Now we know it sounds scary and official and a bit creepy, but honestly it doesn’t need to sound any of those things!
That’s because competitor review, aka looking what those other businesses in your niche are up to, is a healthy part of marketing behaviour.
And never more true is this than when talking about the importance of social media.
Yes seeing what others are doing in this digital space is absolutely crucial for the growth of your business and we strongly encourage it as a regular behaviour.
So here’s the full lowdown on how to conduct regular competitor review work, what to do as part of this process and why it’s important…
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What Does Competitor Review Mean?
Essentially, a competitor review is looking at what others in your business niche are up to.
Usually this refers to companies of a similar size and standing to you – so that comparison is easier – but can often involve national or even international leaders in your field, to give you some idea of what to aim for.
What you’re looking to investigate here is what those in your line of business are up to (especially from a marketing perspective) and how they are going about it.
This is why taking some time to study other companies in your niche is absolutely crucial.
There’s no point looking at a company’s marketing behaviour if the field they work in is unrelated to yours, or if their target audience or customer base is totally different.
Yes their ideas may provide interesting and valuable on some level, but they are unlikely to give you as much juicy marketing gold as looking at the behaviour of businesses in the same line of work as you, or who are trying to attract a similar client base.
Competitor reviews therefore need to be conducted around relevant businesses.
They also, in our opinion, need to be conducted regularly.
If you are perhaps rebranding, overhauling your marketing strategy or creating a new business plan, then yes, these are very pertinent times to look at what your competitors are up to.
However, it’s also important to conduct ongoing reviews into what those similar companies are up to as an ongoing practice, especially when it comes to social media.
Why are Competitor Reviews Important in Social Media?
And that’s largely because the world of social media is changing so fast, and evolving so consistently that, as a small business owner, you simple can’t be expected to keep up with it all.
A great way to be efficient therefore and to stay, if not ahead, but abreast of developments, is to look at what other relevant businesses in your field are using social media for.
What platforms are they active on?
What sort of content are they putting out?
How are they creating this content in terms of method, tone and publishing tools / schedules?
And, perhaps, most importantly, how is their content being received?
In other words, are their social media strategies proving effective and getting good results – be that engagement numbers, following increases or general standing and authority.
To get a good idea across all these factors, we highly suggest you conduct competitor reviews not only regularly (as we’ve mentioned above), but also across a range of relevant businesses in your niche.
Who to Study in a Competitor Review?
Looking at prolific international or national companies in your field can be a fantastic way to see what the leaders in the pack are up to – what those with big budgets can and are achieving.
You can then scale it down and see what elements of these you might be able to parallel or learn from.
However, we don’t suggest including more than 1-2 big players in your competitor reviews and instead suggest you focus more on other local or regional companies in a similar field to you.
That’s because these are more likely to be businesses targeting a similar customer to base you, operating in a similar marketplace.
What these companies are able to produce with similar-sized budgets and similar audiences is going to prove a lot more helpful when it comes to measuring up i.e. seeing what you are doing well and what you could be doing better
What are the Point of Competitor Reviews?
Because ultimately, this is the point of a competitor review – to learn from others.
It’s certainly less about spying and copying what people are up to, and is far more useful as a tool for critiquing your own existing output, especially in terms of social media.
This is why we suggest regularly checking in on between 3-6 similar-sized, geographically-close businesses in your niche.
Not only will this help you build an ongoing picture of how the market around you may be developing, but it will also help show you areas in which your business can improve in both its marketing and communications strategy and output.
The point of a competitor review is not to steal ideas, it’s to see what’s out there, to be informed, to be educated and to forearm yourself with knowledge about what is and isn’t working across the digital marketing field.
In this way, reviewing what other businesses in your niche are doing can not only help stimulate your own marketing efforts, but can also inspire you.
Indeed, often it can show you the possibilities and exciting new ways of doing things, as well as the limitations and challenges.
In the fast-changing world of social media, competitor reviews can also highlight new features, developments and trends in these apps, which you may not otherwise be aware of.
How to Create a Competitor Review Process
So now that we’ve talked about who to include in your competitor review, as well as the number of businesses involved and that this needs to be done regularly (say every couple of weeks), it’s important to talk a little about how to do this.
Essentially there are a couple of ways to go about a competitor review, some of which work better for certain businesses rather than others.
A very informal way to conduct competitor reviews is to simply take a look at the social media profiles of other businesses in your niche.
Look at the type of content they are putting out (including the tone, style, aesthetic, production values and medium of the content), the amount of followers they have and the type of engagements they are getting – learn more about engagement in social media, and what that means here.
If you’re conducting a causal competitor review, then just jot down anything that you like, or things that seem to be working well, and start thinking about how you can introduce similar practices (in your own original way) into your social media work.
In a more formal setting, especially if you are sharing the information with colleagues, you may want to create an editable document – perhaps in Google Docs, so that many people can work on it simultaneously – which tracks any developments in competitor behaviour.
If you’re interested in doing this, then at its most basic, a simple table will do, with a few columns, including the date of the review, the name of the competitor, links to their social media accounts plus website and some feedback on their behaviour.
Remember to include both qualitative and quantitative feedback here, so that you are taking into account both hard data such as number of likes, followers, number of posts per month etc, as well as softer values such as the tone of the content, its purpose (does it inform / entertain etc), as well as any visual features.
It’s also important that you note here what you think works and why, as well as what doesn’t.
You can also use software and tools to conduct competitor reviews, with many paid social media apps allowing you to compare your account to those of your competitors.
These are often paid premium aspects, so may not be ideal for small business, but, at the very least, Facebook’s Pages to Watch feature (which is free to those with Facebook Business Suite – and yes you should have this!) is a good starting point to see how you are measuring up – on this platform at least – to others in your niche.
Whatever way you are conducting your competitor review, just keep it regular – as we’ve stressed before this is not something to set and forget, but needs to be an ongoing process.
Staying abreast of developments, trends, new features and successes is crucial in your marketing efforts and competitor reviews provide a quick and easy way to get there.
So make sure you set reminders in your calendar to do this regularly, or that you incorporate it into your regular engagement strategy.
Little and often really is the best approach here and taking a small amount of time to do this, will pay huge dividends in the long run… we promise!
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So there you have it, our guide to the importance of competitor reviews – why you should do them, how important they are and exactly what steps to take in order to succeed.
We hope this information has been useful, but, as always if you need any pointers or help in this area, don’t hesitate to get in touch!