Any good social media strategy goes beyond what your brand does, and takes a look at what your competitors are up to. When it comes to finding success on Twitter, it’s all well and good to map out your content strategy and metrics, but in order to really excel you’ll have to incorporate serious, on-going competitor analysis into your plan.
There are plenty of tools out there that can help you do this. They’ll measure your brand’s share of voice, how engaged your competitor’s audience is, the sentiment surrounding your competitor’s tweets… but most of them cost a pretty penny – which many small and medium businesses simply don’t have.
If you’d still like to take a look at what the competition is doing on Twitter, but you don’t want to spend a ton on monthly or annual software subscriptions, we’ve put together some strategies you can use – for free.
Start with keywords
Your competitor analysis must start with one thing: keywords.
Developing a list of keywords associated with your competitors will help you cut down on the noise on Twitter. And with a few billion tweets sent ever week, that’s a big deal. You want to focus in on what your competitors are saying, as well as what people are saying about them.
I recommend coming up with 10-20 keywords initially, and adding or subtracting as you go. When developing these keywords, you’ll want to include obvious ones, like your competitor’s name, products and any major individuals/employees you want to keep tabs on. But you’ll also want to include keywords more broadly associated with your industry, and any specialty words (such as hashtags or promotional verbiage) that are related to your competition.
Create a separate list of keywords for each competitor you want to keep tabs on.
Use the power of search
So you have a list of keywords – now what?
Well, now it’s time to play around with Twitter’s search functionality.
Using Twitter’s advanced search, enter your keywords in, one at a time, and see what kind of results pop up.
The advanced search page allows you to really fine-tune your results, so you’ll want to invest some time fiddling with the options until your results are just right.
For instance, Twitter allows you to search for all of your keywords at once, exact phrase matches, results that exclude certain keywords, specific hashtags and lots more. Start out with one keyword at a time and narrow your search by using these options.
Once you have a handful of valuable search results – of, say, your competitor’s customers complaining about features, or their questions for the customer service department – save these searches.
Click the gear at the top right of your search results and choose “Save search”. Now, whenever you want to see these results, simply click the search bar and a dropdown list of up to 25 saved searches will appear. Note: If you’re using a dashboard like HootSuite, you can create a stream that displays the most recent tweets from an advanced search, so you can monitor on an on-going basis.
Check in on your saved searches at least once a week.
Lists are your best friend
In tandem with your keyword searches, you’ll want to create a list or two to monitor specific competitor-related accounts.
When creating these lists, I highly recommend you make them private. This means that only you (and anyone logged in to your Twitter account) will be able to see them. No one has to know that you’re spying on the competition!
You will probably want at least one list that includes all of the Twitter accounts related to your competitor. Their main brand account, any customer service or product-specific accounts they may have, and the accounts of executives, employees and any other individual.
In order to find accounts to add to your list, take a look at the lists on your competitor’s main account. They might have a list of their employees, partners, influencers and more.
Again, if you’re using a dashboard like HootSuite, you can create streams that display the tweets from the members on your list. Setting these streams up side-by-side with your saved searches will give you an in-depth, on-going look at what your competitor and their customers are up to on Twitter.
Find your favorite free tools
Many of the best competitor analysis tools out there charge a subscription fee, but there are some fantastic free tools, too.
For instance, Simply Measured has a free Twitter follower report tool that will analyze some demographic and interest data of any account’s followers – just plug in your competitor’s username and you’ll get a good overview of their followers.
Other tools that you might find useful:
- Social Mention‘s real-time keyword analysis across the social web
- WildFire‘s social media performance measurement to compare accounts
- TweetReach‘s reports on the reach of tweets your competitor sent
Use these tools in tandem with your keywords, searches and lists, and you’ll have some valuable competitor insights at your fingertips.
(Eavesdropping image via Shutterstock)