{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Social Media Competitive Research

In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris talk social media competitive research. How do you conduct competitive research with social media data? What data should you look for, and where do you get it? What data isn’t available? Most important, how do you turn all the data into a cohesive picture – and how important is it? Listen in as they discuss the most modern techniques for competitive research on social networks.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn
In this week’s in ear insights, we’re talking social media competitive research. Someone asked me recently for their agency, like what they should be posting for content, and one of the things they said was, well, if you want to get a sense of what resonates in your industry or niche, you should probably run a competitive analysis. See, like, what, if anything, does anybody care about on your various social media channels? Of course, the logical next question that came back was Oh, okay, how do I do that? So what does that mean? What does that mean? Exactly? So what’s the what, why and how? of social media competitive research and I Katie, when you’re, when you’re thinking about this, of course, the first place we start with is the plan. So what is the plan the strategy for competitive research on social media data specifically

Katie Robbert
on social media data specifically? So the first question is, who are your competitors? And this is a you know, it sounds like a simple question, but it’s not because you know, Like, we like to think that we are competitive with folks like, you know, Gartner and Forrester. But when you actually start to compare the size of the company, and then when you whittle it down to specific services or product lines, your competitors can vary. So if you know you look at a company like, oh, gosh, I don’t know, pick one of the consumer companies like the Coca Cola company and all of the different product lines that they have, you’re not going to have just one set of competitors, like sure Pepsi is a competitor to coke. But what other things does coke manufacture that Pepsi doesn’t, therefore they’re not competitors, then so? Exactly. And so then you start to drill down into all the different Nestle products, you know, and so it becomes this complicated web. So the first thing you really need to understand is, you know, what does your social media business profile represent what part of your brand? Is it your whole brand? Is it a subset of your brand? Is it a product, and then you can start to figure out, Okay, what I know that information, then I can figure out who my competitors are to that. And then, you know, gather the information of what their social media profiles contain. And then you can start to dig into the data around number of followers engagement, that sort of thing. But first and foremost, really figuring out and nailing down who your competitors are, is the very first thing you need to do. And it’s, it’s not as easy as it sounds. And you shouldn’t just say that guy, that’s my competitor.

Christopher Penn
I completely agree. I remember back in the day when we used to do those were often for customers. One of the things that we constantly had to remind them was there are your aspirational competitors and then they’re your peer competitors. And let’s be realistic. You know, your three person software company is not competing with Salesforce. Let’s let’s just get We had a number of folks, you know, back in the PR days who thought that they were punching far above the weight in?

Katie Robbert
Well, and it’s a good, it’s a good goal to keep in mind. But you, like very few companies are going to become that overnight success of you know, zero to a million in one night. So you’re absolutely right. There’s the aspirational competitors. And then there’s the realistic competitors. And it really boils down to also having a really good self awareness of what your company does, and what your customers care about and what they want to know about on social media. And that then starts to get into the analysis part of it. Agreed.

Christopher Penn
The other thing I think, came up a lot back in the old days and certainly is still very important right now is sort of the Why Why are you doing the competitive analysis because in a lot of cases, it’s not all that helpful, right? Social media is being a becoming a pay to play environment is is very much now like, Okay, well why are you comparing this to you? Because you’re looking at like, you know, top number of Facebook engagements? Well, in a lot of cases, that’s going to be who’s got the bigger wallet? Who can spend more on on branded campaigns and such in Facebook as opposed to what you’re trying to get out, which is, which brand is stronger or which company is stronger or which company has a better relationship with this audience. And so, the there’s the what, and the who, but this was the why. And I feel like that’s a part that also a lot of people don’t give enough thought to and don’t plan in a four.

Katie Robbert
I wholeheartedly agree with that. You know, one of the questions that we had to ask ourselves, when setting up our social profiles was, why do we need this profile, we didn’t set up an Instagram account right away, because we couldn’t think of a good business case for why we needed it. And once we started doing events and traveling, we realized that it was More of the road show account. And you know, our more colorful, interesting visualizations. But otherwise, it’s not something that we post to regularly because it’s not the right channel for that. Now, you started to mention a little bit about the who, and something that I feel a lot of companies overlook. And it’s an analysis that’s on my plate is who’s following your account. Because if you’re getting engagement, cool, it might just be your family. And you might just have a really large extended family who are all super proud of your brand, and they all follow your account. And they all like all of your stuff, like, you know, like, crazy stalkers, like family members often do because they’re so proud of you. That’s not doing anything to move your brand forward. And so you need to do the audience analysis of who’s following you. Is it the right audience, and if not, it doesn’t matter how Engagement you’re going to get, they’re never going to buy anything from you. You may you may you may be, you know, creating really high tech, you know, computer parts. But for some reason your account just post lots of like videos of puppies and kitties. And people just really like that. So they follow you because they want to see more puppies and kitties, but they’re never going to buy the high tech computer widget from you. So you need to make sure that you have the right audience following your account in order to get meaningful engagement.

Christopher Penn
And for the purposes of competitive research, that is something we can see competitively as well as we can look at the content that somebody’s sharing, get an assessment of what is that content, and then how well does it engage. One of the things I was working on over the weekend was using a convolutional neural network which is a type of AI to detect faces in images, because I wanted to look at the people who are posting about dreamforce, the mega Salesforce conference that just ended and start to separate out? Is this a person’s account? Or is this a business account? Or a non person based on the profile photo? Is there a face in their profile photo a human face or not? And if you were to, if you were to run that analysis, for example, on the followers of a competitor, how many of them are companies? How many of them are humans? And it would be a very interesting sort of assessment to determine like, Yeah, it looks like all of our competitors are being followed by, you know, marketing agencies. Well, great, that doesn’t go there. Those agencies are probably following those folks, because they aren’t trying to attract attention to get business. They may not be buyers as opposed to be more human audience. So even something as simple as to your point about the who, is it a human or non human audience? Can you tell the difference between the two?

Katie Robbert
Well, and you know, to go back to the Coca Cola example, if you think about all of the sub accounts and sub products, they’re all going to follow each other. So just looking at the wrong number of followers isn’t really going to do anything. So Chris, to your point. really digging into who’s following So, you know, only picking on coke because I’m a Pepsi person. You know, a good chunk of their followers could be their own other products, and they’re never going to sell things to themselves. And so that you’re exactly right, making sure that your followers are buyers, not just other competitors, trying to keep tabs on what it is that you’re doing is an important thing. And then I was going to say that, you know, you can then start to dig into the audience interest, the things that they follow the things that they engage with. And so you start to get, you know, a deeper assessment into what people are reacting to, not just with your competitors, but on social media in general.

Christopher Penn
That was exactly where I was going with that, which was, if you’re not using other data sources to triangulate on social media, you kind of operating in a blind vacuum. You can’t see what’s happening with for example, Pages fans in terms of their comments and interactions, but if you’re using good SEO tools, for example, I’m looking at the Trust Insights, SEO analysis of our top pages by both inbound links and social shares. There are way more social shares for some of our top content than there are followers on some of our accounts. And so it’s one of those things I look at and go, Hmm, we’re, we’re getting our content out there. But we’re not necessarily reaching that audience through a social media platform. So that tells me that for our purposes, we would want to do a lot more retargeting with the people who make it to our website. Now the good news is you can then take a competitor’s domain, put it in the exact same tool and see what kind of content does they get the most social activity on and the most backlinks on? The other thing that always baffles me is that why people do not pay attention to the outcomes of social media and measure those outcomes instead, one of the easiest things to measure Is branded search? How many people search for your company and its products services by name? And then do you see a relationship, a mathematical relationship between the intent, the search intent by brand, and your social activities? If there’s no relationship at all, then your social media is not really doing a good job of getting people to go. Hmm, I want to go look for Trust Insights on on Google.

Katie Robbert
Well, I think there’s that. And then the other really easy thing that, you know, when you’re talking about bringing in other data sources to look at your social media accounts, Google Analytics, it kind of seems like the no brainer thing because Google Analytics, you know, has a whole channel called social, they have source and medium so you can figure out which social channel is driving traffic is driving conversions is driving, awareness is driving, whatever it is, your goal set up in Google in Google Analytics is and you know with the asterisk caveat that you do have to do some initial setup of Google Analytics to make sure that these things are being captured correctly. But once you have that, then you have things that you can measure. So is my Facebook page driving people to convert and my conversion is fill out a form or buy a thing?

Christopher Penn
That’s true. The only challenge with Google Analytics is that you can’t use it for competitive research because you obviously can’t see your competitors data. So that’s really important to do for yourself. For the purposes of competition, Google Trends is going to be your friend because that’s what trends allows you to see the competitive stuff.

Katie Robbert
That’s true. So if, you know, let me ask you this question. Because obviously you need to care about what your competitors are doing. But if you can’t see that your competitors social profiles are driving, you know, dollars for them. I guess in a very blunt way, why do you even care what your competitors are doing other than taking away traffic? You know, from from your social profile? Like, what is, you know, what are you trying to understand if, you know, your competitors have more followers than you and you want to get more followers? And then what is the benefit of that?

Christopher Penn
So that goes really back to the who and the why you’re doing this sort of thing. One of the things I think that certainly social media managers completely miss out on it as an easy opportunity. And and one of the reasons why we don’t spend a whole lot of time on competitive analysis is because they don’t talk to the sales people. If you go and talk to your sales team and say, ask them, who have you lost deals to in this last year? In our case, the answer is no decision. No decision was our biggest competitor of all right? We don’t really lose deals to another company today. When we were back at a PR agency, we had a punch list, we lost this deal to this agency we lost is still to this agency and so on and so so forth. And so the question then becomes, what can we do to get that attention and awareness back from those from those other agencies. So either to take away their market, share their minds here, or even just understand what it is that they’re doing. So if for Social Media Manager, talk to your sales teams say like, Who are you losing deals to, that would then give you a starting point of who to check out? and start doing that analysis of what is it that that competitor is doing? And does it have a material impact that again, that’s why that search data is so important. If you’re not looking at competitive search data, and seeing things like AOL, let’s say you want to use the Coca Cola example. Coca Cola has a line called dishonouring. It’s a water line. How many people search for dishonouring? You should be able to tell that in your analytics, how many people search for Nestle waters and their thing? How many people search for the two of them together? What are the combinations of phrases that people search for? And then you go and check You’re social data and see how many people follow both brands have people follow one brand. And that gives you the the triangulation. If you’re losing business to this brand, figure out why and then you can use the social data. That’s a really important point, though, is having that directed inquiry. Why are we doing this? It’s because we lose money to this agency every single month. Okay, well, let’s dig in and figure out what’s going on over there.

Katie Robbert
Right. I think that that’s a really smart way to approach this question is, you know, that’s, that’s how you’re going to figure out who your competitors are. But I guess, again, you know, sort of thinking back to you know, I know we’re focusing on social media specifically. You know, it would be interesting to see then, obviously, what are these other competitors that we’re losing business to actually posting about? Are they posting third party content? Are they posting only their own? their own owned content? Are they only posting memes and gifts? You know, what is it that they’re doing? So you can start to suss out? Does their social media actually impact any of their sales at all? And do we care about their social media profiles to begin with? Or do we just really need to have better customer service and you know, better product quality?

Christopher Penn
Agreed. And that’s something that Henry Ford used to talk about he was that he would say, you’re your biggest competitor is essentially yourself, your stuff has to keep getting better over time. And if if you spend all your time making life better for your customers, you don’t really need to worry a whole lot about competitors. It’s, it’s those companies that spend so much time obsessing over the competitors because they know their product is a commodity at best and just absolutely awful at worst.

Katie Robbert
Right? Well, you know, and it, you start to think about the customer experience, the customer journey. How do you build loyalists? How do you build evangelists, and then to your point, Chris, you don’t have to worry so much about your competitors. Because your customers are doing the selling for you and telling anyone and everyone about how great it is to work with your company.

Christopher Penn
Yep, agreed. And I think the content perspective again, if you’re if your feet are being held to the fire by your boss, like I needed a social media competitive analysis, I would go the content route First, I would say instead of worrying about what you post on social media, look at your content that gets shared the most, and see if it’s a it’s what you want. And and be when you look at your competitors. It is, you know, their, their stuff that’s being shared is what they want. When I look at the top shared content for Number one is our Instagram blog post on Instagram brands engagement. Number two is our analysis of the Google BERT announcement. And number three is our mid year marketing trends forecast and number four is our social media 2020 paper. Those are things that I’m happy being shared as opposed to like the picture of those of our dogs on our website. I mean, we love our dogs, but that Your point doesn’t drive business. If I pull up a competitor, I see a whole bunch of stuff that’s irrelevant. Like they’re not really competitive because we don’t really compete with like Accenture. So to your point earlier, if if what’s being shared the most is not relevant or not on target or clue or even something as if you know, your competitor really well, you can see what’s a lead magnet for them. If the top share stuff is not a lead magnet for them, it’s like, okay, they’re kind of missing the mark.

Katie Robbert
I would 100% agree with that. So, you know, essentially, the long winded version that we just gave you is figure out why you care about your competitors on social media, take a look at other data sources outside of your social media accounts to start to figure out who your competitors are, and what kind of impact is it having on your sales on their sales and that could be you know, actually talking with your sales team. Because one of the things that we know about From the CMO survey is that CMOS are having a hard time correlating social media to revenue. And so that directly impacts your budget. So that’s really where you need to figure out why am I doing this? How does social media impact our bottom line?

Christopher Penn
Exactly. So to wrap it up, why, who and what those are the things to focus on in your social media competitive research that you’re going to be doing? Again, if the boss says you got to do it, you got to do it. That would be the things that we would suggest taking a look at and focus more on the stuff that you can see that is closer to the bottom of funnel than the top someone’s puppy photos on Instagram, not as impactful as whether their lead generating or business generating content is getting the shares. If you have follow up questions on this, please stop by our slack community analytics for marketers go to Trust slash analytics for marketers you can join our slack community there for free and and leave a follow up questions on this episode. And of course, if you You’re not subscribed to the podcast, please do so at AI will talk to you soon. Take care

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