October 14, 2011

Keeping up with the Competition: Metrics That Matter

I’ve said it numerous times—you can’t measure everything. You need to measure what matters. Different metrics will matter to different people and different organizations, but one thing that should always matter is your competition. Your competitors are critical in helping you determine success for your brand by giving you a frame of reference to measure up against. Also, differentiating your brand requires you to know what your competition is doing so you can craft a strategy to do it better. And lastly, competitive analysis helps identify threats and possibly opportunities for your brand.

Before you get started with your competitor analysis, be sure to clearly identify who your competitors actually are. We’d all love to be in an organization that can compete with the likes of Apple, but realistically, only an elite group plays in that same arena. Be realistic when identifying competitors. And if you’re in a congested industry with lots of competitors, prioritize the long list of competitors so you can focus on the core competitors while still keeping tabs on the others. Once you have that squared away you can focus on measuring them. While there are endless opportunities to keep tabs on your competitors, when it comes to tracking your competitors in a social context, focus on these key areas.

Social Reach

The social reach I’m talking about here spans well beyond sheer fan and follower counts. Unless you can determine how valuable those ‘likes’ are for your competitors, the numbers aren’t worth your time. Instead, focus on how far their brand is extending in the social space. This can be determined by looking at the number of people talking about their brand on each platform—how many mentions/results on Twitter, check-ins on Foursquare, people talking about the brand on Facebook, etc. To give yourself a better understanding of your competition’s social reach look at the ratio of these numbers to the audience number and then do the same for your brand. It’s a little less worrisome if your competitor has 50,000 more ‘likes’ than you do, but less people talking and engaging with them.

Social Engagement

Engagement is something you’re likely measuring for your brand so it makes sense to take those engagement levels and measure them up against your competition. To do this, take a look at where your competitors are engaging, how often and when. Equally important is looking at the type of engagement they are doing. It can sometimes be a little more of a qualitative metric than a quantitative one, but it’s definitely worth exploring on a regular basis.

Share of Conversation

Slightly different from social reach which looks at how far your brand message extends in comparison with your competition’s, share of conversation takes a look at how much of the conversation in your category is owned by you versus your competitors. If you’re a women’s clothing retailer, you’d be looking at how many people are talking your brand versus brand x when they are talking about women’s fashion. And just as important is why they are talking about your brand and your competition.

Overall Sentiment

Although sentiment is somewhat of an ambiguous metric, it shouldn’t be overlooked for your or your competitors. Sentiment is a valuable variable in conversation and engagement. It’s great if you own the conversation for your category, but less impactful if the majority of that conversation is deemed negative. The same goes for your competition. Don’t get discouraged if your competition’s engagement levels, social reach and share of conversation are all higher than your brands. Discover the sentiment around it to put things into context.

Now that you have the keys areas of focus for social competitive analysis, you need to determine how you will collect the data and how frequently it will be analyzed. There is no perfect solution to either of these. There are several paid and free tools for pulling this data. It’s just a matter of finding a tool that’s right for you from a price and functionality standpoint. In terms of frequency, again, it’s really up to you. You should regularly keep tabs on your competitors and share a competitive analysis at least once a month.

How are you tracking your competitors? What are your best practices for competitive analysis in social media?

Tags: Best Practices, Data & Analytics, Facebook, Twitter

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