One of the best things you can do before you develop a social media strategy is to conduct a competitive analysis. Not to be too dramatic, but the adage of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer applies here. Understanding what your competitors are doing can inform your decision-making and help optimize your social media strategy, which is no laughing matter.

So where do you begin and what exactly should you be looking for? No, you shouldn’t be looking for samurai cats…

Here are the top 4 questions you should ask yourself when analyzing your competitors.

  1. Which platforms are they most active on and what is the post frequency? Your competitors have most likely already identified where their target audience is, so check out which platforms they are most active on. If there’s a lot of activity and engagement on Twitter and LinkedIn, you should probably consider focusing your efforts on these two platforms. It’s also a good idea to pay close attention to the relationship between your competitors’ engagement levels and post frequency. This will give you a good indication on how much content you should consider pushing out each day (as a starting point).
  1. What’s their audience size and is it growing? Knowing where your competitors are in terms of audience size will give you get a clearer assessment on which brands have found success and how you stack up. You’ll also want to keep tabs on a regular basis and see if there are any spikes in audience growth, which could be a good indicator of a successful tactic that you may want to consider mimicking.
  1. What types of content are they using and what is garnering the most engagement? Are they sharing photos or images? Are they creating original or curated content? Do they have a lot of video or educational materials like ebooks. Understanding the types of content your target audience is responding to or playing with will help you gain insight into the type of content you should consider offering. And, don’t forget to analyze your competitors’ content – what’s working for them, may work for you, but make sure you spice it up even more to raise the bar.
  1. What people are saying about the company? Is it positive, negative or neutral? Finding out how people perceive your competitors’ products and services could turn into opportunities for your brand and help shape your positioning, so keep an eye out on sentiment. For example, if you noticed a competitor was getting hammered on their how-to guide, you might want to push out your “10 tips to rolling out x product in under an hour.”

There are a variety of tools out there that will help you conduct your competitive analysis. We use Simply Measured, which also offers a variety of free reports. You can access them here.

Good luck! And, watch out for these guys…

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