The Brand Newsroom in 2016: How to Benchmark Against Competitors

March 31, 2016

Written by NewsWhip
feature image typing newswhip

As brands launch digital newsrooms and produce content, it’s crucial to benchmark their impact against their competitors.

More brands than ever are turning to content marketing to build their audiences and credibility.
With the ubiquity of ad blocking software, and ‘walled gardens’ emerging around social platforms, brands must have creativity and value to attract new fans.
First in our series, we went over finding a brand’s core themes and building out their universe. Last time, we delved into content creation, outreach, and measuring your data.
But five, 50, or even 50,000 Facebook shares don’t mean as much unless you know what the others in your space are doing. Are they driving the same amount of engagement? Significantly more? Significantly less? (We can hope, right?)
Rather than chucking content into the vast internet void, we want to ensure that your brand is standing out and making an impact.
Plus, who doesn’t love a little brand competition? Even if not as prolific as Coke versus Pepsi or McDonald’s versus Burger King, it’s important to know what others are doing.

Let’s look at how we can begin.

How to Start Benchmarking

We want to take both quantitative and qualitative approaches to benchmarking. How well are other brands doing their content marketing? And, why are they doing so well or poorly? These questions will help us better hone our own strategy. At NewsWhip, the publishers and brands use our social signaling products to benchmark their content against social data. 
Why do we want to look at social metrics? Social signals identify genuine engagement. They indicate that people took an actual action to interact with your brand’s content, whether that was through a share, like, comment, tweet, etc.
One of the biggest challenges brands face right now is producing the kind of content that actually connects with people.
Social engagement unveils more information about awareness, reach, and resonance. To start comparing these metrics, we need to know who we’re looking at.

Whom to Benchmark Against

Obviously, you’ll be hungry to see what your direct competitors are doing. It’s also beneficial to looks at brands that are both bigger and smaller. We want to curate a manageable selection for benchmarking, so 10 brands, as opposed to 50.
This process used to take significant time into doing research into each brand, but a quick look into Spike shows us their recent content activity.
millennial fashion spike
A look at fashion brands popular with Millennials on Instagram can reveal to us successful content trends. Instagram is enormous for beauty and fashion.
Seeing how your benchmarked brands are doing from the moment they launch campaigns or content, is extremely valuable. We can learn a lot from their unfolding coverage, and Spike is our best tool for monitoring mentions and activity in real-time.
Beyond straight competitors, there are others to look at. Publishers in your industry, along with other organizations that are doing well, even if in other industries, are a good source of successful content ideas and strategies.
[fb_pe url=”″ bottom=”30″]
The most popular post on Red Bull’s Facebook page in the past week
Though fashion brands may have little in common with Red Bull’s themes of extreme sports and thrill seeking, the highly aspirational and engaging video content could prove successful. Fashion brands focusing on festival season could take Red Bull’s lead of using GoPros and first person video.

Get Measuring: How Well Are They Doing?

Once we know whom we’re analyzing, it’s time to get into the gritty numbers and data around what they’re doing.
Measuring manually is monotonous, laborious work. Rather than grind it out, social signaling tools like NewsWhip Spike and Analytics can do the heavy lifting for us. We want to look at the quantitative measurements. Which brands and publishers had the most engagements on their content?
fast food facebook shares
This analysis of fast food brands’ Facebook pages shows us the exact number of shares around their content, from January 1st, 2016 to now. We can identify which brands are getting the most Facebook shares on their content, the average amount of shares per post, and how many posts they put out. 
For the big picture of what’s been working in the long term, we can take a week, months, several months, or more view of our targets. We can also focus around a particular season or holiday for the content that did well then. (Click image below for full size)
fast food engagement graph
We can also look at domain or native content. As Facebook’s Instant Articles become ubiquitous and many social media teams publish straight to Facebook, we can analyze what the top hits are there. Take a trial of Spike to find the stories going viral right now on Facebook

Qualitative metrics – content trends, current actions

We also want to look at the qualitative metrics around the data. We now know how well these brands are doing, but we also want to know why. Let’s shift from food brands over to sports. 
Top Five Shared Articles on Facebook for NBA (March 24 – 31st, 2016)
sports content table
If we look at the copy table in NewsWhip Analytics, we can start identifying what the trends are around the top engaging articles and content. (Click image for full size view). Team victories seem to be topping the chart. 
We can use the engagement graphs from earlier in this post to find out the times that brands see the best engagement. For early morning readers, 7 a.m. tends to see the most success. Another tactic is to change our query to look at the teams’ Facebook pages. This way we can analyze their native content, and see if the content trends differ. 
[fb_pe url=”” bottom=”30″]
While team victories might be the most engaging content produced by the teams’ websites, this Facebook-native video of Stephen Curry is the most-shared native content for the same timeframe. For the NBA, all eyes are currently on Stephen Curry, so it’s unsurprising he’s a social media goldmine.
We want to figure out the purpose of the most successful content. As native advertisements become the favored medium for marketers, it’s important to identify what value the content is bringing to readers. Is it entertaining? Informative?
And what does the top content accomplish for the brands? For most brands, content is intended to raise awareness. Content can also be used to heighten interest in your brand’s products and services, or lead to an action from the audience. Note what campaigns and content see the most success and how it can be applied to your own brand’s needs. 

Keep Checking Your Bird’s Eye View

By now, you’ve completed a solid review of the landscape. You have overall impressions of how each brand is doing, with their best campaigns and content examples too.
Staying up-to-date on your benchmark targets will keep you savvy to industry changes and knowing what’s getting people’s attention. It’s beneficial to do a formal look every 6-12 months, but with Spike panels will let you do a quick check in a matter of seconds, of what they’re producing from an hour to a month’s time.
You can even set up Spike Alerts to find out what content is collecting engagement at the fastest rate.
fashion spike alert zara
For a fitness-oriented fashion brand, you might want alerts on what fitness publishers are getting excited about
Of course, for a larger time range, NewsWhip Analytics add countless layers of insight and direction to our reports. With rich data on billions of pieces of content, from millions of sources, we can easily find what has worked and what will work in any area of content.
Benchmarking will help us create more effective campaigns and content. Connect the puzzle pieces between coverage, conversation, and sharing
Until next time in the brand newsroom.

You might also like

How to go from reactive to proactive comms with NewsWhip

How to go from reactive to proactive comms with NewsWhip

When 25% of your brand’s value is tied to its reputation with the public, how can you make sure you’re being proactive when it comes to your brand and media monitoring efforts?  The old way of measuring makes this impossible, with metrics often a day or more old by...


Related articles

How to go from reactive to proactive comms with NewsWhip

How to go from reactive to proactive comms with NewsWhip

When 25% of your brand’s value is tied to its reputation with the public, how can you make sure you’re being proactive when it comes to your brand and media monitoring efforts?  The old way of measuring makes this impossible, with metrics often a day or more old by...

read more

The NewsWhip Note

Regular updates from the NewsWhip team on the crises, trends, and stories that are resonating with the media and public around the web.