If you want to beat your competition in terms of search rankings as well as social media traffic and overall niche relevance, you only need to use the right social media intelligence tools.
It really is that simple.
You see, whenever a social network user from Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Plus, and other social networks engages with one of your competitor’s content, they are sending a signal you cannot afford to ignore. In fact, if you are clueless regarding the overall flow and direction of your target audience’s engagement with your competitors’ content, the competition can leave you in the dust.
Worst of all, for every day you ignore your competitors’ content advantages, the longer it will take your brand to catch. Serious business.
The right tools and process will ensure that you:
1) figure out quickly what your competitors’ social media content strategy is and how effective it is,
2) come up with your own alternative version, and
3) copy your competitors’ social media success. Eventually, you are given a fourth benefit-you get to overtake your competition.
And it all begins with picking the right tools.
Doing social media competitor intelligence manually is a HASSLE
While a lot of marketers make a big deal of the tremendous amount of control and attention to detail you enjoy if you do social media competitor intelligence by hand, there’s a serious downside: return on effort or ROE.
If you are serious about making money with your online properties, you have to have a laser focus on ROE. Otherwise, you are going to lose money. That’s the bottom line. You can easily spend a ridiculous amount of time hunting for your competitor’s top social content and end up replicating the wrong ones. At best, you get cents on the dollar as far as your results’ value is concerned. At worst, you end up wasting time. Time is money. Don’t waste it.
The big drawback about doing manual social media intelligence gathering is the fact that a lot of your competitors’ most social content might not be very visible from a casual manual review of their site. You might have to spend a lot of time clicking on blog post after blog post trying to find their most social posts. Talk about grunt work.
Sure, you can spend a little cash and hire a virtual assistant (VA) to do all this manual grunt work for you but that’s money wasted. Why? You can use an automated tool to quickly scan all your competitors’ public content to quickly figure out the social engagement of every single post your competitor made.
Automated tools will then sort the results so you can get a clear idea as to which pieces of content enjoyed the most traction on social media. For example, for Facebook Fan Pages, use Sociocaster’s Top Posts feature, to list out all the posts a fanpage has. You can then sort all posts based on how many Facebook likes your competitor’s content has.
Automation makes Organizing Data So Easy
Another great tool you can use to automate competitor intelligence on social media is Quicksprout. Just enter your competitor’s domain name into Quicksprout and you’ll see your competitor’s most popular content on Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter.
You can then load the url string listed by Quicksprout into your browser to see your competitor’s most popular content.
If you wish to sort socially popular content by social media platform, you don’t need to do anything. Quicksprout automatically lists popular content for each platform at the top of the page.
Why do you need to filter based on each social platform?
One of the worst things you can assume is that if a piece of content is popular on one platform, it will automatically be equally popular on another platform. For example, if your cotnent gets tons of retweets on Twitter, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll also get a lot of shares and like on Facebook or tons of pins on Pinterest.
You have to review top content within a particular niche to see patterns that unite content that are popular on the widest range of social media platforms. If you want to craft content that will truly BLOW YOUR COMPETITORS OUT OF THE WATER, you need to pay attention to these patterns and incorporate them into your content.
Pay attention to content type, content substance, and content formatting as well as other elements. This is the key to systematic and methodical content creation that can lead to the best content possible.
As you can probably tell, this process requires lots of experimentation. Don’t expect to hit a homerun the first time you step up to the plate.
How to learn from your competitors’ social content mistakes
Once Social Stream (for Facebook Page feeds) and Quicksprout (for all other platforms) have laid out your competitor’s different posts and sorted them by popularity, keep your eyes peeled on how similar the top pieces of content are.
Chances are, you’ll see that the top pieces of content are actually very similar to other pieces of content which are less popular.
Obviously, your competitor hasn’t optimized these less successful pieces of content. Otherwise, these posts would enjoy a similar level of success as the top content. See the opportunity here?
Study your competitor’s top and ‘runner up’ content closely. Focus on thematically similar or nearly identical content. Wrap your mind around this one key question: why did the top piece of content get so much attention when other posts that are very closely related or nearly identical didn’t get much engagement?
This is a very important question to ask because if you answer it correctly, your content will give you a TERMENDOUS competitive advantage. You will be able to come up with content that has a very high chance of going viral. Well, this isn’t that big of a deal because people do get lucky from time to time. Instead, the big deal is that you will increase your chances of cranking out content that will be PREDICTABLY VIRAL.
Imagine stepping up to the baseball plate and assuming that a high percentage of your swings will result in a hit? Sounds awesome, right? Well, if you want this to happen, you have to figure out how to review or analyze your competitor’s content correctly.
Competitor Content features you should look for in optimizing your own social content
When comparing your competitor’s winning content with less successful versions, look at the following elements. Take careful notes on these. Your competitor’s might be giving you the secret formula you need to consistently and continuously crank out content that is almost guaranteed to get noticed by your target audience at a particular social media platform.
Themes and topics – Do all the top posts talk about the same topic? Is there very little variation in topic treatment between the top posts? Compare them to less successful posts. Do you see a difference in how the less popular posts treat the topics.
You may need to read between the lines here. Pay attention to editorial stance. For example, the top posts may be talking about the same topic as the less popular posts but the top posts are more positive or optimistic about the topics.
Post Type – Does the top post use a specific type to frame the same topic or theme mentioned in the less successful posts? For example: a top 10 blog post got 10 times more Facebook likes than posts that use controversial essay form or story-type narrative structures.
Headline Strategy – Read the top posts’ headlines very carefully. Do you see a pattern? Do the headlines keep the reader in suspense? For example: “This mom loved her kid but what she did to her son will shock you.” Or do the top posts use a more straightforward headline strategy? If the top posts use the same headline strategy as the more mediocre posts, figure out the small differences in headlines that may explain their differing levels of success.
Presentation – Do the top posts feature picture headers, diagrams, infographics, or even videos? Are they made up of pure text? How do the less successful posts stack up?
Similarly, pay attention to font spacing and paragraph size differences. These may play a subtle role in how receptive readers are to the posts’ content.
Finally, pay attention to how the content pages are split. Ado the top posts publish all content on one page or do they use a ‘next page’ link to split up a very long post into shorter easier-to-understand pages?
Length – Is there a consistent and noticeable difference between your competitor’s top content and their less successful posts? Do all the top posts pretty much hover around the same length range? For example: all top posts fall within the 1250 to 1500 word range.
Writing Better Social Content
After you have taken extensive notes on your competitor’s top content, you should be able to make educated guesses regarding which content you should make. You should be able to lock in on some patterns you can use to experiment with when coming up with your own content. Follow the steps below.
Step 1: Copy the same Topic treatment
If you noticed that your competitor’s top content almost always take a positive view of a topic, copy that spin.
Step 2: Copy the same Content type
If you noticed that your competitor does best with infographics, use that content type. Other content types include (but are not limited to): lists, tutorials, video mash ups, video tutorials, picture quotes, and glossaries.
Step 3: Stay within the winning length
If your competitor’s top stuff tend to be short, create short posts. On the other hand, if your competitor’s top content tends to be long, you need to go long too.
Step 4: Improve on your competitor’s headlines
If you notice that most of your competitor’s top content tend to use a certain headline style, copy that style but be more consistent. Also, go to copyblogger.com and see if you can do research on the headline type. See if you can do a better job than your competitor in using a particular headline style. Break down the headline into elements. See if you can fine tune each element to take the headline’s total effect to the next level.
Step 5: Make your content look better
If your competition’s best posts have 2 to 3 pictures, see if you can blow them out of the water by featuring 6 to 9 pictures. Maybe your competitor features partial diagrams. Take it to the next level by using full diagrams or even including a full infographic with your blog post.
Of course, you should also copy your competitor’s page presentation (ie., using 1 long page instead of breaking up a post into many smaller pages strung together by a “click next page’” link).
Don’t just copy-IMPROVE!
Here’s the clincher to the steps above: it’s not enough to just copy on a systematic and methodical basis. That will get you quite far but not far enough. If you want to truly blow your competition’s content out of the water, you need to IMPROVE on their content. Follow the steps below to get a methodical approach to constant competitor content improvement.
Step 1: Publish your ‘copy’ and record your results
You’re only using one version at this stage. You just copied all of the things you think your competitor is doing right. Share on the social media platform you’re targeting by scheduling the content using Sociocaster’s publication feature.
The great thing about Sociocaster’s publishing capability is you can set it to publish in a time in the future. This is important because your target audience might not be active when you’re up and about.
Step 2: Create variations and check your results
See if you can get better results by posting variations of your original post. Maybe vary the posts based on type, heading style, or other features. The key here is to test only one feature at a time so you don’t get confused. Take note of which feature you experimented with.
Check your results and see if you get any improvements. If you see that one variation is getting much better results than other variants, go to step 3 below. Otherwise, keep tweaking different features.
Step 3: Apply the winning tweak to more variations
For example, if you noticed that using ‘suspense’ or ‘missing info’ type headlines lead to your content getting more engagement, exaggerate your use of this headline on other variants. See if your results improve.
Step 4: Keep tweaking until you max out your performance
Once you hit a ceiling with a particular feature’s results, try experimenting with other features of your post. Apply that ‘winning formula’ of tweaks to brand new content and see if the results are the same.
Keep experimenting until you identify the right mix of tweaks that produce viral or ‘viral enough’ content on a predictable basis.
You can use Sociocaster to reverse engineer your competitors’ success. Just follow the steps above and let your competitors do your homework for you!
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