If you want to take a close look at your competitors, you need to start following them on social media – and we're not talking about following their profiles and giving them an occasional thumbs up. The social media world is instant, demanding, and filled with information, which makes it the perfect way to keep track of competition and what tactics they are using (and how well they are doing). So let's talk about how to do it!
Know What You are Looking At
Jumping into social media competitor analysis blind is a bad idea: There's just too much data out there. You need to have a focus from the moment you begin. One effective way to clear the waters is to simply list all the competitors you are concerned about, find out what social media channels those competitors use, and compile a list of "must monitor" for both companies and social channels. Then you can start looking for the right tools to use…Which brings us to our next section.
Find the Right Tools
- Fanpage Karma: When it comes to strictly analyzing social media, Fanpage Karma is one of the most useful tools available online. It helps you take a close look at competitor social media activities, provides alerts if it looks like competitors are launching new campaigns, and generally helps you compare companies very closely. If there are any downsides, it may be the sheer volume of data that you can receive.
- Twitonomy: If you don't have much time for social media and prefer to stick to Twitter, this is the tool for you. It allows you to monitor and filter basically every action on Twitter. It's useful for managing your own campaign, but is also handy for keeping track of competitors.
- RivalIQ: RivalIQ is a full-service competitor analysis service. It covers a number of digital marketing channels, including social media, and can be quickly customized to your current efforts. There's a lot here, but it's a bit pricey – to track up to 10 companies, you'll need to pay $300 per month, and that's without in-depth social channel reporting (which costs $500 per month).
- SimilarWeb: SimilarWeb is devoted exclusively to websites and mobile apps, so it won't help you very much when studying social channels. We included it, however, because it's a simple tool that's very easy to pick up and use in conjunction with a great social comparison tool. Use it as a companion app to get more information about your competitors once you are done with social media.
- LikeAlyzer: If Twitonomy is made solely for Twitter, then LikeAlyzer is made entirely for Facebook. It focuses on analyzing your own efforts on Facebook, but also includes a compare function that allows you to compare your work with relevant companies to see how you stack up. It's not the shiniest tool, but it is free and great for Facebook.
- Klear: Klear is another full-service tool that provide a number of reports and marketing services, but one of their focuses is competitive analysis. It's been a popular tool for large corporations who want a new look at the unfamiliar waters of social media and online competition – especially those who are a little short on patience and don't have time to master a new marketing discipline.
Create a Series of Alerts
One of the tools that we didn't mention above is Google Alerts– one of the simplest and most powerful of them all. While the other tools are largely proactive, Google Alerts is more passive: You set it to monitor specific keywords or areas of the internet, and then you leave it largely alone except for periodic updates. Anyone can do it, and it's a great way to keep track of what people are talking about and what online campaigns your competitors are currently working on.