High competition requires a well driven marketing. But a well driven marketing requires as many information about the market as possible. Firstly, you need to know which opportunities you have to grow on the market, but secondly you also need to know your closest competitors. And you have to know your competitors very well to get the ability of always being one step ahead. Referring to marketing, 92 % of companies have already integrated social media in their strategy.
Nowadays, nearly every brand can be found on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube. The success on social media can results in a general success for the brands, because word-of-mouth is a strong marketing element and can’t be tamed and users are talking about brands and give recommendations all the time. If the companies are driving their social media appearance well, they are able to create more buzz which finally leads to more likes, shares, followers etc. and this grows the brand and it’s popularity in return. So taking a look at the social media performance of companies can shed light on the own successes but also on competitors strategies.
So having a look on the social media success of companies can shed light on the own one and the competitors as well.
Benchmarking Is The Magic Word: But What Exactly Is It?
The dictionary says, benchmarking is “a measurement of the quality of an organization’s policies, products, programs, strategies, etc.”, so that a company is in the know of it’s strengths and weaknesses. The other objective of the benchmarking process is “to determine what and where improvements are called for” and “to analyze how other organizations achieve their high performance levels”. As a consequence, companies try to transfer the obtained information into concrete strategies to improve their performance. Benchmarking is a cycle, in which the described actions has to be regularly repeated to achieve real success and to get strategic competitive advantages compared to others.
Referring to social media, the cycle starts in analyzing what to track on what platforms, for example interactions of the users and/or static numbers like fans, followers etc. In the next step, you’re going to select suitable competitors for benchmarking, which have similar products or are active on the same market. And then the real magic begins: Analyzing your performance on social media and those of your competitors and collecting as much data as possible. On the basis of those information, your company will be able to implement new strategies and develop existing ones. And finally, the cycle starts at the beginning again.
Practicing benchmarking efficiently it is important to create new strategies and to focus on existing strengths. Copying the strategies of competitors can implicate negative consequences, for example a bad image and the lack of knowledge.
Social Media Competition: A Look Behind The Curtain
Now knowing all about benchmarking, it is time to take a look behind the curtain on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. As you already read, the magic lies behind the scenes: Don’t only focus on the analysis of your own weaknesses, opportunities, strengths and threats. Also identify those elements on your competitor’s appearance on the market and look for overlaps and differences. The following steps show how to get first deep insights on the competition.
For the competitor analysis we chose a global example to focus on, which can be associated to a more or less similar target group: Popular fashion brands, which are segmented in the low to middle price category, targeting fashion-conscious men and women. Let’s see how H&M, Forever 21, American Eagle and ZARA are competing on social media. At least, we will compare the weaknesses and strengths of one brand in table form and will interpret possible opportunities and threats using a SWOT-Analysis. This analysis will help creating new strategies for the brand to get a strategic advantage in contrast to it’s competitors.
All-In-On Social Media Benchmarking
To identify the best practices and the weaknesses as well, the key metrics radar gives a good first overview as the basic position. The radar benchmarks the four brands on the social networks Facebook and Twitter during a similar time period. You directly see the strengths of each brand, which are quite various. For example American Eagle shows activity and posts regularly, but doesn’t acquire a huge number of fans and interactions on Facebook. An indicator for the passivity could be that the american brand doesn’t response to user posts. On Twitter, American Eagle strengths it’s social media position by showing presence on the page in form of a high tweet count and a high response rate.
Forever 21 meanwhile takes a very strong position on Facebook with a high level on five of seven key metrics. On Twitter, the popular fashion brand shows similar activity, but refer to the user interactions Forever 21 has to strengthen it’s position in the near future.
The scandinavian fashion brand H&M is not that active on both networks, but nevertheless registers large, growing numbers of fans and followers. But in one category H&M leaves it’s competitors behind: A high response rate on Facebook as well as on Twitter. ZARA is currently in the middle of the range, showing some deficits in the level of action on both networks.
In conclusion, the strengths of each brands are various in general, but they also diversify of network to network.
It’s All About The Numbers: Benchmarking Tables
In school, most of you may hated handling with numbers in every way. But for a useful analysis, it’s essential to go on numeral details. With key metrics tables, you can add numbers to the radar metrics. Additionally, the table presents a ranking and shows you’re clear position in the competition.
In this case, the position of each brand diversifies on each platform again during the measured time periods. Since March 2011, ZARA has saved a strong position on Facebook, although the precious brand shows the least action with only nearly 400 posts. But with this small input, ZARA reaches a wide range of people talking about the brand. On Twitter and YouTube, ZARA shows the same passivity refer to new uploads. In contrast to ZARA, American Eagle takes a lot of action on Twitter during the period from August to November this year, but isn’t able to reach a wide range of users. Refer to Facebook, the american brand could intensify it’s efforts to acquire more fans and likes.
H&M takes a strong position on Facebook, too, but it rather succeeds on YouTube during the last month. Forever 21 also holds off refer to video uploads on YouTube, but it’s popularity reflects in the total numbers of subscribers. On Facebook, Forever 21 takes the last position.
Service, The Supreme Discipline For Businesses
Consumers often set value in a good service, in stationary stores as well as on online stores and social media networks. A bad service can quickly lead to a decline of a brand’s popularity. Therefore, service is an important performance metric and beneficial to add it to the social media benchmarking metrics.
In this charts, we can compare the service refer to response times on Facebook and Twitter for each of the four brands. Obviously, all brands allow user posts on the Facebook page during the measured time period from March 2011 to November 2013, but don’t respond to a huge number of posts and questions. American Eagle even respond to no post, which we’ve already seen in the key metrics radar. It looks like H&M has the best service on Facebook, refer to the response times during the last two and a half years. The up-to-date brand responds to more than 20 % of user posts during 0-2 hours. Forever 21 also cares about it’s service on Facebook, but on a lower level than H&M. ZARA takes the position before last with a very low level of responses.
The service on Twitter is measured from August to November this year. Compared to Facebook, the four brands give only little actions in the service on Twitter. ZARA and Forever 21 don’t respond to any kind of post, whereas American Eagle gives more input on Twitter than on Facebook. H&M only react to ten percent of user posts, but in contrast to American Eagle, H&M answers a bit quicker.
Spot On For The SWOT (Example American Eagle)
H&M is the strongest competitor, so the other brands have to push their marketing efforts. Through the social media benchmarking analysis, we now know the best practices of H&M on social media as well as the elements which provoke weaker interactions on the networks. American Eagle is the brand of the four which strongly has to proof itself on social media. Thinking about concrete marketing strategies the fashion brand can build, setting goals is the first step to go. Refer to benchmarking, you have to create best practices which set your brand apart from the competition.
In this case, the brand with the eagle could target a higher interaction rate and an increasing follower growth on Twitter.
The next step is finding out about opportunities and threats on this platform to relate them to the former analyzed strengths and weaknesses. Making it more visual and practical, we’re going to build a SWOT-analysis to evolve applicable strategies.
American Eagles strengths are its actions on Twitter and a fan base on Facebook, which has a medium size. But the fan change rate on Facebook indicates a growth trend. The most need for action can be noticed in the service, which currently is on the zero level.
Benchmarking: 360 Degree View Of Social Media Environment
The matrix now allows to derive concrete strategies for an increasing social media success. The combination of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats gives impulsions for a development and deformation of the social media marketing of American Eagle. Additionally, the social media benchmarking helps the fashion brand to become aware of it’s own position on social media and to learn from the competitors. H&M obviously drives an efficient marketing on the single networks, so American Eagle could now start struggling for a similar success on social media. A professional marketing strategy means orientating on the competitors, but not copying their best practices.
Summing up, benchmarking is a useful process to optimize your strategy on social media and/or to build new strategies, inspired by the competition. Analyzing other brands with similar products and target groups helps to know where you and your own brand stand and what need to be developed and improved. Depending on which market you’re serving, a unique marketing strategy is essential to accentuate your brand from the mass of competing brands.