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Luke Harsel

How to Use SEMrush For Social Media Competitive Analysis

Luke Harsel
How to Use SEMrush For Social Media Competitive Analysis

It’s hard to stand out as a business in a competitive field. Crafting messages to share with the world is only half the battle. Knowing exactly who you want to reach, what type of content engages those people, and who you’re competing with for that attention is where you need to start.

SmartInsights.com recently published a report on mobile media time usage and found that consumers spend an average of 2.8 hours per day on their mobile devices, compared to 2.4 hours per day on desktops.


Their study also discovered that nearly 90% of mobile media time is through apps.

YouTube says that its mobile version alone reaches more than 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.

It’s safe to say that the growth of mobile media isn’t slowing down anytime soon. One of the best ways to reach mobile users, is of course, through social media apps.

Most markets on the internet, and especially social media, will exist as a niche. A niche is specific, and people like sharing things that are specific and relatable. More shares means more visibility, and an opportunity to build a positive image.

So how do you identify your niche, get more shares, and ultimately grow your audience? You’ll need some help. You’ll need research. And you can do this by analyzing what your competitors are doing well with one of SEMrush’s newest tools.

This blog post is all about the ways SEMrush can help marketers conduct a competitive social media analysis, gain insights and plan for action using our new Social Media Tool.

What Can You Do With the Social Media Tool?

Most people familiar with SEMrush will associate us with keyword research or competitive analysis. While yes, those are both great features of the site, SEMrush is building incredible tools to cover every facet of digital marketing each day.

We know a lot of digital marketers using our software do more online than just SEO and PPC, so the introduction of this new tool is another step in the direction of turning SEMrush into an all-in-one digital marketing suite.

The Social Media Tool will save social media managers, brand managers, and marketers tons of time by offering a wealth of research on your competitor’s social audiences, audience engagement, and posting activity to make competitive analysis quick and insightful.

(Some more of our newest tools worth checking out are the Brand Monitoring tool, SEO Keyword Magic, or Backlink Audit tool. But for now, let’s just talk about the Social Media tool.)

Below are six simple ways you can use SEMrush’s Social Media tool and Organic Research reports to conduct your competitive analysis.

1. Track Up to Ten Competitors in a Single Project

The Social Media tool currently covers five social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google Plus. When configuring, you can add up to ten competing brands to track. If you follow that link to our user manual, you’ll see that the set up is only four easy steps and will start gathering data in a matter of minutes.


Your competitors don’t need to have accounts on all five channels to be added to the project - in fact, if you wanted to just analyze a group of YouTube channels or Twitter accounts with this tool, you could do that. Just enter the pages you want to follow and start tracking.

If you can’t think of ten competitors off the top of your head, here’s where you can take advantage of the other facets of SEMrush. Try out the Organic Research Competitors or Advertising Research Competitors reports to see which domains are most similar to yours in a competitive positioning map and table (see below).


Add any of these competing domains to your project until you have the number you want to track. It doesn’t hurt your project to have more competitors, and you can remove or change the domains you’re tracking at any point after starting your project. The more profiles you track, the more you can learn. Go ahead and track a random brand page that you personally enjoy following – maybe that will spark some ideas for what type of content engages people on social media.

2. Find Your Competitor with the Fastest Growing Audience

Once you have your main domain and competitors set up, you can start making insights. The tool starts at the Overview report, which shows Audience, Activity, and Engagement previews for the selected competitor. Scroll down to the bottom where you’ll see the “Comparison with Competitors” bar graph.

With this graph, you can compare audiences on any combination of the five social networks between all your competitors in the project.


Select a time frame with the calendar button at the top right of the report and sort by Growth Percent. This lets you see who’s total audience has been growing the fastest.

A fast growing audience on social media is a sign of positive engagement, so take note of the top three fastest growing competitors and we’ll take a look at what they’ve been doing lately that’s worked so well.

3. Find Their Top-Performing Content

The second tab of the tool is the Audience report. This shows you the trend of your audience’s growth on each of the five channels over the last 30 days by default. At the top is the option to change the report to measure any of your competitors.

Go there and select one of your competitors that had a fast growing audience.

Hit the tiny boxes next to “Activity” and “Engagement” below the graph add these metrics. You’ll see the activity measured in green and engagement in red. Look for the spikes in engagement. Make note of the date (it looks like April 15 was a popular day for Forbes’ Facebook audience).

Now, head over to the Activity report tab, where you can see the actual posts and images posted by you or your competitors on any specified date. Click on the calendar icon and choose the date where you saw the most engagement from the chart. Now you’ll see the posts that brought in so much engagement.


In our example, a video posted to Facebook about the new $5.5 billion Disneyland in Shanghai had an engagement score of nearly 175,000. This number represents the number of times users liked, commented on, or shared the post. The other spike in the page’s engagement was on April 24. Let’s take a look again at their activity report for that day.

Another Facebook video, this time about a new invention attempting to rid the world of iron-deficiency anemia. For any posts in the activity tab, you can expand to see a bigger preview (as seen above), or view the post as it appeared on its social network with the blue links below the image.  

This post reached an engagement score of 62,371 (with over 42,000 shares), so as a competitor of Forbes, you could assume that posting interesting Facebook videos about global news is a good strategy for shares and engagement.

One great advantage of this report is that it allows you to take note of your competitors’ visual style and tone of their posts. Do they use pictures or videos more often? Do their images include text and graphics? Do they post cartoons, stock images, or photographs?

For any competitive niche, you can use this same technique to discover the content that causes the most engagement among your competition’s audiences.

4. Monitor How Frequently Your Competitors Post

Staying in the Activity report, make sure to view posting activity on “All social nets,” and extend the time frame to at least a month. Now you can quickly get an idea of which channels your competitors are using more frequently than others, and how frequently they’re giving their audiences updates.

Going back to the audience report, add the green activity metric to each line graph.


Following the green line will tell you if they’re posting every single day, if it looks like they’re on a rigid content calendar, or if they are more sporadic in the timing of their posting activity. In CNN's report above, we can see a pattern of regular activity on Facebook and Twitter through the week and a drop-off in activity each weekend.

5. Schedule Email Reports to Follow Your Growth

Another way to stay on top of your competition is to schedule a weekly or monthly email report of the Social Media tool’s data. When setting up your Social Media tool campaign, the fourth step asks if you want to schedule any of three emails (Overview, Audience, and Engagement). The Overview email report will have the basic metrics on your main domain’s audience and engagement.


The Audience email report will list all of the added competitors in your project and compare the totals and growth of everyone’s audience over the past week or month.


Finally, the Engagement email report shows the totals and growth of all the added competitors in the project.


These emails can be sent out to any number of email addresses, so you can 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.

6. Monitor Branded Search Traffic and Mobile Searches in Organic Research

The great thing about using SEMrush to monitor social competitors is that you can analyze the landing pages of their social posts with our Organic Research reports. See what organically brings searchers to their website, and compare those keywords to how they promote themselves through social media. Are there any trends or connections? Do they have a strong brand? One sign of having a strong brand is a high amount of branded search traffic, which you can find under the Organic Research positions report, using a filter for branded keywords.


Branded search terms will look something like this:


Knowing your website receives branded search traffic means that the brand is popular and remains top of mind among searchers. Building brand awareness through engagement and sharing content is an important goal of social media for businesses, and seeing this brand awareness reflected in organic searches relevant to your brand is a great way to see if it’s working.

Since so much social activity is happening on smartphones and mobile devices, monitoring your site’s search traffic on mobile phones is an even better way to measure how successful your brand awareness efforts are. Using the US Database, you can also choose to view mobile search data with the selection at the top of the report.


While our mobile database does not currently support the branded keyword type filter like desktop analytics, you can still add a filter with your brand’s keywords to receive a similar list of search terms related to your brand. These terms will show you what topics people associate with your brand (in this example, the crossword and best-sellers list seems to be top of mind among “new york times” related mobile searches).


If people are engaged with your brand on their social media apps, chances are that they’ll think about you when making a search from their mobile device in the future. I hope this blog post has showed you something new about SEMrush or sparked some ideas on how you can better study your social media competitors using our software.

We’re always looking for feedback on our tools, so please send feedback about this new tool from the SEMrush interface, shoot us an email at mail@semrush.com, or leave a comment – how do you identify your niche and engage customers on social media?

Luke Harsel is a content writer at SEMrush.

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