Here are Brands' Best Practices to Beat the Social Media Competition

Jonathan Gardner

In the crazy competitive playground of social media, marketers large and small are embracing earned media marketing to build engagement for their brands. Our clients look to the ShareIQ platform for the data and analytics to help them get an edge over the competition in red-hot categories like retail furniture, CPG and cosmetics, food and beverage, and footwear and apparel. We recently released a series of tremendously well-received reports that capture the best insights and strategies that winning brands use to get the highest engagement with their audiences.

The following are the best practices that marketers can learn from and use to win in any category where they face stiff competition for fans, followers or revenue:

Sneaker and Apparel Brands

This analysis of ShareIQ Competitive Analytics shows that regardless of recent scandals that could impact the brand, Adidas is performing well across all platforms. At the same time, Under Armour has been struggling to get engagement across Instagram, Pinterest and around the web -- getting outpaced by its rivals. Instagram is by far the best place for any these sports brands to get engagement, with Adidas and Nike hitting millions of engagements per day as opposed to below 12,000 on Pinterest and Tumblr.

Meanwhile, although Tumblr is not the engagement machine it once was, Under Armour hasn’t posted to the platform in quite a while, leaving the field to Nike and Adidas. The Instagram and Pinterest interaction spikes you see demonstrate the value of these analytics, showing how brand marketing activities such as campaign launches impact activities across channels.

Cosmetics Brands

In an analysis of top cosmetics brands, Maybelline had very high engagement across the web, outclassing inconsistent social media marketing strategies by the competition on platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr.

Maybelline has had a smart strategy to get high interaction with their visual content online, keeping a baseline of fans engaged and then building spikes of excitement with new and influencer content -- earning engagement with new audiences.

For example, the brand saw a huge viral boost after posting an image from influencer model Adriana Lima that drove 290,000 engagements on Instagram.

As well, Maybelline’s most successful Pinterest image got more than 17,000 engagements through a combination of factors: the right type of “artistic” and unique photo of a makeup color palette and the right timing, around Valentine’s Day.

Furniture Retail Brands

This analysis of the hyper-competitive furniture retail space pitted online-only challenger brand Wayfair against fast-growing “traditional” retailers like Ikea, CB2 and West Elm. We found that Ikea, with nearly 2.8 million followers, had more than 5 times the number of Instagram followers as Wayfair. However,, Wayfair, the online upstart, grew its followers almost twice as quickly as Ikea and 4 times faster than rival West Elm. While Ikea and CB2 grew their followers at the same rate, they have massively different-sized audiences, with Ikea’s Instagram audience being nearly 12 times the size of CB2’s.

The story on Pinterest is somewhat similar, with Ikea simply dominating and others slowly catching up. Only West Elm has an audience close in size, with 441,000 Pinterest followers to Ikea’s 492,000. However, it’s Wayfair and CB2 that have been investing in content seeding and sharing on Pinterest, growing their followers at about twice the rate of Ikea and West Elm.

Boot Brands

Timberland had very high engagement across the web, beating other brands on key fashion-centric social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

ShareIQ analyzed competition on social media for top footwear brands for whom peak shopping occurs during wicked winter weather: Timberland, UGG, Sorel, Wolverine and L.L.Bean. Of the group, Timberland had the highest number of likes on Instagram and reactions on Facebook -- key measures of brand engagement.

Makers of iconic duck boots, L.L.Bean, cross-posted 24 pieces of content on Instagram and Facebook in January 2018. This demonstrates the brand’s smart strategy to maximize the value of content and the ROI of their earned media programs. 

In contrast, the study’s leader, Timberland, posts less of their Instagram content on Facebook and does not fully optimize the value of the visual content. The brand only posted 7 images on both channels in January, at the icy bottom of the winter. By neglecting Facebook, Timberland is leaving content value on the table. L.L.Bean maximizes their earned media value by re-posting successful Instagram images on Facebook and vice versa, and reducing the cost of producing new content.

Fashion Retail Brands

The analysis examined content engagement on Facebook and Instagram for top retail fashion and lifestyle brands Diesel, Ralph Lauren, ModCloth, Free People, Abercrombie & Fitch and Urban Outfitters. Importantly, the analysis covered a group of brands with both significant online and offline retail businesses.

While traditional brand champ Ralph Lauren has nearly the same number (7.5 million) of Instagram followers, Urban Outfitters (7.7 million followers) got nearly 6 times the Instagram engagement as Ralph Lauren. Urban Outfitters is simply masterful at creating compelling content, timing content distribution, and driving consumers to like and share social media posts.


Urban Outfitters simply crushed the competition on the photo-sharing social media platform, racking up 26.4 million Instagram likes since the start of the year. The belle of the ball had a whopping 47 times the engagement as bottom-of-the-barrel lifestyle brand Diesel. And, while Urban Outfitters and Free People may be under the same corporate umbrella, Urban Outfitters still got more than 4.5 times the engagement.

The top player saw serious engagement spikes from posts like one promoting the line of Vans sneakers the retailer carries. The Instagram post also tagged the shoe brand and was it’s best performing content this year, racking up over 319,000 engagements. Interestingly, the image was also pinned on Pinterest 46 times but not by the right influencers who could have increased engagement on the platform.


Since the start of 2018, Urban Outfitters tore it up on social media in general but on Facebook it didn’t crush competitors in such a big way. However, the brand did garner 3.6 times the engagement of Facebook loser Ralph Lauren, which kept pace with other bottom-dwellers like ModCloth, Diesel and Abercrombie & Fitch

One highlight for Diesel, however, was their recent collaboration with soccer team A.C. Milan. The smart brand and marketing team-up added some some serious fire to the brand’s social fire, driving engagement with #dieselXacmilan across social media channels and traffic to the brand website from a high-performing post that contributed more than 13,000 Facebook reactions to Diesel’s total.

Fast Food Brands

The analysis of Starbucks versus Dunkin’ Donuts found that while Starbucks simply crushes on Instagram, Dunkin' does much better on Facebook. Starbucks had only 5 times Dunkin' Donuts’ Facebook engagement. Overall, Starbucks does better on social media because:

Starbucks has a much bigger fan base with more than 12 times the Instagram followers and 2.4 times Dunkin' Donuts’ Facebook fans.

While both brands repost user-generated content, Starbucks reposts content from social media users with much bigger followings; Starbucks works with a lot of powerful influencers to create “art directed” stylish content designed to go viral.

While both brands are international and have numerous social media accounts, some of Starbucks’ have huge follower counts.

However, the Munchkin-making champ is trying out new types of content and promotions to increase consumer engagement. Since the start of the year, Dunkin’s top-performing Facebook image content has been an on-brand post showcasing their new partnership for Girl Scout cookie inspired coffee flavors. The content is also a rare example of Dunkin' cross-posting their images from Instagram to Facebook, etc., which is a strategy that many brands find successful. This post has garnered 3,700 reactions on Facebook and more than 17,000 engagements on Instagram thus far.

Starbucks’ content strategy is very much targeted toward Instagram engagement and much of their most viral imagery focuses on their colorful seasonal and special occasion drinks, with some shots showcasing food products. Since the start of 2018, Starbucks has been “chasing the Unicorn,” seeking to follow up the smash social sensation of last year with the Crystal Ball Frappuccino and huge product launches like their #BlondeEspresso (a post about which garnered 47,000 reactions on Facebook in January).

Their top performing post in 2018 has been a regram of an influencer post by Lauryn Evarts Bosstick (@theskinnyconfidential) featuring the hashtagged #PinkDrink. Starbucks’ winning social media strategy emphasizes consistent regrams of user-generated and influencer-crafted content that highlights viral drink and snack sensations.

Dunkin' Donuts is seeing success -- especially on Facebook -- with a lot of seasonal and holiday-themed content that naturally goes very heavy on showing off delicious doughy treats. They have a spectacularly colorful and fun social media feed that relies heavily on user-generated content. However, those users generally have very small social media followings, limiting any added influencer boost to make content go viral.

For more sizzling insights, check out this new analysis of competition in the fast food industry

Best practices for marketers to win in any category where they face stiff competition for fans, followers or revenue
Jonathan Gardner

Jonathan is vice president of marketing for ShareIQ, based in New York City.