It's difficult to assign additional time and resources for social media when you're having a tough time with its ROI, but competitive analysis can help bring out great amounts of clarity for your social media marketing plan.

Here are four things you should do and ways in which a competitive analysis can help:

1. Know who your competitors are

Listening in on and keeping track of organic conversations happening in your industry, product or target topics on social media are a great starting point. This will help understand who your competitors are and from where you can take a bigger piece of the share-of-voice pie.

2. Evaluate spikes in real-time

Spikes may come in the form of audience growth, engagement, specific engagement metrics like content shares vs. comments, or number of brand posts. These need to be tracked regularly with the help of a competitive dashboard.

Being alerted when your competitors carry out a big activity, capturing a lot of attention or are being spoken about a lot can enable you to respond accordingly — either with a campaign or just prioritizing among social networks.

3. Benchmarking

Regular competitive analysis helps you create benchmarks for your own brand and define metrics such as how much engagement is good for your brand as compared to the competition, how often are your hashtags being used, and other campaign metrics such as engagement, follower growth and brand mentions.

If relevant, the brands against which you benchmark don't necessarily have to be competitors in terms of revenue, or even from the same industry. They can be competitors who are stealing your share-of-voice among your target audience.

Running competitive analysis on the brands you choose to benchmark against helps you understand where you're advanced and where you're falling behind, so you can create better content and campaigns, which in turn helps you convert more.

4. Tracking repeat campaigns

If any form of campaigns or communication is being repeated by a competitor, chances are it's because that campaign has worked for them in the past and has achieved the goals set by their social media marketing team.

This can give a great idea as to how a competitor is positioning itself, what appeals to the target audience and how you should or should not adjust your brand's content/campaigns.

Simply put, there will be a big overlap in terms of the target audience who's reacting well to the repeat campaign, which means it's even more important to carry out a competitive analysis so that these repeat campaigns can be tracked by you in the first place. Plus, you get all kinds of valuable insights about what works with the audience.