart with a SWOT analysis template

Here are some items that you should list in each quadrant of the SWOT template.

Strengthen

List metrics where your numbers are higher than the competition.

weaknesses

List metrics where your numbers are lagging behind the competition. These are areas that you should focus on by testing and adjusting your social media strategy.

Remember that any social network can have both strengths and weaknesses. For example, your Facebook follower count may be higher than your competitors' but they have better follower growth. Or maybe you have fewer Instagram followers but higher engagement.

Take a very specific approach here, because these distinctions will help you to recognize your opportunities and risks.

opportunities

Now that you can see at a glance where you stand compared to the competition, you can identify potential opportunities that you can take advantage of.

These opportunities could be areas where you could improve compared to your competitors based on information already gathered, or they could be based on expected or recent changes in the social media world.

For example, if you pay attention to the Hootsuite Weekly Rundown on Instagram, you know that Byte has just launched a new video platform that is essentially a successor to Vine. Given the strengths and weaknesses you identified, could this be a potential opportunity for your brand to outperform the competition?

Threats

Like opportunities, threats come from outside your company. To get a good grasp of the threats ahead, take a good look at numbers related to growth or anything that indicates change over time.

For example, a small competitor with a high rate of follower growth could pose a greater threat than a large competitor with stagnant growth.

This is another area where you need to keep an eye on the entire industry to see upcoming changes that could affect your position compared to your competitors. The Hootsuite State of Digital Reports is a great source of industry information to consider.

Step 4. Integrate the latest data with social media monitoring

You need to regularly review your social media competitive analysis to keep it up to date. Make this a regular part of your quarterly or annual reporting and review. This means that you need to be constantly supplied with the latest information.

With a solid social media monitoring strategy, you'll get this real-time data that you can use in your next analysis. This is a particularly useful strategy for identifying potential opportunities and threats.

We're going to discuss some of the tools you can use for social media monitoring below. Basically, it's about being aware of the social conversations that affect your brand, your competitors, and your industry.

Write down any key information or events you uncover through social media monitoring in the Notes column of your competitive analysis template and incorporate it into your revised opportunities and threats the next time you review.

7 Top Tools for Analyzing Social Media Competitors

In Step 2 we talked about how to collect information directly from the social networks. Here are some of the best social media competitive analysis tools to get you started.

BuzzSumo

Buzzsumo helps you find your competitors' most shared content. This can help you develop both opportunities (such as new types of content or topics that you should explore) and threats (areas where the competition becomes dominant).

Hootsuite streams

Hootsuite Streams is a powerful tool that allows you to keep track of keywords, competitors, and hashtags on any social network – all from one easy-to-use dashboard. The simplest use case? Add all of your competitor accounts to a stream and review it whenever you want. But there is a lot more you can do. Try it for free today.

This video explains how to keep track of your competition with Hootsuite Streams.

Brand watch

Ok, you've done all of your espionage. Now you can analyze – and maybe even run a social media competition report.

Brandwatch offers some powerful competitive analysis tools. One of the most important is the easy-to-understand graphic that shows your brand's social share of voice.

Social share of voice is a measure of how much people are talking about your brand online compared to how much they are talking about your competitors. This is one of the metrics to track in your social media competitive analysis template.

Screenshot of the Social Share of Voice view in Brandwatch

Brandwatch integrates with Hootsuite. Here is a video that shows how the two applications work together to provide critical competitive analysis information.

Synap view

Ready to go beyond social media competitive analysis? Synapview is an app that allows you to monitor competitors and hashtags on Reddit and blogs as well.

Synapview social media competition analysis in the Hootsuite dashboard

Mentions

Mentionlytics is a social media monitoring tool that is also ideal for conducting a social media competition analysis. Discover everything that is being said about your brand, your competitors or any keyword on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and any web source (news, blog, etc).

It also has a handy "sentiment analysis" feature that lets you see not only what is being said about your competitors, but how it is being said.

Social media competition analysis with the Mentionlytics dashboard

PS: Mentionlytics integrates with Hootsuite so you can see everything it pulls into your streams.

Talkwalker

Talkwalker is best known as a social listening tool with a huge body of insights – competitive or otherwise – from over 150 million sources including blogs, forums, videos, news, reviews, and social networks.

Use it when you want to spy on your competitors beyond social media and when you want to keep an eye on what the entire industry is saying in general. It's great for high-level overviews as well as detailed analysis.

Social media competition analysis with Talkwalker Insights in the Hootsuite dashboard

Social media competitive analysis template

You can create your own spreadsheet to keep track of all of the information you gather during your social media competitive analysis.

However, if you'd prefer to start collecting and using data right away, download our free social media competitive analysis template and just start entering the information we've gathered. There is also a tab for your SWOT analysis.

Preview of the template for the social media competition analysis

Bonus: Get a free, customizable competitive analysis template to easily assess the competition and identify opportunities for your brand to move forward.

Use Hootsuite to crush the competition on social media. From a single dashboard, you can manage all of your profiles, track competitors and relevant conversations, improve performance, and much more. Try it for free today.

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