The good news is that you can conduct a fairly thorough competitive analysis using sites and tools that are completely free. Here's how:
Basic Social Media Metrics
First, see if your competitor promotes their social channels on their website and their blog -- if they even have a blog. There's a big difference between tiny icons at the bottom of a website and big "Follow us" buttons at the top.
Then, look at their social profiles to see how many likes they have on Facebook, how many followers they have on Twitter, etc. These raw numbers alone don't tell the whole story, but they'll be crucial to determining other statistics.
A great place to start is Wildfire's Who's Winning in Social feature, which lets you compare follower growth of three brands (including your own) on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ over a range of time, from the last seven days to the last two years.
|Wildfire's "Who's Winning in Social" interactive app|
Simply Measured offers a number of free reports aimed at specific social channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Instagram, with Pinterest coming soon. For Twitter, the report tells you how influential your followers are, the top keywords in your followers' profiles, and even a breakdown of followers by time zone.
A few social channels themselves offer free information on your competitors. Facebook lets you create "interest lists" that allow you to see your competitors' latest content and what type of content is resonating with their followers -- in real time. Be sure to set your lists to "private" so your competitors won't know you're watching them!
Now you know your competitor's numbers, so it's time to determine what type of content they're posting. You can start with a quick scan of their feeds. Many brands start with text and links. More advanced brands add photos and videos. Expert brands also post polls, contests, and games.
For a deeper analysis, you can use Infinigraph to see what type of content your competitor is posting, along with the most common days (and time of day) to post different forms of content. You'll not only discover a competitor's content strategy, but you may find that different content is posted on different sites; for example, food and design photos do very well on Pinterest.
Lots of followers is good, strong content is great, but how is your competitor's audience actually responding? Engagement is really the most important metric of all.
Rival IQ shows your competitor's content within the last 90 days, sorting the content by the type of engagement per each post.
|Rival IQ's "Competitive Landscape" feature|
Why is this important? Take Twitter. When someone favorites a brand's tweet, only the brand sees it; but when someone retweets a tweet, that person is actually sharing the content with all their followers. Pinterest and Facebook make similar distinctions between approving a post and actually distributing it.
Putting It All Together
Armed with this information, you can determine what types of content generate the best types of engagement for your competitors and learn what opportunities you have to stand out from the crowd.
Did you find a social media opportunity but aren't sure how to exploit it? Brandemix has a great deal of experience in social media marketing, branding, and recruiting. Contact us and we'll work together to put your findings to good use.