| Jul 4, 2023 | | 17 min read

The art of social media competitor analysis: A practical guide


Social media has transformed the way we do business, democratizing the ability for businesses of all sizes and their audiences to communicate directly. But there’s no denying that the competition on social media is fierce, with businesses constantly vying for attention and engagement from users.

Social media is an important communication channel. Ensure you create content that connects with your audience by downloading our free “White-label social media checklist” now.

Luckily, through social media competitor analysis, the behavior of competitors can be turned into a goldmine of actionable business insights. In this guide, we’ll dive into the art of social media competitor analysis to show you exactly how it’s done, no matter who your clients are.

What is social media competitor analysis?

Social media competitor analysis refers to the process of evaluating and analyzing the social media strategies, techniques, and performance of competitors to gain insights and leverage them to your advantage. It involves examining their content, engagement metrics, audience demographics, ad campaigns, and overall online presence. By understanding what your competitors are up to on social media, you can identify opportunities, refine your own strategy, and stay ahead.

Engaging in social media competitor analysis is important if you sell social media packages because it can help you give your clients a competitive edge and maximize ROI. It allows you to benchmark your performance against industry rivals, provides valuable insights into your target audience’s preferences, interests, and behaviors, and helps you identify emerging trends and industry best practices.

Performing a social media competitor analysis: Step by step

Competitor analysis for social media isn’t rocket science: with the right tools and strategy, you can easily repeat this process for all your clients.

1. Determine your goals and the scope of your social media competitor audit

Set SMART goals

SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Ensuring your goals meet these criteria will keep you and your clients on the same page about the scope of your project.

The purpose of goal setting during a competitor analysis for social media is to provide focus and direction to your analysis and ensure that you extract meaningful insights. Using a questionnaire to understand your client’s goals at this stage is helpful. Consider these key factors when setting your goals:

  • What’s the purpose of the social media competitor audit? Clearly articulate why you are undertaking this analysis. Is it to gain a better understanding of your client’s competitive landscape, identify opportunities for improvement and reputation management through social media, stay updated on industry trends, or something else?
  • What metrics will you use to measure success? Establish specific, measurable objectives that you aim to accomplish. For example, you may want to identify content gaps, improve engagement rates, or benchmark performance against competitors.

Identify key competitors on social media

Once you have defined your goals, it’s time to identify the competitors you want to analyze. Your approach can vary widely: you may want to identify direct competitors in your client’s industry or niche, or you might wish to cast a wider net and monitor competitor social media for larger, industry-leading brands as well as emerging players.

If you want to focus on immediate competitors, look for businesses offering similar products and services and targeted at the same audience. This will provide insights into the strategies and tactics that resonate with your target market.

If you conduct a broader social media competitor analysis, including larger established brands and emerging players, you might identify more innovative social media strategies and trends.

Neither approach is better than the other: it’s all about what goal you want to achieve by monitoring competitors on social media.

2. Collect relevant information and data

Now that you know what the goals of your social media competitor audit are, it’s time to gather relevant information and data about their social media activities. This is effectively the research stage, during which you collect information that you’ll interpret and apply later. Let’s take a look at some methods for data gathering.

Scope out social media profiles

The natural place to begin a social media competitor analysis is, of course, their social media profiles.

Start by identifying the main platforms your client’s competitors are active on. Visit their profiles on each platform and determine which platforms competitors are actively using to engage with their audience. If they haven’t been active on a platform for a while, you can disregard it. This will help you focus your analysis on the most relevant channels.

Next, examine key metrics on these active profiles. Note the follower count, posting frequency, and broad engagement metrics such as likes, comments, and shares per post to assess the level of audience interaction.

Piece together content strategies

The content your client’s competitors share on social media plays a major role in attracting and engaging their audience. Analyzing their content strategy will help you get an idea of what their approach to content creation and marketing is.

The first thing to note is the content formats they use. Look out for:

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • GIFs
  • Short-form video
  • Long-form video
  • Infographics
  • Carousel posts


Do they use one of these more than the rest? Do they have a balance? Take note of the variety and creativity of content formats used.

Next, identify the themes and topics shared by competitors on social media. Are there any recurring themes or subjects? For example, is there regular use of user-generated content (UGC), shoppable posts, or behind-the-scenes content? Take note of which content themes perform well since this can help you understand the content preferences of your target audience.

Spy on engagement metrics

The level of audience engagement with your competitors’ social media content is a revealing indicator of how successful their strategy is.

Earlier you looked at general engagement rates for their active social profiles, but now it’s time to dig into audience engagement metrics at the level of individual posts. Look at likes, comments, shares, and any other available metrics. Note if there are patterns regarding the type of content that performs particularly well.

Comparing engagement rates across platforms and content types can help you generate social media ideas for your client’s business based on what is resonating with competitors’ audiences.

Dive into audience demographics

Understanding audience demographics during social media competitor analysis will help you tailor your messaging and content strategy down the line. For example, you might find that the audience overlaps considerably with your client’s audience. Alternatively, you may discover that their audience is quite different, and decide that you shouldn’t borrow too many tactics from them.

Important demographic data points to consider include age, gender, and location. You can use third-party tools to access this data, but you may also be able to get an intuitive feel for the most active members of the audience by looking at who is liking and interacting with posts.

Looking for patterns and trends in competitor audience composition will help you understand what that audience segment respond well to.

3. Analyze the tactics and strategies of competitors

In this stage of your social media competitor analysis, you’ll go deeper into the tactics and strategies employed by your client’s competitors. Understanding how they communicate their brand message, collaborate with influencers, and run promotions can provide actionable insights for refining your social media approach.

Zoom in on the brand message

Analyzing your competitors’ brand messaging on social media will help you understand how they position themselves and communicate with their audience.

Looking through each competitor’s social media posts, pay attention to the language, style, and tone they use to communicate with their audience. You should also, of course, take note of what messages are being repeated throughout the content.

  • Do they adopt a formal or informal approach?
  • Is their tone professional, friendly, humorous, or empathetic?
  • Are there specific words or phrases that come up repeatedly?


Understanding brand voice, and how it’s employed to convey key messages, will help you identify their unique positioning to better differentiate your client’s brand.

Finally, take note of the unique selling proposition (USP) that each competitor is communicating. Look out for brand values that are reiterated throughout the content. Taking the time to parse this messaging will reveal what key takeaways they want their audience to remember. For example, they might focus on quality, sustainability, technological innovation, affordability, or some other value.

Pro-tip: Do you see a gap in messaging here that your client might be able to fill, such as an important value that isn’t being articulated?

Check out collaborations with influencers

Influencer collaborations have become a useful strategy for brands to extend their reach and tap into new audiences. By looking at influencer partnerships as part of your social media competitor analysis, you can see how different brands strategically align themselves with influential online personalities.

The two key questions to ask yourself here are:

  • Who are their influencer partners?
  • How impactful is the influencer partnership?


Pay attention to the size of the influencers’ following, their relevance to your shared industry, and the engagement they generate. Then, analyze how influencers are integrated into the competitor’s content strategy. Do they endorse products, share sponsored content, or provide guest contributions? Assess the level of engagement and audience response to these collaborations.

Evaluate sales offers and promotions

Promotions are used by businesses of all sizes to drive engagement and conversions on social media.

As part of your social media competitor analysis, look for any ongoing or past promotional campaigns or special offers your competitors have run. Examine the messaging, visuals, and targeting strategies they use in their ads and promotions.

It can also be fruitful to assess how effectively competitors communicate their promotions and the value they offer. Consider the design elements, call-to-action (CTA), and any unique selling points emphasized in their ads and other promotional content.

Look for campaigns, contests, and other promotional techniques

Social media campaigns and contests can be great engagement drivers, and you’re likely to see them at work during your social media competitor analysis.

Track competitor’s social media to see if are actively running specific campaigns or contests to engage their audience. Look back to see which contests and other promotional campaigns they’ve run in the past. Then, analyze the objectives, themes, and mechanics of these initiatives: how are they structured? How do they incentivize audiences?

Be sure to check out the engagement levels of these initiatives. Gauge the level of participation, audience response, and overall success of competitors’ campaigns or contests. Look for any patterns or strategies that have been particularly effective. Similarly, you might notice ineffective strategies and avoid those in your future campaigns.

4. Put it all together by drawing key insights and creating an action plan

At this stage, you’ve conducted a comprehensive social media competitor analysis, and it’s time to draw meaningful insights. By pulling together everything you’ve gathered so far, you can create a list of actionable social media management steps for your client’s accounts. Let’s take a look at how you can translate your social media competitor audit into tangible actions.

Identify strengths and weaknesses

For every competitor that was monitored, identify strengths and weaknesses in their social media strategy.

Take note of areas where they excel and areas where there are opportunities for improvement or differentiation. Look for patterns or standout elements in their social media strategies and compare them with your client’s performance. This will help you understand their competitive advantages and discover gaps that you can capitalize on.

Identify learning opportunities from successful strategies

Looking at the strengths you’ve just noted for each competitor, specify the tactics and strategies that have clearly contributed to their success.

Look for patterns of high engagement, viral campaigns, or content themes that resonate strongly with their audience.

By studying their most successful strategies, you can gain inspiration and insights into what works well in your industry or niche. Then, you can translate what you identify by putting your client’s unique spin on successful strategies. The idea isn’t to replicate or copy but rather to find inspiration and avoid reinventing the wheel when it comes to effective social media strategies.

Create an action plan

Use the insights gained from the competitor analysis to refine your client’s social media strategy and develop actionable steps they can take. Whether your client handles social media in-house, you handle it within your agency, or you outsource to capable white-label experts, these action steps can be applied to create a shortcut to social media success.

These actions could include:

  • Getting crystal clear on what the brand message is
  • Adopting new content formats, like short-form video
  • Experimenting with strategic influencer collaborations
  • Optimizing advertising campaigns


Whatever action items you emphasize, make sure they align with your client’s overall business objectives and budget.

Create a plan for monitoring and refining your strategy

Like just about every aspect of digital marketing, competitor analysis is an ongoing process. Social media trends, platforms, and strategies evolve frequently, and new competitors may emerge over time.

It’s a good idea to continuously monitor your competitors’ social media activities and use those learnings to adapt your strategies accordingly. Stay current on industry trends, new social media tactics, and emerging players in your client’s niche.

You should also, of course, regularly reassess your client’s own social media performance to measure the impact of the actions you’ve taken as a result of your social media competitor analysis. In the world of social media, agility is the name of the game if you want to remain competitive.

Mistakes to avoid during social media competitor analysis

Social media competitor analysis is one of the best ways to craft and refine social media marketing strategies that are effective and up-to-date on current trends. But that doesn’t mean marketers don’t regularly make mistakes when using competitor analysis for social media.

Save yourself time and resources by getting familiar with these. That way, your next social media competitor audit will go off without a hitch.

Focusing on follower count at the expense of other metrics

Follower count has some significance, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all of social media metrics. It’s easy to get caught up in this vanity metric when tracking competitors on social media, but it’s hardly a reliable indicator on its own.

Sure, a large following can indicate popularity, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into more important indicators like sales. A smaller pool of highly engaged followers who truly love your client’s brand is likely to be worth far more than 1000 casual followers.

For this reason, the engagement and quality of followers generally matter more than the quantity. When using social media competitor analysis tools, pay more attention to engagement metrics such as likes, comments, shares, and the overall interaction with the audience.

Ignoring the little guy

Small competitors can be a treasure trove of insights when it comes to discovering emerging, innovative social media strategies. It’s easy to fixate on the big players in your client’s industry and overlook smaller businesses, but making this mistake can limit the effectiveness of your social media competitor analysis.

Analyzing the techniques used by small, responsive, and scrappy accounts can provide insights and inspiration that translate into ROI-boosting social media strategies. By observing their actions, you can identify new approaches, unexpected campaigns, or alternative audience engagement methods that are adaptable to your client’s accounts.

Wearing online-only blinders

While social media is a highly stimulating marketing channel, with new developments throughout each day, it’s a common mistake to focus only on these online platforms.

Your competitors’ offline branding and marketing activities likely work in tandem with their social media presence. By considering how their offline efforts support and complement their social media strategy, you can gain a deeper understanding of how they market their offerings.

When it comes to evaluating offline branding, look out for traditional advertising campaigns, events, PR activities, packaging, podcasts, and overall brand positioning. Understanding the holistic marketing approach of your competitors will ultimately lead to a more robust competitor analysis for social media.

Copy-and-paste strategies

Copying your competitors’ strategies without a clear understanding of the reasoning behind their approach is a major mistake.

While you can learn a lot by mentoring competitor social media accounts, blindly replicating what you see isn’t likely to yield the same results for your brand.

Why? Because their strategy is based on their underlying objects, target audience, and unique positioning. Your client is likely to differ on all these fronts. Maybe they have a single-location business, while your client is a multi-location business. This will have implications for social media strategies.

Instead, focus on understanding how the competitor’s strategy works to support their goals. Then, adapt and tailor these insights to align with your client’s brand identity, values, and aims.

Don’t overlook the importance of analyzing your competitors’ paid advertising campaigns. While organic reach and engagement are important, paid advertising also plays a key role in social media marketing, often working in tandem with organic strategies.

Analyze your competitors’ ad copy, targeting strategies, CTAs, landing pages, conversion strategies, and creative elements used in paid ads. Look for patterns in the platforms and types of ads they use. This analysis can generate ideas for effective messaging, visual design, and audience targeting that you can apply to your paid advertising packages.

Ignoring the data

Relying solely on surface-level observations can lead to inaccurate conclusions. We already touched on the common mistake of focusing only on follower count, but other quick impressions can also be misleading.

For example, a competitor may post a lot of infographics, leading you to believe that the audience responds well to this type of content. Upon closer investigation, the data may reveal that the infographics don’t actually get much engagement, so they aren’t contributing much to the brand’s success.

To avoid this, use social media analytics tools to gather robust and meaningful data about your competitors’ performance. Dive deep into engagement metrics, reach, audience demographics, and individual content performance.

Analyzing this information will provide objective insights, reveal trends, and help you make informed decisions based on reliable information.

Forgetting your unique audience’s perspective

While social media competitor analysis can reveal fascinating insights, it’s equally important to prioritize your client’s target audience’s preferences and needs. Remember: they may overlap, but it’s highly unlikely that they’re identical.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that each competitor has its audience, and their strategies are tailored to resonate with that particular pool of people. It’s valuable to understand their strategies, but always keep the unique characteristics of your client’s audience top of mind.

Focus on delivering value to them, addressing their pain points, and engaging with them authentically. Tailor your content, messaging, and brand voice to resonate with your client’s ideal buyer. The result is likely to be far more effective than if you tried to simply replicate another brand’s approach.

Ignoring emerging platforms

Social media is a dynamic space, and new platforms and channels continually emerge. Failing to stay updated with these emerging platforms can lead to a missed opportunity.

By embracing new opportunities, you can gain a competitive edge and connect with audiences that other competitors may overlook.

The most recent example of this is TikTok: the hugely popular app was the domain of dancing teenagers almost exclusively for several years before it exploded as an effective platform for brands. Stay agile and open to exploring new platforms and competitor analysis tools for social media that can provide unique engagement opportunities.

Not keeping track of benchmarks

Social media competitor analysis should include benchmarking your client’s social media performance against your competitors. Regularly assess and compare key performance indicators like engagement rates, follower growth, reach, and website traffic to see how you measure up against similarly positioned brands.

This can help you identify areas where your client excels, areas where they lag behind, and realistic, data-informed opportunities for improvement.

In short: benchmarking helps set realistic goals, highlights areas for optimization, and allows you to track your progress over time.

Not conducting recurring social media competitor audits

Conducting competitor analysis as a one-time task just won’t cut it in a landscape as dynamic as social media. Instead, create a schedule to regularly review and update your competitor analysis insights.

This will help you notice changes in your competitors’ strategies, track shifts in audience behavior, and adapt your approach accordingly. You don’t necessarily have to conduct an in-depth competitor analysis for social media every single month, but you should be keeping track of key competitive social media accounts regularly.

Frequently asked questions

What metrics should I be looking at when analyzing my competitors’ social media presence?

When analyzing your competitors’ social media presence, focus on metrics like engagement rates (likes, comments, shares), follower growth, reach, website traffic, and click-through rates. These metrics provide insights into their content effectiveness, audience engagement, and the overall performance of their social media management efforts.

How often should I conduct a social media competitor analysis?

It’s a good idea to conduct a social media competitor analysis on a regular basis, such as once per quarter. The frequency can vary depending on your industry and the pace of change in your social media niche. Stay alert and monitor your competitors’ activities regularly enough to stay updated on their strategies and emerging trends. You can always adjust the frequency of your analysis if you need more frequent insights.’

About the Author

Lawrence Dy is the SEO Strategy Manager at Vendasta. His career spans from starting as a Jr. Copywriter in the automotive industry to becoming a Senior Editorial Content Manager in various digital marketing niches. Outside of work, Lawrence moonlights as a music producer/beatmaker and spends time with friends and family.

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