Instagram marketing

Should I Follow My Competitors on Instagram?

  • 16 Minutes
Know your enemy, then beat 'em.

In such a competitive digital world, it’s tempting to keep your online activities top-secret and hide everything from the world – including who you’re following. But what many business owners don’t realize is that following their competitors online can actually be incredibly beneficial for the future of their business.

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to watch every one of your competitor’s every moves, and you certainly don’t need to “like” their Instagram posts or even engage with them in any way! Your snooping can stay secret, with a range of covert tools and activities specifically designed to inform your brand and improve your social media strategy.

Social media management looks easy from the outside. And it is easy to do an “okay” job on social media. But anyone working in the industry knows that social media can be a tricky beast.

If you want to create a comprehensive social media marketing strategy that can blow your competitors out of the water, you have to have sufficient resources, keep up to date with new social media platform updates, and, most of all, you need to consistently impress your followers. But doing all this only comes with knowledge.

To create a popular social media account that regularly draws in hundreds of thousands of Instagram users and consistently gains new followers, you need to gather as many insights as possible and then use them to create a foolproof social media strategy that can smash your business objectives.

In this article, we’ll discuss why you should absolutely follow your competitors on Instagram – and any other social media platforms you’re interested in – and how you can do so without them even realizing it! So, let’s get snooping. Read on to dive in.

Why Would You Follow Your Competitors on Instagram?

First up, why would you even want to follow your competitors on Instagram – or any other social media channel, for that matter? Isn’t it better to ignore your competitors and do your own thing?

Well, not quite. There are a number of reasons why spying on your competitors’ Instagram accounts can help your social media efforts in the long run. Keep reading to discover what they are.

1.  Create New Content Ideas

Your competitors can be a great source of inspiration. Let’s face it: your competitors’ Instagram accounts are pretty much a live testing ground for an audience that’s exactly like yours, so why wouldn’t you want to check it out? You can review their Instagram profiles, take note of what’s working – and, more importantly, what’s not – and then use these insights to streamline your own content calendar. You can check out what types of content they’re posting, and how often they post, then take note of how your competitors’ followers are reacting to their content.

Just remember that when you’re using another brand’s content as a source of inspiration, don’t just directly copy their ideas. Your target audience will see straight through you! Plus, you want to establish your own digital presence and a unique brand identity on social media. You won’t be able to do that if you’re simply copying another brand’s content.

That said, if there are trending videos or challenges you can jump on, these could present great opportunities to create viral content. Or you could simply use similar themes as your competitors if you notice that they are creating trending content.

Take, for instance, the Huda Beauty video example below. In the video, the creator does a range of different “tests” to check the staying power of one of the brand’s lip products. It’s interesting content for the brand’s Instagram followers and the brand can leverage the challenge to highlight the benefits of one of its products. Winning!

Just keep in mind that social media challenges do tend to have an expiry date. If you’re seeing the same challenge or social media trend time and time again, audiences can get sick of brands jumping on the bandwagon. An example of this is the “Little Miss” social media posts. Seemingly every single brand on the face of the planet has created its own take on the “Little Miss” social media posts, which call out relatable personality traits.

While some of these had value, countless brands have created their own take on the trend and social media feeds were flooded with “Little Miss” posts. Instead of always following trends like this, why not try something fresh? Before jumping on trends, consider whether or not they are overused and whether they actually resonate with your brand. If they suit your brand values or you can tweak them to provide your audience with something new and unique, this could be a good opportunity to jump on a trend.

2.  Come Up With New Tactics

If you’re on the fence about testing a new tactic, why not check to see if your competitors have already done something similar? Check out their recent product launches, competitions, and influencer marketing tactics.

Our tip? If your competitor has done a one-off social media marketing campaign and never repeated it, it probably hasn’t performed very well. On the other hand, if they’re running an ongoing campaign or repeating a tactic, chances are it’s working! Why not try something similar yourself? Again, put your thinking cap on and come up with your own brand’s unique spin on the same concept. Originality is key on social media.

Also, just because your competitors haven’t tried something on social media doesn’t mean that it won’t work well. You could always be the first to try something new. Your followers will probably love you for it! Try to borrow tactics that brands in other industries are using or even on other platforms and adapted to suit Instagram or your social media platform of choice.

3.  Review Your Products or Services

Social media can be a great way to gauge the demand for new products or services, especially if audiences are highly engaged. Check the product reviews or testimonials of your competitors on Facebook, Google Business, or even on their website, and review the comments section of any product posts or ads.

There’s a high chance consumers have been talking about products or services especially if they have had very good or very bad experiences with them! You could even use this feedback to gauge whether or not it could be a good idea to launch a new product.

For instance, if we look at the Fisher-Price Instagram, we can see feedback on certain Instagram posts about various toys. In the first example, we can see some positive feedback, while in the second there are a few pieces of negative feedback. This is a valuable insight in itself. And, while not every brand has a large social media following like Fisher-Price, we can still spy on competitors to gauge the demand for or reaction to certain products.

If you want to go further, you can also check reviews websites, such as Trustpilot, TripAdvisor, or other review sites. Customers are quite vocal on these sites and you can gain valuable insights by browsing reviews.

How to Track Your Competitors on Social Media

Although there are many good reasons to watch your competitors, you don’t have to actively follow them, especially from your personal account or your brand’s social media account! After all, it might look a little odd if your brand is only following 50 people and half of them are competitor accounts.

So, how can you sneakily spy on your competitors on Instagram without actively following their accounts? First, you need to figure out who your competitors are and then find ways to track them!

1.  Define Your Competitors

You might think that you’re the only player in the game, but even if you’re the only brand doing your thing in a certain country, there’s bound to be someone else across the other side of the world running a similar business to you.

Check for local brands, startups, large businesses, and global brands, and if you still can’t find anything, simply search for similar or related brands. But where do you begin? Well, luckily, there are several ways to find your competitors online.

You should have at least a few competitor brands you’d like to watch, including:

  • These are brands in your industry who sell the same (or very similar) products as you. Ideally, they also operate in the same country as you. You have probably already identified these competitors in the past.
  • These are competitors who do the exact same thing as you, but they’re operating in a different market. They are definitely worth keeping an eye on – not only for content inspiration but also just in case they choose to expand to a local market in the future.
  • These businesses may not be in your direct industry; however, they may share similar attributes to your brand. They might be in a similar industry, or may simply just have similar audiences.
  • These are simply accounts to aspire to. They might be in a totally different industry to yours, but their social content is so good that you want to keep an eye on them. Often, these big brands have a large number of followers. They’re also probably well resourced, with experienced social media departments. This means they can be a great source of inspiration and can often act as a barometer to measure the impact of trending content and themes. You might even want to include bloggers or other influencers in this list – any account that might be a source of inspiration.

Try to include a nice mix of competitors of varying sizes. You should include competitors with large numbers of followers as well as the little guys.

So, how do you find your competitors?

If you’re a new brand and you have no idea who your competitors might be, this might be a little harder, but it’s still possible with a little research.

  • . If you’re choosing to use Instagram as your primary social media platform, why not search on the platform itself? Simply navigate to the hashtag search function and type in various hashtags related to your brand. So, if you’re a brand like KFC, you might type in hashtags like #FriedChicken or #ChickenBurger, or #ChickenBites. If you’re looking for competitors only in your area, try to add in the locations alongside the keywords. So, for the KFC example, you might type in #FriedChickenUK, or wherever you are based. Chances are you’ll be able to find a whole range of brands that could be potential competitors. You might even find some of the top influencers in your industry that you can make note of for later. You could also try searching on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
  • . That’s right – if you already have an established business and have customers who you can chat with, why not ask them where they shop? After all, they’re a great source of information and they’re probably acutely aware of your competitors. They may even have shopped with them before.
  • . Google is a great source of information, and that’s no different when it comes to finding your top competitors. Simply type your category or product keywords in and see what comes up at the bottom of the first page! You might want to add your market, too, if your search results are too broad. We searched “natural skincare Australia” and the search came up with several brands, such as Alkira, Nourished Life, and Mukti Organics. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you should be able to spot additional keywords. In this example, we can see that the word “organic” might help in our search. These additional SEO keywords can help you dive into more research, or get more results when searching on social media.
Know your enemy, them beat 'em.

Once you’ve decided who your competitors are, group them into lists of primary and secondary competitors. Decide which competitors you’ll keep a closer eye on and which you will only check every now and then.

2.  Choose Social Media Tools

Ok, you’ve found your competitors, now what? Well, before you start spying, it’s crucial that you choose the right social media tools for the job. Most social media platforms will have in-built insights tools to help you learn more about your own brand’s social media page performance as well as give you insights into the competitive landscape.

If you’re just starting out you might not be sure of what you need just yet, but if you’ve been in the game for a while, you may already have tools at your disposal. The best social media tools do everything. They can help you create posts, schedule them, provide insights and reporting and help you collaborate with your team remotely. The social media tools that you use will depend on the resources that you have available and the budget that your social media team is allocated.

While the in-built tools located within your social media platforms can be helpful, other page social media tools can provide a deeper level of insights. They also just make life easier and can save you hours out of each week. Even if you save only one hour per week, it’s often more worthwhile to just pay for a social media tool.

3.  Do Your Research

Once you’ve established a list of your main competitors and learned about their basic characteristics, it’s time to dig a little deeper. You’ll want to learn everything about your competitors, in order to give you a better idea of how they formulate their strategy and what components of their strategy are actually working.

There are plenty of social media marketing tools available that can help you hone in on who your competitors are and how they’re creating their strategies. These include:

  • Most social media platforms these days have in-built platform insights, allowing you to track and measure your own social media activity. For example, Instagram has Instagram Insights, an in-built analytics feature. However, the purpose of this feature is to provide insights on your activity. It doesn’t show you any analytics related to your competitors.
  • If you have time, you can always do a manual search and regularly check what your competitors are doing. Obviously, this process can be incredibly time-consuming, especially if you’re trying to track multiple competitors at once.
  • Our advanced Instagram reporting analytics can provide valuable information on your competitors. It can tell you when your competitors are posting, what kind of content they’re posting, and how often. This way, you’ll be able to see which strategies are resonating with their audience. You can see which post types, for example, video content, link posts or carousels, work the best. You can also see which themes resonate the most with their audience. You can also check to review their different posting strategies for Instagram versus other platforms like Facebook or TikTok. Using Sked Social, you can decide what kind of metrics you want to track and then set up reporting to track competitors on an ongoing basis.

The best part about specialized social media reporting tools is that you can export a new report each month and easily save and share them with your team or your extended team.

Creating A Unique Social Media Strategy

In conclusion, having competitors creates an environment that pushes brands to do better. It assists you in creating better products and services, smarter social media strategies, and stronger social media content that leaves users coming back for more.

While it’s important to keep an eye on all of your competitors, you want to be subtle in doing so. But importantly, you also don’t want to directly copy anything that your competitors are doing. Your competitors have their own unique social media strategies and their own products and unique selling propositions (USPs). Your brand has its own unique flavor and you don’t want to diminish that distinctiveness in your attempts to spy on and replicate what’s working for your competitors.

The key is to spy on your competitors, take note of what’s working and what’s not, and ultimately, do better. Even the competitors that aren’t doing well can provide valuable insights that can help improve your social media presence.

It’s worth checking everything to do with your competitors’ social strategies; their social media content, their engagement rate, and even comments from users on social media. Use all these insights to inform and supercharge your content strategy, making it better and better every year. Knowledge is power and that’s especially relevant when it comes to shaping your content marketing plan.

Get Ahead Of The Competition With Sked Social

What do you do when you want to boost your Facebook and Instagram marketing strategies? You get ahead of the competition. By being informed and having a stronger idea of what your competitors are up to, you can gain valuable insights and devise strategies that can improve your social media game exponentially.

But this is only possible with the tools to make it happen. High-performance social media scheduling tools like Sked Social can offer unique insights into your competitors’ social media activity. Not only does it have advanced reporting functionality, but it also includes a social media scheduler, which allows you to automatically schedule social media posts for your Instagram page as well as LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and plenty of other social networks, saving you hours each week! It even lets you add location tags, Instagram hashtags, and shopping tags on Instagram.

Sked Social is an all-in-one Instagram analytics tool with powerful scheduling capabilities and advanced reporting functions which can provide you with unique insights about what your competitors are doing, allowing you to optimize your social media strategy and your content marketing strategy on an ongoing basis. Its reporting features will enable you to create automated reports for each campaign, so you can spot the trends that will help transform your social media marketing strategy. Get started by signing up for Sked’s 7-day trial.

Photo of Photo of Kyra Goodman

Kyra is a Junior Marketing Manager and "Spicy Meme Master" at Sked Social who loves to create content. Born and raised in Hawaii, her favorite things are traveling, yoga, beaching, coffee and baseball. Connect with her on twitter at @kyra_n_goodman.

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