Every brand should be looking to other brands for actionable advice in their social media marketing efforts. As you look at competitors in your industry, as well as non-competitors in other industries looking to reach the same audience as you, you will see the things they do well and the things they do poorly.

Now, you have to learn how to read between the lines and leverage their results in ways that are effective for your own company. Of course, you aren’t going to write posts and updates that are word-for-word the same, but you are going to look at their results as an extension of your own. Here are six things you should be looking to learn from your competitors’ social media efforts.

How Your Audience Will Respond

Is your audience shocked, horrified, upset, angry, moved or inspired by a specific subject? Brands don’t always know exactly how their audience will feel about content, but here’s where you get to be a fly on the wall and find out. Pay special attention to shocking headlines, controversial subjects and more to see how the audience responded.

How to Get More Attention

Look at which posts are getting the most comments, likes and shares for your competitors. Is it self-promotional posts? Curated posts? Success stories? Look at the CTAs used and which ones seem to be most effective.

Whatever is getting the most attention in the right way – these are the types of posts you want to start adding to your own page, rebranded and repurposed for your company, because you know that they resonate with your target audience. You can now use other brands to do more testing on what works for your audience and what doesn’t. This will drastically cut the time you spend trying to muddle through the waters of pinpointing your target audience’s needs on your own.

Audience-Specific Best Practices

Look at what companies are doing and emulate the behavior that you believe is best for your company reputation and your audience. Are other companies replying within the hour to complaints and questions on their page? Look at the tone or voice used and how the consumers are responding in turn. Look at companies with high engagement and see if they respond to most comments on a post or do the lofty approach of rarely reacting to their public. Now look at a brand or two with low engagement levels and see what they are doing differently. Monkey see, monkey do – right?

Examples of Consistent Branding

Look at how a brand starts to create a cohesive profile with content, commentary and images in line with the brand. Your competitors may do this well or they may not. Do they use stock images? Do they make comments before they post an article? Look at what kinds of content they are posting to strengthen their branding and what they might be doing that makes the company seem inconsistent.

Prime Posting Frequency

Look at how often your competition is posting to grow your followers. It is important to see what your audience might consider spam and what they would consider lax (not posting enough). You don’t want to be annoying with posting frequency, but you also don’t want to be outdone by your competition each day.

Best Timing for Your Audience

Is there a certain time of the day where a competitor is getting a lot of engagement on a regular basis? Look at key points of the day, like lunchtime or evening browsing before bed, to see if you can find a pattern. You want your content to be fresh in the newsfeeds when your audience is out there browsing.

The hardest part of all of this is to realize you are in your own box of thinking. Every post may have a variety of reasons is does or does not evoke an audience response. These reasons can include the time of day, branding consistency, image use, wording, frequency of other posts and more. It will take time and effort, but the more you look at your competition, the more you will start to see the picture of what works and what doesn’t.