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How to Research Your Competition to Hone in On Your Instagram Strategy

In individual sports like gymnastics or diving, a coach might tell their athlete not to pay attention to the competition. Because these athletes operate independently, comparing each other would only distract them from their own focus and craft. The opposite is true for social media strategy. Because your brand and your competitors operate in the same industry at the same time, it’s actually imperative that you understand their performance in order to maximize your own. Analyzing your competitors’ social media can illuminate gaps in your own strategy, highlight missed audiences and opportunities, and show you how and where you can best fit in and make an impact.

Here are 6 questions to ask when researching your competition:

1. How’s their engagement?

Follower count is cool but engagement is where the money’s at. Engagement is the measure of how much your audience interacts with your content. And yes, audience engagement (likes, comments, tags, direct messages, shares, etc.) notably leads to higher sales. “Good” engagement might be anywhere from 1-5%—but it should be significantly higher for smaller brands or influencers. How does your competitor’s Instagram engagement compare to yours? You can calculate a few ratios by dividing the number of likes/comments by the total number of followers. Do this for a few posts and take an average. Also take note of what kinds of posts garner higher engagement—and what kind of engagement.

2. What is their content like?

You have our full permission to stalk your competitor’s Instagram feed. Scroll all the way back to the start of their profile, dive into story highlights, and peruse comment sections. What kind of content do you notice? Staged photoshoots, videos, reels, infographics, carousels, announcements, aesthetics, etc.? What role does copy (writing in the caption or on the image itself) serve in their posts? What content do you find most effective for the product or service? How does the use of multiple forms of content help or hinder the brand’s look and messaging? What is the overall aesthetic of their profile? How does it compare to your own?

3. How does the brand communicate with their followers?

You won’t be able to see your competitor’s DMs, but you can review the comments sections to see how they’ve responded to comments, questions, and concerns in the past. In their responses, what’s their “brand voice” sound like? Professional, casual, friendly, sarcastic, energetic, or genuine? How are negative or critical comments addressed? Nowadays, it is not “good form” to delete or hide negative comments. Address the comment publicly and move on. Consumers appreciate transparency. Also take a look at the brand’s tagged photos to see if and how the brand responds to such engagement. Are you seeing them selling in their comments or moving commenters farther down their sales funnel? Apply techniques you see being implemented to your communication strategies.

4. How often do they post?

Check out how often your competitor posts to their feed and to their story. Do you notice any trends? Analyze their ratio of sales focused posts to