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How to Improve Your Social Media Strategy with SEMrush

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How to Improve Your Social Media Strategy with SEMrush

Luke Harsel updated
How to Improve Your Social Media Strategy with SEMrush

The SEMrush Social Media tool offers a powerful interface to track your competition’s social media behavior and understand your audience.

With this tool, you’ll be able to:

  • See which brands in your industry have the biggest audiences and engagement rates
  • Analyze trends in your competitor’s posting habits
  • Read what the people and brands in your industry are talking about
  • Identify influencers that mention your brand or your competitors on Twitter
  • Discover the top hashtags used on Facebook and Twitter by your competitors
  • Understand where your brand stands among the competition

Once you understand all those points, you’ll be much better at coming up with your own strategies. This post will walk you through the tool’s features and how it can benefit your strategy.

To get started, set up your campaign in the Projects dashboard.

SEMrush projectsSEMrushProjects dashboard

1. Track up to Twenty Competitors

When configuring your project, you can add up to twenty competing brands to track. The first window of the set-up asks you to enter the domains of your competitors and the URLs of their social profiles. For this blog post, I'll start a Project to track the New York Times and their main competitors on social media.

The tool currently covers Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google Plus, and LinkedIn. 

To add a competitor, enter their domain name at the top and then the URLs of their social profiles. A competitor just needs to have a profile on one of these social networks to be added. So, if you want to just analyze a group of YouTube channels or Twitter accounts with this tool, you can do that. Just enter the URLs in the setup window and start tracking.

Please note: The LinkedIn area of the tool allows you to track metrics of a company LinkedIn account that you have admin access to. Unless you have admin access to a competitor’s LinkedIn account, you cannot track competitors on LinkedIn.

If you can’t think of twenty competitors off the top of your head, don’t worry! You can take advantage of the other facets of SEMrush made for competitive research.

Use the Organic Research Competitors or Advertising Research Competitors report and enter your domain. These reports show you the other websites that are most like yours (based on search engine keywords). The report features a competitive positioning map and table of competitors (see below).

competitors-semrushIdentify your top competitors

If any of these domains seem like they could be your competitor on social media, add them to the project!

It doesn’t hurt to track a lot of competitors. You can always change or remove the domains you’re tracking after starting your project. The more profiles you track, the more you learn.

2. Find Your Fastest Growing Competitor

Navigate the Social Media tool’s interface by tabs. There's one for the Overview, and one for each social network. At the bottom of the Overview you’ll find the Comparison with Competitors graph. This is where you can compare the audience, activity, and engagement between everyone in your project.

Comparison with competitors graph

Make sure you have Audience selected, and sort by Change. This tells you who's growing the fastest in the selected time frame.

Next take a look at Growth (%). This ranks the competitors by how fast their audiences grow relative to their size. The top competitor is leveraging social media the most to maximize their current audience.

In the example above, USAtoday.com saw the most change and highest percentage of growth. CNN.com grew the second-most followers, but their growth percentage was weaker than WashingtonPost.com. That's because WashingtonPost.com has a smaller audience than CNN.com.

A high Growth % on social media is a sign of positive engagement, so take note of your competitor with the fastest growth and look at how they engage their audience.

The competitor with the biggest audience isn’t always the competitor that's getting the most engagement. Take note if you see that’s the case. High engagement with a small audience can also be a sign of good social media use.

3. Check Out Your Competition’s Top Posts

The Top Content section (in the Overview tab) is a great way to see the most popular posts among your competitors over the past week. You can change the date to any custom time frame between the current date and when you first set up your project.

top-content-socialView the Top Content in your niche

This section gives you a good idea of what people are talking about in your industry or niche.You can tell which brands got the most engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Google Plus week-to-week. In the GIF above, it looks like government-related posts saw the most engagement across the tracked news channels.

Improve your social media strategy

based on competitors' data

Please specify a valid domain, e.g., www.example.com

4. Get Detailed Analytics

Remember to look closely at your top competitor's content. To understand what they're doing, ask yourself questions about their content and habits.

What tone of voice do they use? How often do they post on each channel? Do their posts come out in a strict schedule, or are they more sporadic? Do they talk about themselves, or ask questions? Is their campaign focused on a singular topic?

To get up close with a competitor’s use of each channel, select the corresponding tab. There are subheads to analyze Posts, Audience, Activity, Engagement, and more for each channel.

Facebook

Open the Facebook tab and stay on the Posts subsection. This shows you all your competitor’s posts over the given time frame. To get the full list of your competitor’s posts, export to PDF or CSV using the export buttons to the top right.

competitors-facebook-postsExport a competitor's Facebook posts

Next go to the Activity subsection. Select the competitor you want to analyze with the blue drop-down box and the report will populate with their information.

activity-tab-social-tool-semrushMonitor a competitor's Facebook activity

Scroll down the page to see how often they post per week (on average), what day of the week they post the most, and what time of day they post the most.

You can compare yourself to another competitor in this area using the “Compared with__” drop down. Below is a comparison between the NYTimes and Washington Post activities on Facebook. The NYTimes is represented by the bars in the graphs and the Washington Post is represented by the dotted lines.

when-posts-are-publishedCompare two competitors' posting habits

Next, change the subsection below Facebook from Activity to Engagement. From here you can see how each social profile’s audience reacts to the page’s activity.

See a competitor's Engagement Summary

See the blue bar graphs to the right? This shows how many likes, loves, wow’s, haha’s, sad’s, and angry reactions your competitor gets.

Want to know which of your competitors gets the most Facebook comments, shares, and reactions? Go all the way to the bottom of the page to see the total engagement bar graph comparing all your competitors.

Facebook Comparison with competitors bar graph

Finally, check out the most engaging hashtags used by your competitors by navigating to the Hashtags subsection. This list will rank the hashtags used on Facebook by all of the social profiles in your project within the selected time frame. Click on a hashtag to see the actual posts by your competitors that used it.

facebook-report-hashtagsSee the top hashtags your competitor used on Facebook

The hashtags are listed in order of how much engagement the posts that used them received. You can also sort the list of hashtags by the number of posts or competitors that used them.

Twitter

The same up close analysis can be done on your competitor’s Twitter profile. Make sure to select the Twitter tab at the top of the report and check out the Tweets, Audience, Activity, Engagement, Hashtags, Mentioners, and Mentions subheads.

You can export a competitor’s full list of Tweets as a PDF or CSV from the Tweets report, and data from the Audience and Engagement reports can be exported to a CSV file using the export buttons at the top right of the report interface.

twitter-semrushExport a competitor's list of tweets

Head over to the Activity report for Twitter to see a competitor’s tweets per week and publishing trend. At the bottom will be the bar graph to compare the tweeting habits of all of the competitors in your project.

Compare the tweeting trends of your competitors

Influencer outreach on Twitter can lead to more exposure for your brand and grow your audience. If you don’t know where to find influencers on Twitter, you can start by identifying the biggest Twitter accounts that mention your close competitors. The Mentioners and Mentions tabs give you the ability to discover, follow, and collaborate with influencers in your sphere.

Maybe you have a product that an influencer would be interested in testing and reviewing. In this case, you could reach out to them and ask if they would like a free trial or test product. Perhaps your website has content on it that they would find shareable. In this case, you could tweet at them sharing your link and ask for their thoughts.

When you open the Mentioners report, you can see a list of every Twitter handle that mentioned either you or one of the competitors in your project.  This list can be sorted to find the Twitter handle with the most followers, the most mentions of you or a competitor, or the most total engagement per tweet mentioning the brand.

Use the Mentioners and Mentions tabs for influencer outreach on Twitter

To quickly flip between seeing the different mentioners of your brand and your competitors, use the “Mentioned companies” box to the left.

The Mentions tab will show every time a competitor was mentioned by another Twitter profile over the given time period. From the drop down, you can even choose to show mentions of “All profiles” to pull a list of every time a competitor in your project was mentioned by another Twitter profile.

Find the top Twitter profiles that mentioned your competitors and plan a way to get similar mentions to grow your brand on Twitter.

Google Plus

While Google’s social media network may not be as popular as Facebook or Twitter for connecting with friends, a lot of brands and online businesses have found it to be useful in a marketing strategy. Some marketers have reported an SEO impact after promoting website content, participating in communities or even just updating business information on Google Plus.

If your competitors are taking advantage of this platform, you’ll be able to follow their behavior here. This report features tabs for comparing Posts, Audiences, Activity, Engagement and even Hashtags on Google Plus.

The Audience tab will let you see which competitor of yours has the largest amount of followers and which competitor’s audience is growing the fastest or slowest.

Do you want to learn how many posts per day they publish, on average? Or how much engagement each post of theirs gets? Find out under the Activity tab, where you can identify how often your competitor posts, and what types of posts (photos, videos, or links) acquire the most engagement.

Monitor your competitor's Google Plus activity

Keep track of what works for your competitors on Google Plus and adopt a similar posting strategy to grow your own audience.

YouTube

YouTube is the second most popular search engine on the Internet behind Google. Every day sees billions of YouTube views, with more than half of these views coming from mobile.

If you want to leverage video to grow your audience, a great way to come up with ideas is by checking out the videos posted by your competitors.

The YouTube report in this tool will give you an overview of Posts, Audience, Activity and Engagement for all of the YouTube channels in your project.

The Posts report displays all of the recent posts from your competitors, and can be sorted by any of the metrics in the table: engagement, likes, dislikes, comments, and views, so you can learn what type of video your audience will prefer.

Find the top performing YouTube videos in your market

As you look through this report, take note of certain qualities of your competitors’ videos. What kind of thumbnails do the top videos use? Is it a shot from the video or a custom thumbnail? How long are the videos with the most views, likes, or comments?

Take note of the video qualities that engage your competition’s audiences and try integrating the ideas into your own videos. As you post new videos, you can use the Engagement tab to measure how well your videos perform compared to your competitors.  

5. Schedule Email Reports

If you want to stay on top of your competitors’ activities without checking SEMrush every day, you can schedule email updates on a regular basis. Choose to send yourself emails with an Overview, Audience, or Engagement report.

These emails can be sent out to any number of email addresses, so you can also keep your supervisor, boss, or client updated on a regular basis. Each email will have a green button at the bottom that links through to the actual report on SEMrush so you can take a closer look if anything catches your eye.

If you operate an online business, you know how important social media can be for your marketing mix. If you can monitor your competitors and learn how your audience engages with brands, you'll stay one step ahead of the competition and have the tools to grow your brand.

Improve your social media strategy

based on competitors' data

Please specify a valid domain, e.g., www.example.com

Luke Harsel is a content writer at SEMrush.
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nanank laksono
I need more
Awesome job on the post Nick. I really see the value of SEMRush on this awesome walk-thru.
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