How to Conduct Marketing Research on Competitors and Social Media Trends


November 9, 2023

Marketing research is vital to creating business strategies as it provides valuable data-driven insights for decision-making. In today’s digital landscape, aside from staying on-trend, it is also important to analyze the strategies of key competitors and industry players.

Marketing research and competitive intelligence go hand in hand in crafting effective strategies. Yet, many don’t know how to conduct it properly – much less, leverage modern data collection channels like social media.

This article will be your complete guide to conducting effective marketing research that will harness the full potential of social media marketing, its trends, and insights to keep up with the dynamic digital landscape.

Social media for marketing research and competitive intelligence

Marketing research, which involves the structured and objective seeking and analyzing of information to solve marketing problems, plays a crucial role in gathering information affecting your company’s competitive edge, otherwise known as competitive intelligence.

With that, you can understand that competitive intelligence analysis is part and parcel of marketing research, and thus approach it systematically. This becomes all the more important as today’s hyper-informed digital landscape often leaves marketers in analysis paralysis.

You see, information is the new currency, but its accessibility and sheer volume may cause information overload. By focusing on competitive intelligence, you can filter through this information, zero in on your goal, and rise above your competitors.

To do this, one of the best places to begin gathering information is social media. Its accessibility – both for users and brands – generates real-time social data that you can use as a basis for a more proactive approach.

As of October 2022, 59.3% of the global population uses social media, highlighting its significance as a valuable reservoir for insights into your customers and competitors. Competitive intelligence gathered from social media will help you create a well-targeted digital marketing campaign that is low-cost and has measurable results which are both ideal for businesses.

Now, let’s deep dive into some steps on how you can begin leveraging social media for this.

Identifying key competitors and industry players

Mapping out the competitive landscape with social media is extremely important to gaining a grasp of who the key players are and their positioning in the industry. And being such an open space for interactions, social media acts as a great leveler for acquiring market intelligence.

On it, you can investigate your competitor’s strategies for reaching your shared customers. Starting with something as simple as hashtags, content, and followers, you can compare and improve upon your strategies to beat theirs.

This results in your curbing their efforts to gain a lead in the industry.

1. Hashtag research.

Conducting hashtag research involves sifting through a multitude of hashtags used in users’ posts. This aids in the identification of competitors, popular topics, influencers, and content on different social media platforms. By knowing which brands use hashtags that are similar in terms of purpose and/or categories, you would be able to shortlist your competitors.

Tools like Hashtagify allow users to compare hashtags and provide data on popularity, trend analysis, and related hashtags.

Agorapulse, on the other hand, provides hashtag analytics where users can compare hashtags and measure their impact on reach and engagement.

Other top hashtag tracking and analytics tools of 2023 include Keyhole, Hashtagify, Agorapulse, Brand24, and Unmetric. Through hashtag research, you can monitor your competitors’ strategies and spot popular topics that you can jump on to keep up with industry trends.

2. Content analysis.

Content analysis helps identify key competitors by assessing the content they produce, revealing active market players you may not have been aware of. When you’ve found brands who also post similar types of content, messaging, and even for a shared target audience, you can list them as your competitors, whether direct or indirect.

Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and BuzzSumo are some tools you can use to gain insight into your competitor’s strategies. You can leverage this information for discerning their campaign’s strengths and weaknesses by comparing key performance indicators like engagement per post.

3. Follower analysis.

Follower analysis shows a detailed breakdown of followers and their activity. This can reveal other accounts that your audience follows and engages with, which often includes competitors in your industry. Instagram Insights, Squarelovin, and Followerwonk are some analytics tools you can utilize to conduct follower analysis.

After compiling a competitor list, you can use the social media monitoring process to gain important insight into their activities in the digital space.

Unveiling insights through social media monitoring

In a nutshell, social media monitoring is the process of tracking social media engagements. It identifies and determines what is being said about a brand, individual, or product through social media.

Through this, you can track and analyze activities, identify emerging trends by gathering information, and keep a constant watch on the changes in your target market’s needs and preferences.

By practicing this, you can identify which brands belong to your competitor list and get an idea of what their strengths and weaknesses are. This way, social media monitoring can help you dive deeper into your competitors’ strategy and paint a picture of the current market you are in.

Here are some tools you can use to augment social media monitoring in your market research:

1. Hootsuite

Hootsuite provides insight into essential topics, trends, and social mentions based on keywords, hashtags, locations, and specific users.

2. Sprout Social

Sprout Social keeps track of comments, keywords, and social mentions on multiple platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.

3. Agorapulse

Agorapulse allows its users to set parameters to filter specific phrases and platforms out of their monitoring fields. This helps remedy and avoid comment overload. It allows you to label and organize notable customer conversations and competitor activity.

Analyzing competitor strategies and positioning

Once you’ve identified your key competitors, you can now analyze the data to form a better opinion on their strategies.  Once developed, you can then work on improving your content strategies. From this analysis, you can adopt effective strategies, fill in content gaps, and optimize your posting schedule.

Examine your competitor’s strategy by comprehensively examining the content they share across social media platforms. Here are some techniques you can use to peruse your competitors’ strategies and positioning:

1. Analyze the timing and frequency of your competitors’ posts.

Social media analytics tools like Semrush Social Tracker have tracking features for business accounts that will allow you to monitor your competitor’s posting times and frequency. Meanwhile, Similarweb can show you the number of social accounts or site visits over a selected period.

You can do this by configuring the tool to track your list of competitors in specific social media platforms. Knowing this will help you optimize your posting schedule by finding the best time to publish and promote.

2. Analyze engagement.

This shows how much of your competitor’s audience is invested in their content, what type of engagement they receive, what triggers their engagement, and how they leverage their engagement.

By looking into their engagement levels, you can identify emerging industry trends and topics. You can also uncover what type of content is potent in catching the attention of your target audience.

Getting familiar with competition reveals gaps in the market and your existing strategy so you can adjust it to remain flexible enough to adapt to the changing business environment.

Tapping into industry trends on social media

After you analyze your competitors’ strategies and positioning, collate your information to identify the emerging trends and stay ahead.

Following industry trends related to specific topics or discussions allows you to tap into the cultural zeitgeist and connect with your audience on a deeper level. TikTok challenges, for instance, facilitate collaboration with the brand and its users to significantly boost awareness and reach.

The key is to ride these trends while staying true to your brand identity –or, better yet, start your own. Assess the relevance of the trends to your brand. If it appeals to your audience or niche, that may be the right trend for you to ride on.

Apart from selecting the right trends to ride on, it is crucial to create captivating content that encourages engagement. Engage your audience in discussions about these trending topics by asking questions or posing a call to action. This way, your users become active promoters of your brand, helping you achieve your goals of cultivating brand reach and engagement.

Timing is another important aspect to consider when riding trends. Once you catch the drift of an emerging trend, act swiftly to make the most of its benefits, or else you’ll miss out.

However, don’t be so quick to jump on the bandwagon, either. Before fully committing to emerging trends, conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis to ensure that you’re riding the right wave.

Actionable tips for effective competitive research

Seeing the value in competitive intelligence, you might be wondering how you can conduct marketing research that puts significant focus on it. Search no more because here are some actionable tips you can do to conduct effective competitive research.

  • Set clear objectives. Understand your competitor’s strategy, identify market gaps, or incorporate emerging trends into your products by setting clear objectives to avoid wasting time, resources, and opportunities.
  • Adopt a multi-pronged approach. Correctly conducting social media monitoring and website analysis, and cross-referencing industry reports will give you a fully formed perspective of the market to make sound decisions.
  • Monitor consistently and adapt. Regular monitoring keeps you abreast of the latest developments and changes in your industry so you are always aware of emerging trends and shifts and can adapt promptly.

By implementing these tips, you will have a more structured approach to gathering competitive intelligence.

Successful application of competitive intelligence from social media

Digitalization presents both opportunities and challenges for businesses. On one hand, it enhances accessibility, but on the other, it intensifies competition.

In today’s globalized world, analyzing content within your competitive landscape becomes a vital skill. It gives you prompt feedback and informs you of competitive intelligence through analytical reports aiding customer retention and growth.

Moreover, this skill assists you in navigating the dynamic digital landscape, ensuring that you stay competitive and relevant in your industry. Here are some real-world examples of businesses benefiting from social media-driven competitive insights:

1. Coca-Cola and user-generated content (UGC).

Through content analysis of their competition, Coca-Cola found that utilizing visual storytelling and UGC was an effective strategy for engagement.

2. McDonald’s and the McFlurry machine breakdowns.

By monitoring social media conversations, McDonald’s identified the concerns of their customers and developed measures to address them such as equipping its people with the necessary knowledge and skills to properly maintain and troubleshoot the machines.

By gathering competitive intelligence in social media, you get to learn the current best practices within the industry. Moreover, monitoring conversations happening within your community allows you to identify areas for improving your product or service; helping you build and nurture customer loyalty.

Navigating challenges and pitfalls

Misinformation, bias, and noise are challenges you may encounter when gathering information from social media. Misinformation occurs because any user can freely share information. Biased perspectives are propagated by false accounts or “bots.” So if you seek to leverage social media to conduct marketing research, you must incorporate strategies to combat these threats.

Here are some techniques you may use to combat misinformation, bias, and noise.

  • Employ source credibility assessment. This assessment investigates the credibility of individuals or organizations, including industry experts, government agencies, or academic organizations, that publish and disseminate the information you gathered.
  • Use fact-checking tools to verify information. Fact-checking is extremely significant these days. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have already partnered with fact-checking organizations to minimize the threat of misinformation. You may also use independent fact-checking tools to cross-verify such as Google Fact Check Explorer and Snopes.
  • Corroborate evidence or claims from multiple independent sources. By sharing resources from credible references, the reliability of the information you share is boosted.

Key takeaways

Knowing how to conduct competitive intelligence is imperative in this day and age. It’s useful for companies like yours as it provides you with relevant insight and information about your competitors and the industry, allowing you to formulate strategies accordingly.

Here are three key points for building effective marketing research with competitive intelligence in the digital landscape.

  • Know your competitors. Identify key competitors and industry players and monitor their activities on social media as it will serve as your benchmark in formulating your own strategies.
  • Unearth their strategies. Study your competitors’ strategies, strengths, and weaknesses, to learn more about the gaps and how you can use them to your advantage. This keeps you informed about new trends and lets you improve your content to outshine your rivals.
  • Be vigilant. Most especially in gathering information. Make sure to employ the tools and techniques to combat misinformation, noise, and bias.

Now that you know how to conduct effective marketing research through social media, a winning business strategy is in the palm of your hands.

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