When we think about social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, we tend to focus on customer demographics, forgetting that we have just much – if not more – to learn from our competitors’ presence on those same sites.
If you aren’t paying attention to your competition on social media, I want to help you start practicing. The fact that so many small businesses are on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and elsewhere means that there are plenty examples out there of what’s working – and what’s not working.
Let’s look at four questions you can ask to guide your competitive research in social media:
- Who are your competitors targeting?
- How often are they talking? How often are they interacting?
- Are they peppering their conversation with valuable content or sales-y pushes?
- In what light do they cast the competition (i.e. you)?
The first thing you want to look at is whom your competition is targeting. Before I start working for any client, I always ask whom their target audience is. Sometimes I’ll get the frighteningly naïve and enthusiastic answer, “Everyone!” False.
Other times, I’ll get a more specific answer like, “Middle class, suburban, stay-at-home moms with a household income between $60,000 and $80,000.” Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.
But really, even this answer leaves something to be desired. The fact of the matter is that very few of your customers are going to read all of your social media outlets, your blog, and everything else that’s published under your name. You have to narrow your demographics to determine exactly who is on your Facebook page v. your Twitter page.
In order to narrow these demographics, check out what your competition is doing. Ask yourself who they’re targeting, and whether or not it seems to be working. Collect your answers; now do it better.
Next, I want you to look at how often they’re talking. The general rule of thumb is that you want to post at least three times a day to Twitter, and definitely no more than that to Facebook. However, these “rules” vary from industry to industry.
But, it’s not just about how often your competitors post, but how often they interact. Many companies are great about sharing content on Facebook, but, there aren’t nearly as many companies that interact consistently.
Make observations about what percentage of customers your competition is replying to. Does everyone get an answer, or do only the “interesting comments” get responses from the company?
Value Versus Sales Driven Content
So, you know who to target and how often to target them. But, what about balancing value-driven content with sales-driven content. What’s the appropriate ratio? Well, in all honesty, that’s kind of a trick question. Every piece of content should be valuable.
Of course, it’s okay to have some sales content from time to time, but even this sales-driven content should have value. Take a look at what your competitors are doing, and try to match or beat their ratios… the more non-sales content you can offer, the better.
Treatment of Competition
How do your competitors treat the competition on their social media pages? If you’re on their radar as a competitor, how do they treat you? Bashing the competition is never okay and it definitely doesn’t help your case as a small business.
If you spend any time at all perusing small business’s Facebook and Twitter pages, you’re sure to come across some competition bashing. Avoid it like the plague. The reason I advise businesses to look for this practice in their competition is because it should incentivize you to behave properly in case the temptation ever arises.
You Can’t Afford Not to Do These Things
The beauty of Facebook and Twitter is how public the platforms are. If you aren’t spying on your competition, you’re missing out on one of the easiest and cheapest methods of competitive research. Get going by asking these four questions!
After you’ve perused through the competition’s use of social media, what do you think you will start doing differently?
Spy Photo via Shutterstock