Behind Enemy Lines: Understanding Your Competitor’s Audience

Using social media data to analyze the core audience (and personas) of your key competitors

Few things are more important to a business than a deep understanding of its target market — who they are, what they want, and how they make purchase decisions. Knowing the ins and outs of your target audience is essential for everything from product development and go-to-market strategy to advertising and campaign planning.

But the dirty secret is that a clear picture of a brand’s target audience isn’t only valuable to the brand itself — it’s potentially even more useful to their competitors.

A deep understanding of your competitor’s target audience — not just who they are but what they care about, what other interests they have, and how they decide what to buy — is an incredibly powerful way for your own company to expand into a new market or better target an existing one.

In this post, we’ll help brands use social media data to analyze their competitors’ audiences in order to:

  • Better appeal to your competitors’ customers
  • Identify an untapped market
  • Infer your competitors’ marketing strategy

Better Appeal to your Competitors’ Customers

You’ve identified your target audiences — mapped the demographics, researched their interests and affinities. Now do the same for your competitors’ customers. Using social media data, you can find out who talks about your competitors and analyze that audience — their demographics like age, gender, and location, as well as their interests and affinities.

Compare your audience to theirs to see where there’s overlap. Look at how you are talking to the audience compared to your competitor. Is your messaging the same? Are there other messages you could be sharing? Are there discussions you could start that would get their attention, or new campaigns you could run?

Analyze the top posts of your competitors by audience. Do your competitors’ most popular posts include images or videos? Are they using a common set of hashtags? Maybe they are constantly talking about a particular topic or product? When you compare your messaging, are there new things you could be saying? New topics you should add?

In the same vein, if you find a competitor’s customers show a negative sentiment towards a particular topic, you can adjust your own messaging to not discuss that topic, or to discuss it from a perspective that would appeal to the audience.

When you spend time analyzing how your competitors are talking to their customers, especially customers who fall into the same audiences you focus on, you can develop ideas to improve how you engage with them.

Identifying and expanding your target audience is one of the most important things any brand can do, and using your competitors’ audiences as a comparison point is a great place to start.

Identify an Untapped Market

Sometimes when you perform an analysis on your competitors’ audiences, you’ll find an audience you aren’t targeting. This is an untapped market for you, and it could change the way you market your brand.

Spend some time analyzing how your competitor engages with this audience. What are the key messages? What content are they sharing? How does the audience respond to their messaging and what are the top posts for that audience?

Once you identify an untapped market, you then look at what content they consume, what topics they are discussing and sharing or what features they are looking for in a product that you can use in your own messaging or product development.

But identifying and analyzing your competitors’ audience can do more than just help you expand your target market — it can give you a behind-the-scenes look at your competitors’ overall marketing (and even business) strategy.

Infer your Competitor’s Marketing Strategy

You will never know exactly what your competitors’ marketing strategies are unless you have an insider willing to share. But you can infer their approach by analyzing what they are doing on social media.

Where does your competitor invest the bulk of their efforts on social media? Are they focused on Twitter or Instagram? Maybe Facebook is where they do most of their posting, but Twitter is where they engage directly with customers. Analyze your competitor’s presence on each social media network and the different types of conversations they lead and participate in. Do they actively engage more on one social network? Do they engage more at certain times of the year? Do they emphasize influencers or branded content?

Only by looking closely at your competitors’ social presence can you hope to determine their tactics and anticipate their next move. But, again, start with the audiences.

Analyze the key audience(s) on each social network. Do they target distinct audiences on different networks? Do they engage differently with an audience over each social network?

Once you have the audiences identified, analyze the conversations with that audience. What products are mentioned the most? What content is created and shared? What are the primary topics?

When you lay all this information out, you can see pieces of your competitor’s marketing strategy. You can start to identify where they engage with specific audiences the most and when, along with key messages and topics.

For example, a flour company may spend more time on Instagram during the holidays sharing recipe-type content on the best holiday desserts for young mothers, but the rest of the year focus their content efforts on Facebook where older women spend their time.

This level of detail allows brands to not only better understand their competitors’ marketing approaches, but also help them think more creatively about their own. Ultimately, competitive intelligence (via social media data) is less about inside knowledge about the competition, and more about identifying the most fruitful audiences, topics, and channels to utilize.

Keep Your Friends Close, and Your Competitors Closer

You can get so caught up in your own audiences and how you engage with them, that you don’t stop and think about whether you are telling the right stories or missing a key audience. When you spend time looking at your competitors’ audiences and how they communicate with those audiences, you’ll uncover insights that can help you improve your messaging, your engagement tactics and even your products. If you look carefully, you may even find an untapped market ripe for your messaging.

Understanding competitors’ audiences, where they engage and what messages they share across social networks will tell you a lot about their marketing strategy. You’ll see ways to improve your own strategy by not only what is working for your competitors but also what isn’t working.

For more information, download our full guide: Turning Social Media Data into Competitive Intelligence


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