Competitor Intelligence is valuable for brands because, more than a tool to understand your market standing, it can also help derive competitive differentiation. Social media conversations are often used for industry benchmarking as they provide an indication of awareness levels of your brand based on mentions of it. Social media conversations also allow you to glean an unprompted understanding of how competitor brands/organisations are perceived and uncover their positioning. This is where earned social media conversations can help derive that competitive advantage.
The value of social media in a competitive context
Of even greater value, but perhaps sometimes overlooked, is the intelligence you can glean from analysing your competitors’ owned social media channels, and their activity on these channels.
Many brands are focused on the performance of their own channels and content. While some brands benchmark their performance against other brands in their industry sector based on metrics such as followership, impressions and engagement, few actually look in-depth at the factors driving their competitor performance or go as far as analysing competitor content to get a better handle on their content strategy, messaging or even the audiences are aiming to reach.
For years, brands have been using advertising spend and creatives to obtain competitive positioning intelligence; applying the same principles to social media channels is not such a huge leap. While resource and expertise might be barriers to such intelligence being gathered, the exercise is always worthwhile as it can potentially rejuvenate your content strategy by establishing some best practice as to what content is more likely to drive engagement within your industry.
What insights can quantitative analysis highlight?
So which insights can be gleaned? While so-called vanity metrics, such as reach, followers and engagement, have limited value without context, they come into their own when benchmarking the performance of owned channels and content. Analysed in the right context, they can provide an at-a-glance view of how your social media channels are performing.
Looking at these measures in a comparable rather than absolute form is key – because this is where true benchmarking can begin. So, for example, looking at channel activity in terms of average posts per day, rather than total number of posts, will help ascertain how active your channels are in relation to those of your competitors. Similarly, looking at total engagements per post as a proportion of your following, instead of absolute volumes of engagements over a period of time, will highlight how connected your followers are with your channel. Mapping these two derived metrics together (as in the example below) will provide a true indication of the impact of your own channels against your competitors’. In the below example, it is some of the competitors with smaller followings who are driving the most engagement, proving that a big following is not always better, if your audience is not engaged.
Beyond a benchmark of how well you are performing, it can also provide a view of the potential size of the engaged audience for your industry sector. You can also provide your competitors’ audience to understand whether they are engaging different groups and, if so, how. This is where a qualitative analysis of your competitors’ content becomes even more insightful.
What can you learn from qualitative analysis?
Analysing your competitors’ content in-depth, uncovering the style, tone and format of the posts and formats driving the most engagement, can be an invaluable source of audience insight.
This analysis can be based on a pure qualitative freeform assessment, for example, by identifying the themes of content that drive engagement. This can then be overlaid against engagement metrics to understand the themes that resonate most.
For example, we compared themes across pharma brands active in the Multiple Sclerosis treatment area and identified the type of content that drove each brand’s engagement. In this example, it is clear that Biogen is leading the way because it is supporting patient advocacy and generating awareness of Multiple Sclerosis and the patient experience with the disease.
Qualitative analysis of your competitors’ channels can also be useful to understand how your competitors position themselves on social media.
For example, you can identify:
- How present their brand identity is on their channel, both visually (e.g. logos, straplines) and their content (e.g. tone of voice, content style)
- How they make use of creative materials in their content e.g. do they design social-specific creative on their channels, what formats do they use (e.g. still images vs videos)
- How well defined their content strategies are (e.g. is the tone-of-voice and style of content consistent)
- How much they drive community engagement through their activity (e.g. use contests, polls, ask questions vs. just sharing/broadcasting information)
Using such a framework, you can rank each of your competitors on each of these aspects to understand who is leading the pack in relation to engagement, and derive potential best practice for your industry’s target audience.
How to integrate these insights within your audiences’ digital media landscape
Now it is important to note at this stage, that the best practice you derive should help you build or adjust your own strategy to drive further engagement, but that directly copying your competitors’ tactics is ill-advised. Indeed, brands that appear to jump on others’ bandwagon are often mocked by users on social media and will lead to disengaging your existing captive audience. It is also important to highlight that while trying to adopt tried and tested tactics that have driven engagement, you should remain true to your brand identity and tone. While looking at what your competitors are doing can be a source of insight and inspiration, you also need to contrast this with what you know is already working within your strategy.
Looking at your audiences’ digital landscape more broadly, such as search, web traffic and assets, can also be helpful as it can help assess your strengths across the web rather than just on social. It can also help you better understand how your social media strategy can work in tandem with your existing SEO, SEM and web strategy.
Is your Competitive Intelligence programme making the most of social data?
While most organisations are using some form of social monitoring to track competitor activity, far from all are truly optimising its full potential. To learn more about our competitive intelligence programmes, download our new report Optimising Social Data to Deliver Meaningful Competitive Intelligence.
Discover how Convopshere can help you uncover actionable market intelligence through nuanced audience insights and create a deeper level of understanding thanks to our experienced native language analysts. Contact us today.
With a background in brand communication and journalism, Moa heads Convosphere’s content marketing and is the editor of the blog.
Before joining Convosphere, Moa worked as a writer and brand consultant for agencies including The Future Laboratory, LS:N Global, Canvas8 and Stylus, with a focus on packaging, retail and technology trends in the UK and Scandinavia.
Prior to this, she formed part of Cision’s Scandinavian research and analysis division, where she worked on PR projects for clients across different sectors, managing a large team of freelance reporters.