Businesses do everything they can to not show their cards, do the unexpected and catch the competition off-guard, but there is one space in which competitors do let down their guards down just a bit, social media. They have to. The environment demands a level of transparency, and they don't control the message--people do, so it's surprising how many marketers aren't following their competitors online and are instead focusing on their own brands almost exclusively.
Following the competition and tracking their actions allows any brand to identify opportunities to zig where the competition zags, fill in gaps that the competitor hasn't jumped on yet and avoid mistakes competitors have already made. Our competitors can teach us a lot.
Evaluating the Competition
A competitive analysis means expanding the scope in which you view social activity outside of your brand.
- Don't just track what people are saying about your brand. Look at your competitors. Tracking this in real-time allows you to proactively identify strengths and weaknesses. Is there something consumers are asking for from the category or from your competitor that they can't deliver on but you can? Intercede and become part of the communication. If you have the solution, offer it. Customer service is a big part of social media marketing. Deliver it when the competition can't.
- Stay close to competitive marketing initiatives. What are people saying about them? Is it positive? Learn from their marketing initiatives to optimize your own by adding elements or avoiding certain tactics that fall flat.
- Fish where the fish are. You're going after the same consumers, so chances are you're going to be active in the same places, unless, of course, they're not catching anything. A competitor having a presence on a platform is not a reason for you to have one too. Sometimes it's worth watching how the platform delivers for them. Are people responding, interacting, sharing? If it doesn't work for them, you may have saved yourself resources.
- Optimize your content. See what content your competitor is sharing and evaluate its effectiveness. Are photos working especially well? Have they embraced video? See what's working to help prioritize what you should or should not do.
Learn from their Hits and Misses
The simple act of following your competitors can go a long way toward unlocking insights your brand can act on. Their activity shouldn't dictate what you do or don't do, but it does offer the ability to see opportunities, avoid failures and expand your customer base. You don't have to 'Like' them, but you should certainly know what they're doing.