Ever wonder what your competitors know that you don’t?
Well, Facebook has some hidden and little-known tools that can make it a breeze to learn what their strategies are.
With a little bit of knowledge and curiosity about what the others in your field already know, you can learn a lot about how to improve your marketing strategy and start making big progress.
Of course, nothing I’m sharing here is illegal—every tip is easy and available to use. The “spying” I’m referring to is really just good competitor research.
But who doesn’t like pretending to be a secret agent every now and then?
Using Facebook marketing, you can learn what strategies your competitors are using to promote their service, keep their fans engaged, and even win over your market share.
And the best part? Most of these are behind-the-scenes strategies many top marketers don’t even know about.
Using these strategies, you’ll learn extra bits of marketing tips that your competitors won’t tell you.
1. Use the Facebook Graph API to learn about your competitors
In the early days of Facebook, you could quickly and easily see all the information Facebook had stored about nearly every user and company.
This framework holding all the data is known as Facebook’s Graph API. If you’re a developer, you know this is a powerful tool to link your site to Facebook.
But even if you’re not a developer, there are a number of ways you can use this strategy to learn more about your competitor’s behind-the-scenes Facebook strategy.
Today, however, Facebook is much more private about the data on the Graph API.
After a number of unethical hackers exploited loopholes to extract data in recent years, Facebook has gotten stricter about who can and can’t access Graph API information.
That said, there are still a few ways you can use this information to learn more about your competitors.
One way is to use a site like Graph.Tips to explore the data Facebook has on different users and pages. Just enter a username and you can quickly see lots of data.
For example, if you want to see all the videos commented on by Chipotle, you just type in Chipotle’s username, click the right settings, and you’ll immediately see their data.
It’s a great way to see what your competitors are doing outside their own Facebook page.
2. Learn your competition’s messaging strategy
If you haven’t realized it yet, Facebook’s Messenger applications for businesses are a game changer.
One big sign that Facebook is focusing on Messenger is all the attention they continue to give the app. Less than two weeks into 2019, Facebook yet again redesigned the app.
With the effort Facebook is putting into Messenger, it’s clear Messenger is here to stay.
But one of the best parts of Facebook Messenger is that you can quickly and easily see what your competitors have planned for this—all you need to do is visit their Facebook page.
First, you can see their average response time. This indicates how much of their strategy is dependant on Messenger and can give you a benchmark for your own engagement.
And finally, if your competitor is using a Messenger bot you can easily interact with it straight from their page, no secret hiding required.
It’s a simple way to see what your competitors are using to engage with interested visitors and customers, and a simple method for planning your own strategy.
3. Study your competitor’s ads
One of the best competitor research tools to come out on Facebook in recent years is the new “Info and Ads” tab on every Facebook Business Page.
The feature was released in June of 2018 to provide more accountability for bad actors, but it’s also a great way to see how your favorite brands are promoting themselves.
To use the tool, just go to a competitor’s Facebook page and click on the “Info and Ads” tab. From there, you’ll be able to see every single live ad your competitor is running.
Sound too good to be true?
It gets even better. Not only can you see the ads currently running in your region, but you can change regions in the dropdown menu and see ads from around the world.
It’s a good guess that ads your competitors are running on an ongoing basis are working well for them, and it might be worth considering a similar ad for your company as well.
4. See what the competitor’s fans love and hate about their brand
One of the best things about Facebook pages for businesses is that the majority of information is open and available for public consumption.
You generally don’t even have to like the page to find out what people are saying—just go directly to the wall.
Once you’re there, you may only see updates from the page itself, but that’s not where the gold lies. Go to posts, then visitor posts. You’ll be able to see what people are commenting.
This gives you in-the-minute insights into what your competitor’s fans think of the brand, both positive and negative.
If you’re running thin on customer feedback from your own fans, this is a great place to look.
5. Learn how to respond to criticisms
The next strategy follows directly after seeing customer feedback—learn how the other brand responds.
Usually, there’s either a positive or a negative lesson to learn. Study what they say and how customers react to their response.
Look to see areas you could improve based on the lessons your competitors are learning in real time.
It’s a simple but effective way to gauge how your customer service ranks compared to those in the same industry.
One benefit of Facebook over other platforms like Twitter is that you can see how a complaint is resolved by following a single thread instead of looking for scattered messages.
6. Follow all of your competitors in one place
If you’re going to be doing some serious competitor stalking, then you need the right type of tools.
First, you’ll need to set up an account with either service. We’ll use Zapier for this example because it offers more possibilities, and is free to use the basic core features.
Once you have an account you can set up a trigger for a Facebook page. You’ll need to set this up so that it alerts you when a competitor posts something new.
Then, you can get notified in a variety of ways—whether you want a text message, email, or even to have that post imported into a Google Doc for you.
The possibilities are endless, and you’ll get a wealth of information on when, where, and what your competitors are posting on social media.
7. Advertise to your competitor’s fans
This one is a bit of a dirty trick more than a sneaky trick, but I’ve seen other brands use it successfully, so it felt wrong not to mention it.
Imagine your biggest competitor is having some kind of crisis. Maybe it’s server downtime for hosting companies, major recalls for a car company, or food poisoning for a restaurant.
What can you do about this?
Well, by using Facebook’s ad platform, you can actually target an ad to Facebook users who like that fan page, offering your company as a solution to the frustration with your competitor.
For example, you could focus on 99.9% uptime or a reference that you’ve never had a recall. The possibilities are endless.
All you need to do is target specifically to that company’s fan base under “precise interests” in Facebook Ads targeting.
And if you’re not looking for such a downright mean strategy—or if you don’t have a competitor with a crisis on their hands—you can still target to those users.
Let’s say you’ve just launched a new local coffeeshop. You could quickly and easily target Facebook users who like shops like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts with your ads.
Instead of spending time figuring out who might like your business, learn from your competitors.
There you have it—seven great ways to use Facebook to learn more about your competitors and their Facebook marketing strategy.
Facebook is a goldmine for information about how your competitors target their audience, how they handle everyday criticisms, and what their engagement rates are.
With a little smart snooping, you can load your own marketing strategies with the best wisdom gleaned from the very people you’re marketing against.
And the amazing part?
You can even use your competitor’s success to target future potential customers and visitors. It’s the perfect scenario if you’re looking to grow your online marketing strategy with tips not everyone knows about.
How do you use Facebook for competitor research?
About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing, including social networking strategies and blogging tips.