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Our ongoing guide to Social Media Analytics illustrates there’s a lot more to social insights than simply following passionate consumers’ conversations about your brand. To really get the most from your analytics, you need to extend your Social Media Listening to the conversations beyond your brand – to what your competitors’ fans have to say about them, and how your competitors are engaging their audiences as well.

This is Part 4 of our Complete Analytics Guide series. This series will form a comprehensive Social Media Analytics Guide, with in-depth discussions about the following facets in the coming weeks:

  1. What is Social Media Analytics
  2. What is Social Media Monitoring?
  3. How to Analyze Social Media Analytics
  4. Competitor Analysis & Executive Reporting <Currently Viewing
  5. Customer Retention & Community Management
  6. Crisis Management & Response

Each section will explore how to use Social Media Analytics tools to achieve specific brand goals and maintain optimum brand health.

What does competitor analysis look like?

The fantastic thing about social media is how accessible information is. Though some users might keep their profiles private, your competitors’ content and strategy is right there for you to observe from social network to social network.

When your competitors have a new ad campaign running, you can see exactly how consumers are responding and where their sentiment falls. Sentiment is a critical component to understand – whether it’s positive or negative, mild or intense.

Why? Because when you understand the degree to which consumers feel either extreme of emotion, you know which action to respond with.

So you want to know, for example, what your competitors’ audiences love and why – because maybe you never thought to offer the same thing, but could.

You also want to know what those consumers wish your competitors offered, and why. Can you fill that need? You might end up with some new loyal customers if so.

TAKE ACTION: How to Collect Competitive Social Data

  • Understand Which Metrics Matter
  • Identify Competitors
  • Compare Sentiment
  • Compare Social Content Across Platforms
  • Use Competitive Insights for Your Own Benefit

Let’s look at how to do each step in turn.

Understand which metrics matter

All social data is important – but not equally so. Superficial metrics like mentions, likes, retweets, etc. give you a sense of how well you’re doing, but they’re not nearly specific enough to help you fine tune your strategy. And demographics offer a starting point, but they absolutely don’t tell the entire story. And neither of those things tell you how consumers feel about your competitors. Here’s what you want to pay attention to:

  • Demographics – to give you a starting point from which to build
  • Psychographics – to understand the attitudes, opinions and behaviors driving social consumers
  • Sentiment – to know which specific topics matter most to social users, for better or for worse, and which aren’t worth your time

These three metrics are the foundation of your competitive intelligence. So how do you put them to work?

How to identify competitors

In the same way demographics can’t define your entire audience, traditional outlets no longer define your brand category.

For example, if you were a major brand like Coach, maybe you wouldn’t think homemade handbags on Etsy were worth worrying about – but that’s a risky assumption. You’d do better to use social listening tools to follow the luxury handbag conversation on social, and let consumers lead you to concrete insights. Let the data speak for itself rather than bask in a false sense of security – because no brand is guaranteed to stay at the top just because they’re currently there.

We saw this in our NetBase Brand Passion Report: Luxury Brands 2016, which analyzed the top global luxury brands over the course of two years, from September 1, 2013 – August 31, 2015. Two “upsets” came in the category of Watches, which accounted for 7% of mentions in the top 45 Luxury Brand conversations, and the rise of digital etailers, which accounted for 10% of the top 45 mentions.

Three brands fell so far out of the top 45 in year two that they didn’t even make the top 70 – Armani, Versace, and UK retailer WildSwans – proving you’ve got to stay on top of category shifts or you really could disappear.

Would Rolex have imagined the Apple Watch would take the higher spot on the list that they did? Probably not, but that’s what happened. Just as unlikely, eBay came out ahead of all luxury brands except Chanel, Gucci, Hermes and Apple. Did Prada, Burberry, etc. predict that? They could have, but they likely didn’t consider eBay a competitor.

luxury report

The scariest part is these changes happened within a single year. In year one eBay held the #27 spot – but moved all the way to #5 by year two. That’s a significant leap, indicative of huge consumer preference changes. You can no longer rest on brand legacy – times are changing, constantly. You need real-time competitive intelligence to keep your brand at the top. And you need to deliver those insights to the people who matter in time for them to put them to use.

TAKE ACTION: Identify Brand Competitors

  • Use keywords to find consumers talking about your known competitors as well as your category
  • Identify common topics of interest – even (especially) anything atypical;  this is about discovering the topics consumers care most strongly about
  • Use Sentiment Analysis to understand which topics and brands are driving the most passionate conversation amongst consumers – you hope it’s yours, but it might not be
  • Craft brand strategy accordingly

Find the love – and the hate

You don’t have time to chase every single consumer interest, or to individually target every single niche segment you could find on social. The way you decide who merits your attention is by analyzing sentiment, so you know which topics have the most passionate audience. Those are the ones worth your time. This takes a Social Media Listening tool capable of interpreting the many language subtleties in the social landscape.

TAKE ACTION: Compare Sentiment

  • Start by categorizing competitor mentions as positive or negative – this reveals your Net Sentiment on a scale of -100 to +100
  • Next assess Passion Intensity by surfacing results for strongly emotive keywords like love, adore, obsessed, or hate, despite, disgusting, etc.. Be sure your Sentiment Analysis Tool can accurately decipher: 
  1. Sarcasm – not all text should be taken at face value; snark runs rampant on social media
  2. Netspeak – abbreviated speech is necessary with character limits like those on Twitter
  3. Slang – if “on fleek” isn’t by the time you hear it, you need to be better attuned to current slang terms, as well as pop culture terms like Belieber and bae
  4. Emojis – with some posts, emojis offer the only clue about the user’s sentiment, so don’t discount them
  • Focus on the social users with the strongest emotions – both negative and positive – to learn how you might win them over, by either fulfilling an unmet need, or stepping up your game to catch up to new consumer preferences/expectations.


Lassen Innovation used NetBase to perform competitive intelligence to ensure the success of their new educational toy, “Hanz.” As CEO Nicholas Webb noted, “We already understood what our target demographic is for this segment – but most critical is understanding what they want and what’s driving their conversations online in order to create a product that speaks to them, their children and their needs.”

Analyzing conversations around competitor Lego, Lassen discovered there was a small audience segment lamenting the lack of toys that fulfilled the “Mindstorm” idea – i.e., the idea that users should have the option to build and design without the need to follow directions toward a predetermined outcome. Understanding some consumers felt creativity was hampered by existing products in the market was a valuable insight Lassen took to heart.

They also learned Lego had shut down their Lego Universe – which offered collaboration among toy users and their creations – and that consumers missed having a vehicle for this.

These insights about a major competitor gave Lassen specific goals to aim for so they could capture the educational toy audience more effectively. When they launched “Hanz” they sold out on their initial production run, and increased projected sales to $3.8M in the first year.


Don’t stop at single competitors – or a single platform

The ability to design products consumers truly want, based on feedback about what’s already out there, is another huge benefit to competitor analysis – something to which Lassen Innovation, and many other brands, can attest.

But there’s even more to discover by looking at what competitors and their audiences are talking about – like category trends you can leverage for your own brand.

Trend-watching is a critical part of Credit Suisse’s strategy in advising their investment clients. Because consumer preferences change so rapidly, gut instinct is hardly enough when deciding which investments are most likely to pay off, and focus groups, small sample surveys, and store checks aren’t reliable either – because those results are quickly outdated. Credit Suisse wanted real-time insights into apparel and luxury brands, so they used NetBase to understand how consumers view top contenders for investing.

Just as critical is comparing content across platforms – to see where your audience is most actively engaging.

TAKE ACTION: Compare Social Content Across Platforms

  • Don’t settle for the data you uncover on your brand’s most popular platforms
  • Analyze each relevant platform to see if there’s an untapped audience your competitors are enjoying
  • Analyze different content types – images, video, memes, GIFs, articles – to see what consumers in your category respond most passionately to, and share most; maybe you never thought Tumblr was for you – but your competitors are reigning there
  • Compare data from platform to platform to gain a dimensional picture of your competitors’ audience – because they’re your audience too

And once you know where to find competitors’ audiences, what they want, and what they don’t, you’ll have unlocked the deepest level of secrets to apply to your brand. You can implement data-guided strategies to propel your brand to the top of the pack and keep it there. All you’ve got to do is use the information social media freely provides.

As we continue our ultimate Social Analytics Guide in coming weeks, we’ll cover how to apply Social Analytics to Customer Retention & Community Management, and Crisis Management & Response – two more key elements to continued brand health. If you just can’t wait, reach out and we’ll tell you more one-on-one.

NetBase Brand Passion Report 2016- Top 100 Global Brand Love List

Image from Steven Depolo


Customer Retention & Community Management – Social Media Analytics Guide (Part 5)