Using Competitive Data for Social Media

Call us adrenaline junkies, but we love working with early-stage startups and non-profits. The fast-paced energy, the creative money-saving strategies (who needs brand name post-its anyway?), the mismatched office chairs… But the real beauty of working with young and not-for-profit companies is being able to see the real impact we can make. Plus, we get a thrill in the challenge and reward of bootstrap marketing. Small teams and low budgets mean we have to get creative and utilize inexpensive media to create growth.

Social media is oftentimes our go-to resource for this. The challenge is, collecting the competitive data needed to build a sound strategy is time-consuming. In order to be efficient, we enlist killer software to streamline everything from on-boarding to reporting; otherwise, our social media marketing business can’t scale on a budget without sacrificing quality.

We build our social media strategies based on competitive data. Instead of taking a ‘stab in the dark’ or referencing social media best practices alone, using competitor data provides an industry-specific starting point for social media marketing. It reveals key insights about the clients’ industry and target audience. Competitive insights provide evidence that gives our marketing initiatives a backbone. Gaining this insight allows us to hit the ground running with our clients – saving us valuable time and resources, and saving them money. Luckily there is software that makes the process of compiling social competitive data relatively easy.

Identifying competitors

You can’t build a social strategy based on competitive insights without knowing who the competition is. After asking the client who their competitors are, we do our own research using a couple of our favorite social media marketing tools. I identify competitors by running the company’s top keywords through a search engine on Followerwonk and Buzzsumo. If you haven’t researched your key terms, HubSpot has a great blog post that provides a 6-step process.

Once we have a list of 5 to 10 qualified competitors, we load them into Rival IQ for a social competitive analysis. Part of the initial review in Rival IQ is to validate which competitors are relevant, eliminating those that don’t perform, or those that relate to a different buyer persona. It’s important to compare our clients to their true competitors, including competitors that are leaders in the industry.


Prioritizing social channels

Not every social channel is appropriate for every company. For companies, sometimes their buyers aren’t on certain channels or delivery systems (i.e. words vs. pictures). To help us prioritize where to apply our effort, we measure and analyze engagement rates because these tell us the platforms where the audience is most receptive to content. Highly engaged users are far more likely to convert. A recent study on over 450 mid-to-senior-level marketing leaders showed social media engagement as the most important metric they track.

We find clients’ competitors’ engagement rates by using Rival IQ. We use the Cross-channel Detailed Metrics to see what social channels to focus on. Our aim is to identify the audience size of our client’s competitors, growth rate, activity, and audience engagement. Focusing efforts on the social channels that have active, engaged users helps companies prioritize their resources.


Validating marketing initiatives

It can take a little convincing to try new things in order to fill a client’s social media gaps. At Kittenteeth, we don’t rely on our persuasiveness; we rely on real data.  Having the power to Identify and present gaps in a client’s content marketing strategy using competitive insights makes it much easier to validate our social media strategy.

A current client, Positive Performance Training is a perfect example of how competitive insights can help validate a strategy. While sorting through their assets, we realized they had over 100 well written blog posts, and about 20 super useful ebooks, white papers, and case studies — it was a content marketing gold mine!

There was a problem though. The founders were resistant to us using their lead generation content for marketing because they feared it being too “sales-y” for social media. Using Rival IQ, we showed them how lead generation content was yielding positive results for their competitors via social media platforms. Since we started using lead generation content on Facebook and Twitter, we’ve increased traffic on both platforms by 600% (in 30 days) and referrals by 285% (in 30 days) due to our social media strategy.


Creating content

The ideation stage of content creation is the most time-consuming part for us. We admit, we aren’t experts in everything, so we have to spend quite a bit of time researching our client’s vertical in order to create useful content. Luckily, there are great tools available to track what is trending to help spark inspiration. We like to use Buffer feeds to aggregate industry news for clients when appropriate. We gain information from Buzzsumo to help us track top content trends.

We rely on Rival IQ to alert us on our clients’ competitors’ top content. Competitive analysis is perfect for discovering new opportunities. It’s often really simple to recreate something that received high engagement rates. For example, one of our past clients owned a co-working space for early-stage startups. Our client’s target market was responding really well to a competitor’s post about online sites with free stock photos. As a marketing company, we already had a database of 10 sites we often use for free stock photos, so it was fast and easy to put together our own post on the same topic. Our client’s audience responded so well to it that we posted the blog here on our own site!

Assess and pivot

Just as with all good strategies, you have to continually measure success and adjust based on your real-world results. Competitive analytics is a great way to set social media benchmarks by basing them on companies you aspire to beat. If you aren’t closing the gap on the competition every day it may be time to go back to the drawing board.

We use Rival IQ to assess if our social strategy is truly working. We do this by looking at the clients’ Top Cross Channel Social Content sorted by engagement total. We use Rival IQ instead of going to each channel and compiling the data because it’s faster and it is presented in an easily digestible format. We use this as our primary tool for social analytics. By setting the reporting parameters, Rival IQ auto-generates the necessary reports and sends the report straight to our inbox. RivalIQ provides great insights into clients’ engagement, and streamlines the reporting process.

To conclude

Our clients rely on us to be effective and efficient with their budgets. Having tools that make social media marketing easier and more effective helps us create growth faster without sacrificing the quality of the work. We don’t have to stand behind the “I think-s” and “maybe this will work-s.” because we approach our strategy creation fully informed by using time-saving technology to collect relevant data.

When it comes to social media strategy, where do you start and why? What tools help you get started? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below.


5 Ways to Use RivalIQ’s Competitive Social Media Analytics originally appeared on theRivalIQ Blog on September 25, 2015.