It’s well-known that social media for brands—especially on Facebook—is now a pay-to-play platform. Only a small percentage of fans on Facebook will see a brand’s great content without paid support. Therefore, benchmarking your brand’s content performance against a competitor without understanding the impact of paid support can lead to a misguided Facebook strategy. Below are a few evaluations you can use to better understand if a competitor is using paid media, using Facebook as our primary example.
1. What is the Gap in Performance Between Top Posts vs. Average Posts?
Take a look at the brand’s most popular posts as measured by likes, comments and shares, and then compare them to the average level of interaction with posts. Do the top posts have a disproportionate amount of engagement compared to the average? Does the content differ significantly? If no substantial differentiation is found, this brand is likely using paid support. Generally, brands that use paid media to boost content will have the content in their top five posts look similar to the average post yet somehow have substantially higher engagement.
2. What Does Their PTAT Look Like Compared to Other Key Stats?
The People Talking About This (PTAT) metric can be an extremely helpful way to see if a page is boosting content, “buying” its “fans,” or both. This is because PTAT counts stories that are created when consumers “Like” a page as well as when they engage with content. When compared to something like net fan growth, you can come away with some quick learnings. If there’s spikes in PTAT that aren’t linked to increased posts, or seasonal spikes—such a snow gear in winter—and net fan growth stays flat then you have an indicator that posts are being supported by paid media. If PTAT rises and net fan growth rise and fall in concert, it’s an indicator that there is a paid fan drive.
3. What Does Their Fan Growth Look Like?
Take a look at past averages to identify periods of an active fan buying campaign. How many new fans do they get a day on average? What’s the maximum? What’s the minimum? Given those numbers, you can start identifying periods where more new fans are being bought, and spend is elevated.
4. What do They Look Like Compared to Others?
Another method to determine if a competing brand is using paid is to benchmark brands to one another, as this can illuminate relatively clear paid patterns. For example, if we look at PTAT divided by Total Fans, we have a benchmark that shows us if content was boosted or adjusted by audience size. It is normal for brands to have different ratios, but if you see a spike in one brand that is not reflected in the others, that brand may be utilizing a new spend cycle.
5. What Kind of Ads Are You Getting Served?
Often times the simplest way to tell if a competing brand is using paid is by paying attention to what ads you are personally being served. As marketers as well as consumers, we are often in the right demographic to see what the audience sees. If you start seeing lots of ads for a brand you are not following on Facebook, this is further evidence of paid.
You cannot always take performance at face value especially when benchmarking content against a competitor or planning a Facebook strategy. Strong visual content is still the most important part of any social media strategy but monitoring your competitors provides a nuanced understanding of the ecosystem while planning a strategy.
What tactics do you use to measure your competitors’ content and its promotion?
Image credit: Auntie P