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Usually, business pages on Facebook, business profiles on Instagram and even company pages on Linked don’t require you to follow or like them before you can see what they’ve got. So apart from just looking at their public posts, you can see a few more insights in other areas that will keep you in the loop with what your competitors are doing, so you can stay relevant to the market.

Facebook Page Transparency & the Ad Library

How to see Facebook’s Page Transparency & Ad Library features

Facebook gives you a great tool on every business page called Page Transparency. Scroll on any competitor’s Facebook page until you see the words Page Transparency, and it will tell you if they are running ads or not. Click on the Ad Library link and you’ll be shown all the ads they’re showing at the moment as well as information about what countries people are from that are managing their page or ads. This is all useful information, because you can know straight up what promotions they are running, what ongoing branding ads they’re running and whether they are outsourcing the management or their ads or page offshore. You’ll often see countries like the Philippines, Bangladesh and India show up where someone is using an offshore person to manage their social media or ads. And while there’s nothing wrong with that at all, it’s good for you to know it, in case you are spending a lot more on someone local and are wondering how your competitors manages to have someone handle their social media when the cost of it seems prohibitive to you.

Products & Offer posts on Google

Where posts are from businesses on their Google My Business profiles

Another way to see a bit of what your competitors are doing, marketing-wise, is to check their GoogleMyBusiness profile. To do that you need to search just for the name of the business, with perhaps the name of the town or suburb they are based in after it. For example, you could try searching for “Clickstarter Darwin” if you wanted to see what I’m doing as far as events, offers and updates. Not all businesses using the posting feature on GoogleMyBusiness, but those who do are getting more views of their profile and being found in far more local searches than those who don’t. To see the posts, just scroll down the profile and you’ll see them. There are different kinds of posts there all bunched together in one row. Some will be general updates like you’d see on their Facebook page, some will be their products or services. And some are going to be whatever their special offers are right now.

Spyfu. Your SEO secret agent.

Some of the information you can get from SpyFu about your competitors.

Yet another handy way to keep track of your competition is using an online service like Spyfu. You can enter your competitor’s website address and this system will instantly bring up what they are being found for on Google, what keywords that they are being found using on both paid and regular unpaid search results, and the fun ones – you can see what sites are linking to them, and what their Google ranking history has been. You’ll get a few bits of info for free, but the paid version will give you a lot more detail so you can spy as hard or as gently as you want.

But do you really need to be spying?

There’s plenty of ways to research what your competition is doing if you’re willing to do a little work on some great, and often free tools. But the question you need to ask is whether it’s important what your competitors are doing. In a tight market with eroding margins and a high number of competitors, it can be useful to see if there is something a competing business is doing to get the edge. But when you’ve got a it of space between you and the others, then, consider that researching your competitors may not be the best way to spend your time.