How to improve your social strategy with competitive intelligence

Maybe your company has always been based online, or maybe you’re starting to shift more toward a digital business model in response to a newly housebound audience (if only temporarily). In either case, understanding the larger online landscape you’re a part of is important to crafting a successful strategy. And a big part of the online world your audience encounters every day is social media.

 

What is a social media audit?

A social media audit is the practice of analyzing your own social media presence and how it fits into the industry you’re a part of. It includes checking all the social profiles you have to ensure they’re complete and up to date, analyzing how well they’re performing now, and then researching other related accounts to better learn the atmosphere people encounter your social updates within.

If you don’t have much of a social presence yet, you can still do a social media audit. You’ll simply be focusing on the latter part of a good audit—analyzing the social profiles of competitors and other industry influencers. You might be surprised how much you can learn from the competitor analysis portion of a social audit alone.

 

Why competitor analysis is important in a social audit

As a tool for marketing and advertising, social media offers something amazing to businesses: data. You’re not just pushing out updates and hoping they resonate, you can track how people respond via metrics like follower count and engagement rate. While that’s useful, it takes time and a lot of trial and error to build up data on what your audience likes.

But there’s a shortcut. Your competitors are targeting the same audience you are with their social profiles. And a lot of the social media data you can collect for yourself is also publicly accessible for competitors—you can see how many Twitter followers a competitor has, and how many likes a specific update of theirs got. You can learn a lot about your audience and what they respond to based on an analysis of your competitors’ social profiles, activities, and results.

This is valuable for all businesses, but can be especially useful for those in the early stages of building a social presence. Find the competitors that have been at it for a while already, and get a headstart on learning what works based on their trial and error. From day one, you’ll be ahead of the game.

 

How to perform a social media audit

A social audit requires a time investment, but one that pays off. You can complete a thorough audit with eight main steps.

1. Make a list of all the social channels to review.

What social media sites are you on now? Or, if you’re just starting out, which ones do you aim to join? Not every brand needs to be on every social media platform. A B2C (business-to-consumer) brand may not need to be on LinkedIn, while a B2B (business-to-business) brand with an audience mostly over 35 can likely get away with skipping Snapchat and TikTok.

Make a list of the platforms your audience spends time on. Those are the sites to include in your audit, with special attention given to any you aim to prioritize in your own strategy.

2. Check your own profile on each.

When reviewing your profile on each platform, you’re looking for a few key things:

  • That your profile’s complete. Have you filled out every relevant field available, including the bio or about section? Have you loaded an image in the appropriate size?
  • That it accurately reflects your branding. Does all the information on the profile match your current messaging and positioning? If it’s been awhile since you first filled it out, you may be due for an update.
  • That it tells followers where else to connect with you. Getting someone to follow you on social media is a good goal to have, but it’s not as valuable as getting people to your website or onto your email list. Make sure your profile provides interested followers with details on how to connect with you in other channels as well.

Identify any parts of your social profiles that need to be filled in or updated. If you can make the changes right away, the sooner the better. Otherwise make a note of what you need to make the desired updates and make those action items part of your strategy.

3. Review your analytics.

The top social media platforms provide detailed analytics for both social marketing and advertising. Make use of that information! Review which of your updates get the most likes, shares, and replies, and which earn you new followers. Collect information on your best-performing social updates on each site, so you can clearly see what’s working for you now.

4. Identify your top 3-5 competitors.

Now decide who your main competitors are on each site. You may find that your top competitors are different on different platforms. A competitor that’s really good at Twitter may not have nearly as much of a following on Instagram. And your main social competitors may be different than those you think of as your main competition in general. Make a list of the competitors most important to track and follow on each website.

5. Review their profiles and activity.

Now spend time reviewing their profiles and feeds on each of the social channels they’re on. This step takes time, but you can potentially speed it up by investing in a social monitoring or competitive analysis tool that brings updates from multiple channels and profiles into one screen, and makes it easier to find the most important bits of information.

Pay special attention to the social updates they have that perform well in terms of replies, shares, and likes. Look for any spikes in their follower count to see if you can discern what caused it. And consider if brands in your industry perform better in general on some social platforms rather than others, so you understand where to invest the most.

6. Review data to find trends in how your audience responds.

Now you have data on both your own social performance and that of all your competitors. Figure out the best format to put it all in to start identifying trends. That could be a simple spreadsheet, or it could be a product that turns data into helpful visualizations. Go over it all looking for meaning in the data.

Do Tweets do better some days of the week than others? Does Facebook Live get a lot of engagement from your audience? Does video content get more clicks that blog posts on similar topics? Make note of every meaningful trend you can find.

7.Turn the data into clear takeaways.

Your analysis should lead to some clear insights. Turn the information you learned in step six into specific takeaways, and put them in writing. This could be statements like Twitter engagement is highest during weekdays, how-to content performs especially well on LinkedIn, or polls get a lot of engagement across all social sites.

Your list will be unique to your audience and industry. While there are general best practices for social media, what works depends entirely on who you want to reach. That’s what this analysis helps you accomplish.

8. Use what you learned to craft your social media strategy.

After you’ve done the work to learn what’s effective for your target audience on social media, make sure you put that information to use. Refine your social strategy based on what you learned. Invest more in the social sites your analysis revealed get the best results. Increase promotion of the kind of content that performs best on each site. Use more of the formats that your audience likes best in the updates you share.

When you base your social strategy on data, impressive results follow.

 

Make your social investment worth more

Social takes a lot of time and energy. And if you hire someone to help or invest in social ads, it can cost a lot as well. For it to pay off, you need your efforts to prove effective. Performing a social audit that includes analysis of your own social performance alongside that of your competitors provides you with the insights you need to develop a social strategy that actually works. A little time upfront doing your research can mean the time you put into building your social presence goes much further.

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