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Reverse Engineering Content Strategy

If there’s one thing I can’t shut up about, it’s content marketing.

From bite-sized viral videos to SEO to long-form YouTube content - I’m obsessed.

And the easiest way to develop an organic content strategy is to look at what captivates your rival’s audience.

So today I’ll show you how I reverse engineer a brand’s content strategy, which tools I use, and how you can use them to spy on your competitors.

Let’s pretend I’m spearheading a new running athletic apparel brand.

Here’s how I would dissect and replicate the successful content strategy for my competitor: Tracksmith.

Start with Data


Step one is to dive into their growth metrics.

With Social Blade, I can see their audience growth across platforms.

I look for anomalies in growth patterns—specifically, Outlier Growth.

And when a chart starts taking off like this - I take note:

Between January 22nd to 29th,  Tracksmith racked up 11,210 new followers.

Time to dive deeper to figure out what happened.

Decoding Top-Performing Content


Next, I use Viral Findr.

I just need to enter Tracksmith’s user name and it aggregates the account's most impactful content in one place.

Here’s what I look at:

  • Content types (UGC, brand story)
  • Content formats (video, image)
  • Content purpose (brand awareness, engagement, conversion)
  • Content story (themes)

Then I look for common denominators.

For Tracksmith, a pattern quickly emerges. Five out of their top six posts are:

  • IG reels
  • With branded storytelling
  • And content aimed at driving brand awareness
  • All part of the “For the love of running” campaign

How to Scale


Armed with these insights, I turn to SparkToro to delve deeper into Tracksmith's audience demographics—identifying their interests, conversations, and social accounts they follow.

I see that 44% of these audiences also follow Runner’s World.

So I plug Runner’s World into ViralFindr again to see their top-performing content.

I observe the same things:

  • Content types
  • Content formats
  • Content purpose
  • Content story

And again look for common denominators.

For Runner’s World, the top six posts are:

  • Graphics
  • News & Story Based
  • Awareness driven
  • History of Running Headlines

I do this drill down for all of the accounts listed on Sparktoro.

Reverse Engineered Strategy


By analyzing both direct competitors and broader market influences, I've honed in on the preferences and behaviors of my target audience.

I have concrete answers to 4 questions:

  1. What content types does my audience or a similar audience like to consume?
  2. What content formats does my audience or similar audience engage with?
  3. What is the best content for specific goals? (Ex: Awareness, Sales)
  4. What stories resonate with my audience or similar audiences?

With these answers, I can tailor a content creation strategy to meet my target audience’s interests, which increases the likelihood of engagement and fosters a loyal community around my brand.

Rather than shooting in the dark post after post, I’ve formulated a data-backed strategy to build on.

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