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Sprout Social Competitor Analysis

A Sprout Social competitor analysis will help you to get an in-depth view of the social media management tools that are available on the market today. This blog post highlights the top key features for each solution. I’ve spent over forty hours researching and reviewing five of the top social media management tools on the market: Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Buffer, Sendible, and Social Studio.

First, a little bit about me. I have 15 years’ experience in digital marketing and social media management. I started my career at Lebara Group four years ago, managing the employer brand on LinkedIn as well as monitoring competitor activity on Linkedin. When Sprout was developed at Scobleizer shortly before its acquisition by Sprout Social, I was asked to help with the project.

Why Competitor Analysis Tools Are a Must-Have

The good news, though? There are a ton of competitor analysis tools out there to help you quickly and efficiently assess how you stack up against your top competitors.

And with the right tools on deck, you can spend less effort trying to dig dirt on your competitors and more time actually marketing.

Rather than spending too much time trying to spy on your competitors, why not let some smart tools do the legwork for you?

We’ve broken down a comprehensive list of competitor analysis tools that’ll help you do exactly that:

  1. Benchmark your social performance

Benchmarking is the foundational step in a good competitive analysis strategy, as it helps you gain critical context to understand your social performance and brand health. Without it, you’re essentially measuring data in a silo. For example, let’s say you double your audience engagement over a six month period. That’s great news, right? What if you then learn that your top competitor has quadrupled their engagement over the same period? It certainly impacts the way you view your own performance and likely will motivate you to learn how your competitor achieved such impressive results.

When benchmarking your social performance, there are two key aspects that you need to examine: owned content and earned content.

Owned content refers to content that brands publish from their own social profiles. Sprout’s Competitor Reports, available in our Premium and Advanced plans, give you in-depth data around your competitors’ content performance within major social platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can track key metrics like audience growth, post volume and engagement, and then filter down by date range, profile and content type for a more focused analysis. This gives you a better sense of how your competitor’s social content is resonating with your shared audience and how strongly they’re performing within individual platforms, which we will discuss in more detail in the next section.

On the other hand, earned content refers to brands’ organic mentions in broader social conversations, so this is where listening comes into play. Our new Competitive Analysis template makes it easy to compare SOV data, which is one of the most powerful social metrics you can use to gauge your brand’s competitive position and industry relevance. You can also analyze sentiment scores and trends to see how your audience feels about your competitors (and relevant topics) compared to your own brand. As you track SOV and sentiment, you can now filter down by competitor to analyze smaller subsets or conduct a head-to-head comparison, in addition to using existing filters such as network, profile, content type and demographics. 

Once you compile this benchmarking data, you will have much more meaningful context for your brand health and content performance. These insights will help you understand where you’re performing well and where you should be investing more efforts to improve your social game.

  1. Learn what content works—and what doesn’t

The next step in your competitive strategy is to analyze your competitor’s content and how it’s performing to learn what resonates with your audience and industry.

Since each network is unique, start by looking at content across each individual social network. For example, the curated photo and video content that performs so well on Instagram may not have the same resonance on Twitter, where content is geared more towards short-form text dialogue and timely updates. Using Sprout’s Competitor Reports, you can evaluate in-depth content performance and engagement data for your competitors across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

It can also be helpful to evaluate your competitor’s content by a specific topic or campaign. That’s where social listening comes back into play. Our Competitive Listening template helps you identify top keywords and hashtags in competitor-related conversations, so you can easily spot common topics and industry trends. You can then click into the Messages tab for more detailed insights on individual posts, including the content, profile and engagement data.

  1. Discover new business opportunities 

Beyond just measuring your brand health and marketing performance, social listening is an extremely powerful tool for gaining insights around industry trends, product feedback and customer pain points. When it comes to your competitive strategy, you can and should be leveraging these listening insights to spark new marketing ideas and identify product and business opportunities that will help you differentiate your brand. 

James Hardie®, a leading brand in the building materials industry, is a great example of leveraging listening to improve business strategy across an organization. Using Sprout Listening, James Hardie is able to engage in audience and trend analysis, research sentiment regarding their products, identify industry influencers and conduct competitor comparisons. Even better, they can take the insights they uncover and use them to optimize their business operations outside of digital marketing.

“Not only is it good from a brand health and marketing angle, it’s also important information we can pass on to our sales teams and product teams. We can find trends and common themes that come up in conversations. We can identify not only our own brand advocates, but brand advocates for our competition. It’s been good from so many perspectives.” 

– Bridget Kulla, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at James Hardie

Get started with competitive analysis today

No matter your business size or industry, competitive analysis is one of the most important tools you should be utilizing to differentiate your brand and grow your share of voice. Sprout’s platform makes it easy to benchmark your performance, analyze competitor content and gain deeper insights around your industry, products and customers. Not only will these insights help improve your marketing strategy, but they will also provide significant business value across your organization.

Creating a Competitive Analysis Topic

You can create a Competitive Analysis Topic made up of Competitor Queries that contain keywords, hashtags, mentions and other information to listen to the conversations surrounding your competitors. These Competitor Queries then turn the resulting data into competitor-specific data in Insights. You can’t include any more than 10 competitors in a query.

Note: If you have more than 10 competitors you want to collect data for, you can break up these competitors into additional Topics by primary and secondary competitors. 

To create a Competitive Analysis Topic:

  1. Click New Topic from the left-hand menu in Listening.
  2. Click Competitive Analysis for the Topic type.
  3. Enter the name of your first competitor in the Query Builder. Ensure to include your own brand within your Competitive Analysis Topic.
  4. Click Save.
  5. Add relevant phrases, keywords, hashtags or user mentions in the Competitor Query Card. Note that topics can only contain 1900 characters.
  6. Preview the results in the Topic Preview area. Filter your results by competitor and then refine your Competitor Query to remove noise or unwanted messages.
  7. Click Add New Competitor. Repeat this process to add up to 10 competitors to your topic. Ensure one of the competitors is your own brand.
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Note: If you add a competitor to your topic after you’ve already created it, you won’t have access to any historical data. Instead, the updated topic will start collecting new data from the time it’s saved.

Viewing insights

After you build your Competitive Analysis Topic, you can view insights about how your competitors are performing and spot trends to improve your social strategy. Your Insights view is automatically segmented by competitors.  The visualization and segmentation within your Insights view makes it easy to compare competitor performance across every metric.

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Performance Tab

The Performance Tab contains a competitor scorecard with selectable key metrics to give you quick context on how your competitors are ranked against each other. From this tab, you can quickly see the following information for your competitors for the date range you select:

  • Message Volume
  • Potential Impressions
  • Engagement
  • Sentiment Summary
  • Sentiment Trends

You can take a deep dive on a few select competitors or a single competitor by selecting the competitor from the right bar. 

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Scorecard tab

The Scorecard tab provides you with an aggregate view of selectable metrics so you can quickly see how your competitors rank against each other. 

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Export this view to a CSV to share with stakeholders and further tailor this tab by dragging and dropping the metrics you want to see and to remove additional metrics that don’t apply to your strategy. You can also narrow your scorecard by selecting just a few competitors.

Conversation tab

The Conversation tab provides you with a visual representation of the top keywords, hashtags, mentions and emojis for your competitors. As an added advantage, this word cloud is color-coded showing which terms are associated with each competitor.

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You can also explore key metrics for specific keywords and hashtags with the Conversation Overview. This table provides volume, engagement, likes and impression breakdowns for each keyword or hashtag. 

Tailor this tab by selecting the word types you want to focus on and customize your Conversation Overview to organize the available metrics in a way that’s most meaningful to you.

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Demographics tab

The Demographics tab provides you with charts for age and gender, profile overviews and location overviews. This way you can quickly see who is participating in conversations. View the device breakdown and a detailed location overview to see on which devices and where in the world conversations are occurring.

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Messages tab

The Messages tab provides more details about the users posting messages that relate to your competitors. Each message is color-coded and includes a label that identifies which competitor the message is about. Quickly gauge the author’s followers and engagements, or further customize the messages to see the likes, comments and shares associated with it. 

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Migrating your Topics

If you already created a Competitive Analysis Topic, you can easily migrate your current Topic to this format to access more detailed data, receive the new Insights view and compare up to 10 competitors in one topic.

If you have an existing topic with Themes built to perform competitive analysis, remove these themes as they won’t serve a purpose once you migrate your existing topics.

You can migrate your Topic to this updated format by editing your existing competitive analysis topic. When you go to edit the Topic, you see a popup message asking you to migrate your query into the Topic type.

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There are two situations that can arise when you migrate your existing Topic depending on how you originally set up your queries. 

Original Query with Groups

If you originally set up your Competitive Analysis Topic query with multiple groups that contain keywords, hashtags and other information regarding your competitors, update the names for each group to the competitor you created the group for and save the topic. 

Original Query without Groups

If you originally set up your Competitive Analysis Topic query with all your competitive terms in a single group, migrating creates a single Competitor Query. In this circumstance, you need to create additional Competitor Query Cards and move the keywords, hashtags and other information into the proper Competitor Query Cards.

After you migrate to the new Topic type, any historical data from your original Competitive Analysis Topic is restored within 24 hours. Any new keywords you added to the topic will start collecting from that point forward. 

Conclusion

As an inbound marketing agency, I have used competitor analysis many times to help grow my clients’ businesses. When done correctly, it can easily be one of the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal. But it does take some time and effort to set up correctly.

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