You always want to know what’s going on in your industry. Keeping an eye on the competition has always been part of running a business, no matter what industry you’re in.
With the prevalence of social media, it’s easier than ever to keep up with your competitors and see what they’re doing. Fortunately, tracking your competitors on social media has been made even simpler thanks to several key features on a few of the sites that help you see what you’re competitors are doing and how you measure up.
Why It’s Important to Track Competitors on Social Media
There are a lot of reasons keeping up with your competition is important, and keeping up with your competitors on social media just gives you the insight and tools you need to do this easily and efficiently.
I truly believe the most important reason you should track competitors on social media is to see what content they’re putting out, and how they’re doing it. Even if you’re in the same industry, and even in the same niche, your competitors may have a different angle or perspective on things than you do.
Jon Loomer and ourselves here at AdEspresso, for example, are in the same niche of Facebook Ads. Jon Loomer focuses on advanced Facebook Ads usage for experts, and here at AdEspresso we offer content about Facebook Ads (and sometimes other ad platforms) for users of all levels. Same niche (though admittedly a different sub-niche), but a different approach.
Keeping an eye on your competitors also helps you monitor what’s going on in your industry. If they have something big, after all, you know they’ll be sharing it on social media. It gives you information you need all in one timeline.
Finally, by tracking your competitors on social media, you can see how they’re doing with their customer base. You can see what content they’re putting out that their fans and followers respond to, and you can see what’s getting the best responses.
If they’re getting a lot of loyal engagement, you know to learn from them, but that finding something new, different, and interesting is important to having your own success on social media.
How to Keep Up with Your Competitors on Social Media
There’s a lot of highly efficient ways to track your competitors on social media (which allows you to keep an eye on what they’re doing off social media, too).
In addition to following, liking, or subscribing to their various social media accounts, some social media platforms (like Facebook and Twitter) have released tools to help you monitor your competition closely. Facebook’s Pages to Watch and Twitter lists are two examples of that; overtime, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other social media platforms offering their own versions of these tools.
Like their pages. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest. Subscribe to them on Youtube.
This is the easiest and most straightforward way to keep up with your competition on social media—by following them on all the platforms you can. Following them will allow you to see what the rest of their followers see. You can see what content they’re sharing, and how they are building their brand and promoting their business.
You can also get a good glimpse at the kind of engagement and interaction they’re getting on their content—that’s almost as valuable as knowing what content they’re putting out in the first place.
You can see how many fans/followers/subscribers they have, how they acquire new fans and followers (contests, for example), how their fans are engaging, and what types of content they’re distributing. On Twitter and Instagram, you can see what hashtags they’re using. That’s all pretty big information.
Facebook’s Pages to Watch
Did you know that you can create a list of your competitors’ Pages on Facebook, and Facebook will automatically help you monitor their performance statistics?
In addition to Facebook allowing you to target your competitors’ followers with Facebook Ads, Facebook’s given us another tool to keep up with our competition on Facebook: Facebook’s Page Watching.
With this tool, you can see how many posts they put out in the current week, how many more likes they’ve gained from the week before, how many fans they currently have, and the total engagement they’ve had for the week (which includes likes, comments, and shares). Using this tool can help you identify your top competitor, and see where you’re measuring up.
You can access Pages to Watch on your Page’s Insights. In the overview section, scroll down until you see the Pages to Watch tab. You can track the progress of 5 or more pages that you choose, and you’ll automatically see where you fit in.
Hands down, the easiest way to sift through your Twitter competitors (and the rest of the network, too) is through Twitter lists. When you view a Twitter list you’ve put together, you’ll see only the messages from the users you’ve selected—in this case, that would be your competition.
Twitter lists are great because you can directly compare the content your competition is putting out, as well as seeing response like how many retweets or favorites each post gets.
You can find and create lists by going to the drop down menu under your profile picture, where you’ll see the “lists” category.
Once on the lists page, you can both review current lists, and you’ll see the option to “create a list” over on the right hand side.
You’ll name your list and add in a description if you’d like. You can choose if you want to keep it public or private (I recommend keeping it private).
Once your list is created, you can add any user you’d like to it by clicking on the “more options” button next to their name and selecting “add to list.”
Read Their Reviews
While you may be able to find reviews of your competitors on sites like Yelp and UrbanSpoon, you can also take a look at the reviews they’re getting on their Facebook Pages or Google+.
While this isn’t going to give you a ton of data on how they’re growing or what content they’re putting out, you’ll get to see how their customers feel about the value they’re getting from that company. Based on this, you can find out a lot about their customer service, and often anything unique they’re doing as part of building their brand.
How to Use The Information
Before social media, businesses and corporations were paying an arm and a leg to get the kind of information on their competitors that we can now access for free on social media. Instead of hiring third-party companies to compile the data over a course of time, we can take a look ourselves and track it quickly and easily.
So now we’ve got the information. What do we do with it and how do we use it so that we’re improving our own businesses and social media response?
The best thing you can do with this information is find a way to be different. You’ve seen what’s working for your competitors and what isn’t, so you can learn from that, but overall, how will you generate unique content that will get people to follow and engage with you? Knowing what your competition is doing well help you stand out from them.
There’s an important lesson that often gets overlooked: don’t just copy your competitors. Don’t rip off their content or copy their marketing plan and hope that all their users will jump fences and hop over to you. I’ve seen a lot of businesses do this (and I’ve had a lot of my own blog content “repurposed” without permission for the same reason), and it always ends up the same—people notice, and it goes badly.
You can be inspired and motivated by your competitors. You can even share their content (by actually sharing or retweeting, and not claiming credit as your own). But duplicating content never works well; nobody likes a copycat.
Finally, you can even use the information you find to forge relationships with your competitors—they are, after all, also peers—and maybe network and create working relationships. You never know, maybe you can help each other out.
This is especially true for less direct competitors. Finding new angles but then working together, featuring each other, and sharing each other’s content will allow you to increase relationships with your peers, often benefiting both businesses.
Do you keep up with your competitors on social media? How do you use the information to benefit you? Leave a comment below.