In the world of digital marketing, only one thing is certain–regardless of your niche, the competition is bound to be fierce. The rise of social media has allowed even the smallest company or individual to reach a vast audience through their favourite social network. Thus, having the best content online and a great social media strategy is more important than ever. But while striving for that, the question is: Should you follow your competitors on social media?
Knowing whether to get caught up in what the “other guy” is doing on a social platform isn’t an easy call. However, we will make a case for yes. After all, realising what the online habits of your peers and competitors are on any social media platform will be valuable.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about nippy Twitter posts or glorious Insta pages; you need to realise just how your competition is making a connection with their user base. It will give you valuable insights into their social media marketing strategy and how you should work to interact with your audience and the types of content to create. You will also know your share of voice in the market compared to your competitors.
With that in mind, we’ve got a couple of reasons for following the competition on social media that you should remind yourself of! So, read on and enjoy.
Knowing What Works
One of the bad things about having competition online is the fact that they’re going for the same audience you are. And, conversely – one of the good things is the fact that they’re going for the same audience you are. Yep, you’ve read that correctly! While you may compete for the attention of the same online population, that isn’t necessarily bad.
For example, if you follow competitors on social media, there are a lot of valuable things you can learn, some things that directly apply to your own online social media presence. If you see your competition experimenting with a radical new idea to improve their engagement rate (for example), give it some time and see how the audience reacts. It can help you improve your content strategy and online brand quality on your social channel.
Let’s say that you’re making social media content for a YouTube channel that’s focused on budget travelling vlogs. While this seems like a particular niche, it needs only a cursory glance for you to realise that many others are working on the same idea or social media post. But some of them may try new stuff and different type of content to increase their social share or follower count, that you haven’t experimented with. Some of your direct competitors may be using competing channels like TikTok to promote themselves or focusing on building a website to attract potential customers to their social profile as their social strategy.
But is the time needed to perform organic SEO or a PPC campaign on a full-blown website worth it? And is your targeted audience using TikTok as a social media channel at all? You don’t have to spend your resources and time to find out! Just look at how your competition is doing, which is best gleaned from their social presence i.e. their social media subscriber and follower count.
Naturally, the high-paced world of the Internet is always prone to quick changes. The grand social media landscape that’s so intimately embedded into our everyday lives didn’t even exist a decade ago. With that in mind, adapting to every single change is rarely easy. However, there’s one axiom in this ever-shifting industry: quality content is always crucial.
No amount of technical knowledge, resources, or careful planning will beat out better quality content. So, with that in mind, is the content you’re coming up with the best that it can be? Could your posts and videos be too long or too short? Do you have crisp imagery or clear audio? And do you have a consistent theme throughout all of your posts, or do you just randomly post stuff on your preferred social media channel?
The above questions should serve as a starting point. And if you follow a direct competitor’s social media activity on any social media network, you can find out the answer to that! Look at the brands that are doing better than you and learn from them.
As a business owner and smart marketer, you need to invest in a competitor analysis tool or social media management platform that will help you deduce the strategy and content type that your competitors are using.
Speaking of branding do you have a clear brand that stands behind your social media profile or channel? Are you recognisable from a nifty logo? You must have a consistent feed, one that’s not full of messy, disparate content. Having a clear brand image will help to build a long-term relationship with your target audience.
That’s also a nice pathway into our next question: do you have a positive relationship with your fan base? All of us get criticised online, that’s just part of the interactive nature of the medium. But you need to draw energy from the positive comments and take genuine constructive criticism when you get it. That’s the only way to improve and reach even more people. Plus, you need to have a tight focus on promotion. You need to share your content regularly, using a variety of popular platforms and monitor your performance by using a social media analytics tool. And you can learn about all of this by following the competition online to see what they’re doing!
Knowing What Doesn’t Work
Conversely, you also need to know what doesn’t work in your niche. And that’s also something you can think about while you follow a competitor’s social media effort. Sure, one of them may be huge on Twitter, but they could fail miserably on Instagram. So, is that the consequence of something they’re doing poorly on their social media campaign, or is your niche not suited for a large Instagram following? Analyse the competition to see where they’re underperforming and why.
For example, by using a social media tool you may observe that they are recording a high engagement metric via InstaStories, but their posts could lack comments, views, and likes. See what they’re not doing right, and make sure you avoid that as you build your online presence. Simultaneously, watch their online campaigns on various platforms and see if they’re following all the proper business practices with regards to audience growth, etc. If you determine they are, then you can attribute their unsuccessfulness to the platform that’s not suited to your niche; obviously, valuable information to you!
Also, have a look at their content creation activities to know what kinds of topics and areas you shouldn’t touch. For example, are they producing a lot of video content or investing in video marketing without results?
If we go back to the budget travelling vlog example, you may find that Q&A videos aren’t a big hit across the board. In that case, you don’t want to spend time figuring that out yourself; learn from your competition’s lousy example! That will save you a lot of effort and time that you could spend working on more lucrative and productive content.
When building an online presence, many people don’t realise just how hard it is to maintain a constant creative flow. Once in a while, even the most creative people are bound to get stuck in a rut. And when the success of your online brand depends on regular content, this could be a problem. So, if you’re not sure of what kind of video to work on next, or what type of post to write, have a look at what your competition has been having success with!
We’re not recommending that you copy someone else’s work. But if you’re making content within the same niche, you’d be well advised to refresh your memory in terms of possible topic and content formats. Also, if you decide to work on a similar topic, you need to work extra hard to make sure that you’re only taking a small amount of inspiration from the competition. You need to put your unique twist on the topic and apply your brand personality and style to make it original. Otherwise, you could face accusations of plagiarism – the absolute worst thing an online brand can deal with. On the other hand, if you put in enough effort – you will be rewarded in terms of follower loyalty!
And speaking of which – don’t forget to listen to the beat of your follower base! Sometimes, you could spend a lot of time recreating a popular video that you’re sure would go over well on your Instagram page. But if your followers don’t engage with it or even vocalise their disdain, don’t take this personally and stubbornly press on! Instead, take some time to think about it, recalibrate, and come up with something different that your fan base will appreciate.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, you need to realise that you should follow your competitors on social media; as you can see, there are myriad practical reasons for this. After all, competition isn’t a bad thing if it pushes you to get better and better. Look at the other social media accounts in your niche to learn what the general target audience likes and what you should stay away from. Remember – there is no bigger goldmine of digital marketing information than your competitive brands. At some point, you could even try to make professional cooperation with some of your social media competitors; these days, such out-of-the-box ideas go over well!
George Nichols is a part-time digital marketing blogger and works for a company called WP Full Care. His main goals in life are to help other people with their business, but also to spend as much time with his wife and their dog Sally.
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