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Outdo your competition on social media

To really stand out on social media, you must offer your customers a more useful and engaging experience than your competitors. Fortunately, social media profiles are public so it’s easy to determine what your competition is doing and find ways to do better.

  1. Who are your competitors?

    Before you can outdo your competition on social media, you need to determine who you’re competing against. Social media can help you discover who else is operating in your market and what tactics they’re using.

    • Google your business keywords to find out which other companies come back in the results. You can check Google Local to determine which of those businesses is in your area, and find out something about them from their listing. If you haven’t listed your business on Google Local, do so. Local listings are the first thing customers see when they search for your keywords in your area.
    • Search LinkedIn for companies in your industry. Search for your keywords in LinkedIn’s company directory and refine by location, industry, company size, and number of followers.
    • Search Facebook Pages and Places for keywords. You can’t filter by location, but the city and country of most businesses will appear under their name in Facebook’s search results. Who else is operating in your market?
    • Search Twitter for keywords and hashtags, and try “Who to follow.” Twitter search results can’t be refined by location, but you can view tweets by most popular and most recent. You can also search for accounts that have used your keywords in their name or description. Twitter’s “Who to Follow” tool lets you search for people by topic, name, or category.
  2. How do your competitors use social media?

    Once you’ve established who your competition is, spend some time researching how they use social media. What platforms are they on? Are they active in their social communities, or do their accounts lie mostly dormant? What are they doing that sparks engagement with potential customers? Wherever your competition is and whatever they’re doing, make sure your voice is heard in the same space.

    • Is their Facebook page fairly standard or has it been fleshed out with custom designs and multiple tabs? How often do they post, and what kinds of content receive the most feedback? Do they post on others’ pages and profiles? Are they active in Facebook groups? Do they run contests or events? Do they engage customers through a game or app? Ensure your page looks as good as theirs, and start thinking about what content you can provide to attract attention from visitors.
    • Have they optimized their company LinkedIn page with their company description, locations, and specialties? Have they included separate tabs for each of their products and services? Are employees connected with the company, and are they active in LinkedIn groups and forums? LinkedIn is a social space specifically for business, so ensure your page is professional and polished.
    • Who do they follow on Twitter, and who follows them? You can view these lists from your competitor’s Twitter profile page and follow anyone who looks relevant to your business. You can even keep track of competitors on Twitter without giving them the benefit of following them. Just create a private Twitter list and add your competitors to it, then view the list to see your competition’s latest tweets. What do they tweet about, and which tweets win responses from customers? Do your competitors participate in any Tweet chats, or even moderate some? These are opportunities to stand out as a thought leader in your field.
    • What are your competitors doing on other social networks? Do they create and post videos to YouTube that receive a lot of views or comments? Are they promoting their products with Pinterest pinboards? Are they running a photo competition on Flikr or Instagram? Can their customers check in with them on Foursquare? Don’t copy exactly what your competitors are doing, but find a way to cultivate a presence on the same platforms.
  3. Where can you outdo your competition?

    Now that you’ve determined who your competitors are and how they’re engaging on social media, consider what they might be missing. Was their last tweet several months ago? Is their LinkedIn profile half-finished? Is their Facebook page basic and under-used? Do they even have a YouTube account? These may be opportunities for you to stand out.

    Of course, your competition may be ignoring a particular social space for a reason, so do some research and decide if the platform could benefit your business before investing into creating a presence there. Are your customers active on this platform? Can you create valuable, engaging content in this medium? And do you have the time and resources to maintain it? If the answers to those questions are yes, you have an opportunity to set yourself up as a leader where your competition is lacking.

As a final note: Regardless of what social media you engage in and how crowded it is with competitors, above all your presence should be positive and customer-centric. Focus on helping potential customers, providing them with information and engaging them with your brand. Don’t criticize your competitors or get into disagreements with them, even if they do so to you. Negativity isn’t appealing to customers, and the last thing you want is for a public spat with another company to go viral. The goal is to outshine your competition, not wind up in the mud with them.