In a time when there is more competition than ever across all industries, it’s important for brands to leverage the insights that a competitive analysis can bring. Along with giving you a valuable look into where your closest competitors are succeeding and failing, studying the competition will help you set goals for your own campaign.
These goals are called benchmarks.
To form benchmarks, first, you have to complete a thorough competitive analysis of all of your closest industry competitors. Be realistic about this—if you’re a tech startup, Google and Amazon are NOT your competitors. Look for people who are punching in your weight class if you want tangible, usable results.
This is a lot to do for a brand that’s just starting out. The information that you can get from a well-done competitive analysis is very useful, but it’s also likely to be overwhelming if it’s your first time looking at this kind of data. How do you know where to start?
Unfortunately, a lot of brands don’t have a good idea for this—they’re more attracted to hopping on flash-in-the-pan trends than content with longevity, mostly out of a misguided desire to go viral. Here are the five benchmarks I recommend you start with. These were selected because they’re immediately actionable and easy for even newcomers to the concept of benchmarking to understand.
Five Easy Benchmarks to Start With
- Content performance: Find out what’s considered top-performing content in your space. I suggest tracking three or four of your closest competitors and here’s why: one brand getting good reception on a specific kind of post is a coincidence, but four brands is a trend. Be sure to take note of all the factors that could be playing into how successful their content is—what type of stuff are they posting? Is it image-heavy, video-heavy, or mostly text? How often do they post? What are their key posting times? Producing quality content isn’t enough, you need to help it out a little and play by social media’s rules.
- Content type: What type of content your posting is going to heavily rely on your audience—but the lucky part is that your competitors will likely have a close audience to you, so you can use their content strategy as a guide. Be willing to be malleable and invest in new methods of content like video if that’s what’s getting the best engagement.
- Posting methods: Timing plays a huge role in whether or not a brand’s content is successful. You could hire Shakespeare and John Milton to head up your content creation team but if you’re posting at 22 am it’s not going to matter. Take notice of when your competitors are posting and what time slots get the best reaction.
- Growth rate: Publishing fresh content, rolling out new campaigns, and interacting with your audience is a great way to grow the brand, but it isn’t a flawless method. You need the right combination of these things to attract and win a loyal audience. Invest in a growth analysis tool and see how quickly your closest competitors are gaining their social media following. Then, take their most successful methods and fine-tune them to fit your brand.
- Popularity: Every brand wants mentions—to be able to participate in a conversation that somebody else started. It’s a sign that audiences are talking about you naturally without you having to solicit responses. Social listening is a critical tool to help you meet benchmarks for mentions—you can find out who’s talking about you and, more importantly for your goals, your competition. But, also take into account that not all conversations are positive for the brand that’s being talked about. You might see one week that your competitor’s mentions shot up 200%, but if your competitor just accidentally gave a bunch of customers food poisoning, those aren’t the kind of mentions they want. Performing a sentiment analysis will help you detect these kinds of nuances.
Once you’ve measured where all of your competitors are at with the above, you can start setting benchmarks for yourself. But remember this as you do: an unrealistic benchmark is just going to make you feel like a failure. Some success you have to work your way up to. Setting benchmarks month over month to get at the level of your competitors might be something you have to do, and there’s no shame in that.