Competitive analysis is one of the most difficult components of marketing due to the private nature of corporate data. How do you understand what is or isn’t working for your competitors before you try something similar yourself? Without private access to their reporting, you probably don’t. Many times, even creating simple industry benchmarks are nearly impossible because of inconsistent KPI definitions and inaccurate surveying. Google Analytics used to provide some great, industry-specific benchmarking reports, but the program was abandoned, leaving marketers with few reliable numbers to build strategies from.
Fortunately, social media has forced corporations, big and small, to let down their guards a little bit. Among many other low-cost benefits, social media provides online sports marketers a glimpse behind competitive curtains and can answer questions such as:
- Which team has the most Facebook fans or Twitter followers?
- How is the social growth of our competitors trending this week, this month, this quarter?
- Where does our company and our competitors rank relative to the rest of the brand pages on Facebook and Twitter?
- Are our similar competitors receiving significantly more Facebook check-ins than we are? What tactics are they using to gain this valuable exposure?
In our first in a series of social media how-tos, we share a couple of social media measurement tools that will simplify your competitive analysis and provide insights that can be used to improve your own social media marketing efforts.
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1. Wildfire Social Media Monitor
Wildfire Social Media Monitor is a free tool from the long-time Facebook app maker. Wildfire has a full suite of paid social marketing products, but the Monitor tool is one gem that has always been free – and continues to be free even after they were acquired by Google last year. One small catch that came with the Google acquisition is that you now have to fill out a sign-up form in order to use the service. I have yet to receive a sales call or email in the several months they have owned by email address, so signing up is a very small price to pay for the value that the tool provides.
Tip: When you receive the confirmation email pictured below, keep it handy. You will need to click the “here” link to access the tool in the future. Using “here” as anchor text is a lesson for another day, but I digress….
Once you are into the tool, it is very intuitive, allowing you to type in up to three Facebook pages and/or Twitter handles from the home screen to get started. After you have generated your first report by clicking the compare button, you can add or delete competitors from the line charts.
Tip: If you are attempting to track pages with a small following or that have never been tracked before, Wildfire may not be able to plot the brand on the line chart. Fortunately, in the case of the larger brands that have never been tracked before, your attempt to find them will ping the tool to begin tracking them, and data should be available within seven days. You can even sign up for an email notification to access the report when they have enough data.
Here is a report tracking the likes of the three teams with the highest Facebook engagement rates in the world: FC Barcelona (orange), Real Madrid (blue), and Manchester United (green):
As you can see, all three teams had nearly identical followings around March 2011, but FC Barcelona widened the gap throughout 2012. Note that you can also plot Facebook likes or Twitter follows as a daily or running total, look at likes or checkins on Facebook, shorten the date range for a more granular look, and display seven-day, one-month, or three-month trends.
One more feature I love about Wildfire Monitor is the leaderboard report. I always find it fascinating how far down the list you have to go in order to find the first sports property. As of this writing, you have to go down to number thirteen, before you see soccer-star Cristiano Ronaldo representing the sports world – behind the likes of Shakira and Harry Potter, and just ahead of Justin Bieber and Katy Perry. The top-ranked team, FC Barcelona, is ranked 30th.
Hopefully you are seeing how a tool like this can provide valuable insight into your competitors’ performance. One way I like to use the service is to track how many fans our brands’ competitors had on the last day of each month. I keep this data in an Excel spreadsheet to determine if there are any seasonal trends or spikes that may indicate a Facebook ad spend. This type of data, which can also be used in conjunction with our next tool, can help tell you not only how your competitors are performing – but more importantly – why they are performing that way.
2. PageLever Now
PageLever sets the standard for Facebook measurement tools. They are a Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer, which allows them to connect directly to the Facebook API. They use the traditional Facebook Insights data you are accustomed to seeing, but slice it and dice it in additional ways and deliver it in a nice, shiny interface.
PageLever is a paid service, charging upwards of $95 to track each Facebook page per month, but in my opinion, the service is worth it if you are looking for ways to take your social marketing to the next level. A relatively new addition to the PageLever reporting suite is a tool called PageLever Now. PageLever Now allows you to add your own and competitive Facebook pages to track social streams in real-time. Of course this type of competitive analysis can be done manually by going to each competitor’s Facebook stream and auditing their walls, but PageLever Now combines everything you are looking at in one place.
This information can help you determine:
- What kind of content is working best on Facebook?
- Are there topics trending or conversations happening that our company should join?
- Did a popular Facebook story lead to a spike in fan growth for our or our competitor’s brand?
In our next social media how-to, we will discuss ways these analyses can be used to impact business outcomes like revenue, organic growth, and content consumptions.