Benchmarks For Social Media Marketing

This report will let you know if you’re on the right track with your social media strategy, or what needs improvement. Benchmarks For Social Media Marketing will tell you how to reach your target audience, generate leads and improve brand awareness — all without spending a fortune.

In this guide, we review the aspects of Benchmarks For Social Media Marketing, social benchmarking examples, social media impressions benchmark, and What are the top 5 metrics for social media ROI?

Benchmarks For Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a huge part of modern business. If you’re not doing social media marketing, then you’re missing an important opportunity to connect with customers and grow your brand. But how do you know if your social media strategy is successful? Here are some benchmarks to help guide your efforts:

Facebook: 200 Likes

If you’re a business owner, it’s highly likely that you have a Facebook page. If you don’t, try out our Social Media Marketing course to learn how to make one! Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the world and has over 2 billion active users. In 2017 alone, there were nearly 2 million new businesses on Facebook.

Facebook likes are important because they help your business reach more people and be seen by a wider audience. The more likes you get on posts or pages, the higher up in their news feeds those posts will show up—meaning more exposure for your content!

If 200 is an appropriate target for your company (we recommend aiming high), follow these tips:

  • Create engaging content that resonates with your target audience
  • Advertise on other platforms such as Instagram and Twitter

YouTube: 500 subscribers

On YouTube, 500 subscribers is a good benchmark for getting the most out of your social media efforts. If you’re getting 500 views consistently on each video, it means people are watching and sharing your content with others. The more engaged they are with you as a brand, the better chance they’ll buy what you’re selling when it’s time to make that decision.

Instagram: 1,000 followers

1,000 followers is a good target for Instagram. You can get more people to see your photos if you have more followers.

  • Use the Instagram app to find people who like the same things as you and follow them.
  • Use Instagram stories to reach more people.

Twitter: 1,000 followers

If you’re looking to create a personal brand, Twitter is a great place to start. Not only can you use the platform to share content and build relationships with people who are interested in your area of expertise, but it also gives you the chance to learn about trends in your industry and stay informed on what’s happening in the world.

Twitter is also perfect for building an audience—this means that if you want people who are interested in what you have to say, then this is one of the best places where they might be found!

These are some good targets to shoot for.

The benchmarks are a good starting point, but they’re not perfect. They’re based on averages, so they may not apply to your specific business. It’s important that you use these figures as a guideline and aim for more than the benchmark if possible.

social benchmarking examples

If I were to tell you that a recent tweet of mine received 20 clicks, what would you think?

Maybe 20 clicks sounds like a lot based on what you’ve found for your own accounts. Maybe 20 clicks sounds rather lean, considering what you know about clickthrough rates of big brands or your most successful posts.

Checking out the raw numbers of your social media stats, free of context, makes it quite hard to draw any concrete conclusions.

Imagine having a way to tell at-a-glance the success of a social media update. Benchmarking is a way of looking at your stats, side-by-side with a meaningful standard. Here’s how to add benchmarking to your social media analysis and step-by-step on how to set up benchmarks for your social accounts.

[Interested in listening to this post in podcast format? We invite you to check out Buffer’s very own podcast – The Science of Social Media!]

One way that has been really helpful for me to think about benchmarking is splitting it into four key segments:

I first heard of this method from Kevin Shively at Simply Measured. His blog post goes into great depth for each of the four types of benchmarks. Here’s a quick explanation:

1. Aspirational Benchmarking: Learning from social leaders.

2. Trended Benchmarking: Setting goals, projections, and standards based on previous activity.

3. Earned Benchmarking: Comparing campaign or promotional efforts against a standard for success.

4. Competitive Benchmarking: Setting goals and baselines for performance and growth based on your direct competitors.

The only edit I’d consider for the list is possibly changing competitive benchmarking to inspirational benchmarking, thereby including influencers in the mix along with competitors.

One of my big questions when I’m benchmarking is whether or not I’m doing it right. Seeing that there are four different ways to do it, chances are good that I’m following one of the four methods above!

Now before we explore each method in depth, there’re a couple questions to ask at the start.

Question 1: Which stats will you benchmark?

The first step for creating benchmarks is deciding which stats matter most to your social media strategy. Social media plans can differ greatly, so it’s likely that your specific metrics will depend greatly on your specific goals.

One possibility, brought about in a journal article by Mullen Advertising, is that you might seek to build relationships with your customers. In that case, quantitative measures like followers/fans and comments/replies would matter greatly.

Traditionally, some of the key metrics on social media involve overall engagement, reach of your content, and clicks back to a website (and conversions beyond the clicks). In these cases, the stats that matter may include:

Question 2: What should these stats look like?

In my experience, I’ve tried many different ways to glean insights from social media metrics, and I’ve come to see these metrics as falling into three phases.

Stats per day aggregate your total number of, say, clicks into one big number. You can compare Monday’s clicks to Tuesday’s clicks, and so on. It’s great for a big-picture view of your social media success, though it fails to account for variables like the number of times you posted or the day of the week (Monday vs. Saturday, for instance).

Stats per post take things one step further, normalizing the numbers according to each post you share. Instead of identifying really good days of sharing, you can now see your very good shares themselves. Often stats per post is calculated as a per-post average from a sample size of data.

In the example below, in looking at the clicks-per-post column, you might choose to find the average clicks based on the data here.

The one missing piece here is that over time your audience may change. If a 200-click post was seen by 400 people, that’s awesome! If that 200-click post was seen by 4,000 people, the story changes a bit.

Stats per follower, then, seem to be the most consistent and true measure of a post’s success. Simply divide your chosen stat by the number of followers. If reach/impression data is available, even better: divide the metric by the number of people who saw the post.

Again, reference Twitter Analytics, the engagement rate graph shows engagements divided by impressions.

1. Aspirational benchmarks

How to set benchmarks to match your top influencers

I love the phrasing of “aspirational” benchmarks—goals and standards that you aspire to achieve. How motivating!

When you create these benchmarks, you’re encouraged to dream big. Aspirational benchmarks are often made by looking at the metrics for industry leaders—Fortune 500 companies, the Inc 5000, or Forbes 100 best small businesses, for instance.

To find the aspirational benchmark that’s right for your brand, you can keep an eye on the latest social media studies, which often use these large companies and large sample sizes for their data. A Google Scholar search is one of my favorite ways to track new social media studies.

Simply Measured puts together monthly studies on how the top brands, both large and small businesses, use social media. Here’s a chart.

2. Trended benchmarks

How to set benchmarks based on your own history

By looking at your own data, you identify a standard that you want to achieve.

In the above sections, I mentioned the value of finding per-follower stats, so let me show you the process of setting trended benchmarks based on these.

With Twitter, you can take either your total follower count or use the impressions data that Twitter gives you via Twitter Analytics. For instance, in the past 28 days, my tweets have received 73,556 impressions and 1,782 total engagements. Dividing the total engagements by the total impressions gives me an engagement rate of 2.4 percent.

My benchmark for Twitter engagement, then, is that 2.4 percent of those who see my tweet should click, favorite, retweet, or reply.

3. Earned benchmarks

How to set benchmarks for campaigns and promotions

This third type of benchmark deals specifically with campaigns and promotions, which are likely to differ from the standard you content you share—both in message and in goals.

The simplest way to set up earned benchmarks is to refer to how your campaigns have performed in the past. The performance of a previously successful campaign becomes the benchmark for your campaigns going forward.

For instance, we often promote our Buffer jobs page on our Twitter account. In my Buffer dashboard, I can see check out the clicks on each of these hiring tweets, come up with an average, and I’ll have a benchmark for future hiring updates. In our case, the hiring tweets average near 250 clicks per post—an awesome benchmark to aim for!

Not only can you dig into your own campaign archives for statistics, you can also learn from the case studies and transparent learnings of others. When you hear about a campaign that performed at a certain level, you can borrow inspiration for setting your own campaign goals.

4. Inspirational benchmarks

How to create benchmarks based on your competitors and influencers

Especially for those looking to gain a foothold in a new industry, inspirational benchmarks can be really useful. They share a bit of DNA with aspirational benchmarks as well—you’re setting standards that will motivate you to perform better.

To create an inspirational benchmark, you’ll need some data on the competitors/influencers in your niche or industry. Chances are you might know a few names of social leaders off the top of your head. If you aren’t sure about the influencers in your area, there are a few tools that can help.

Once you’ve identified influencers, the second step is to benchmark their statistics.

Let’s start with Facebook, which makes this process super easy. As a page administrator, you have the opportunity to watch other Facebook pages and to pull the high level stats from these pages directly into your own Facebook Insights.

social media impressions benchmark

Social media benchmarking is key to prove that you are performing better than the competition. However, if your real challenge lies in finding, recognizing and reporting these benchmarks, this article is for you. Beginning with a basic explanation of what are social media benchmarks to how to report ROI through benchmarking, we’ve covered them all. Read on to find out how to outperform competition with social benchmarking.

What is social media benchmarking?

In the most technical sense, benchmarking is the process of comparing one’s processes and performance metrics to industry bests or best practices from other companies. It’s what drives goals in any field – from management to sports. It answers the question – ‘Is what we’re doing good enough?’. That’s because a stand-alone performance is subjective while a comparative study is empirical.

Social media benchmarking is looking at the metrics from your social media performance, such as fan growth, number of posts published, the number of interactions on your content or the speed of your replies, and comparing that to your competitors.

You can take social media benchmarking one step further with benchmarking tools like Unmetric and benchmark your performance against the entire industry as well as against direct competitors.

Why do you need benchmarking?

Benchmarking is essential to contextually recognize the performance of any efforts. In simple terms, to understand how well you are doing, it is important to compare with peers.

You might have received more interactions on a piece of content than normal or more views than ever before on a video you uploaded to YouTube. Before you go ahead and give yourself that proverbial pat on the back, you need to take a step back and ask yourself, “is that good?”. By your own standards it might be good (this is internal benchmarking) but by throwing the net out to cover your direct competitors or even the wider industry, you get a better picture of what ‘good’ is and where you fit on that scale.

Without benchmarking your social media efforts, it is impossible to understand where you stand in the market.

Top level management isn’t simply interested in knowing how your end of season sale performed, they want to know how it did in comparison to “other” brands. If you made more money than the previous year that is obviously good, but if your competitors were able to increase their sales by an even larger percentage it puts your efforts in perspective. Whether it is for reporting or internal assessment, benchmarks are essential to justify any analysis.

What is social media benchmarking?

A social media benchmark is a single metric that averages the performance of all brands in an industry. It acts as a yardstick to gauge your own performance.

The top line performance of a brand’s social media efforts can be measured through a social network’s inbuilt analytics. However, brands and agencies do not have ready access to competitor’s data. Without spending days of effort, there is no way of even approximating how a competitive brand is performing on social media.

To start off, brands need a tool, or a suite of tools, to comprehensively analyze their own performance. Though social networks have started strengthening their analytical capabilities, there are still plenty of limitations with overly simplistic numbers.

Key metrics to be considering for benchmarking include share of voice, mentions, sentiment, campaign performance and factors such as demographics, and influencers to personalize content and get a pulse of your market. Only the more advanced analytical suites can offer these benchmarks.

Once brands have a thorough understanding of their own social media efforts, it’s time to bring competitive intelligence into the picture. Benchmarking social media efforts could get as granular as pitting a specific metric against one particular brand or as broad as comparing overall performance through an industry-wide average.

“For example, you can check to see where the engagement score on your Christmas campaign stands when compared to the score of competition’s Christmas campaign. While that benchmarking is very specific, you could also benchmark average overall industry engagement score to understand how your content is performing in comparison.”

From the chart above you see that Holland America Line is engaging better than the average hospitality brand in North America.

However, in summer related conversation, Celebrity Cruises is engaging better than Holland America Line. If “summer” is a topic the brand is trying to perform better on, they will be able to go in and see the posts of Celebrity Cruises and dissect to understand why they are performing better.

Like you’ve seen in the examples above, social media benchmarks can be customized according to geography, industry, brand or even to the a topic level detail.

Why does your brand need to be cognizant of social media benchmarks?

Like in any business, keeping an eye on competition and constantly measuring to see how you compare with them is one of the key contributing factors to improving one’s own performance. Without benchmarking, it is impossible to understand where you stand in the market.

The social space is cluttered thanks to brands focusing on a variety of efforts. While six months of planning went into 3 posters, 3 radio and one TV ad with a central theme during the mass-media days, social media is the age when community managers are expected to be creating and publishing microcontent more than three times a day.

While the goals of mass media campaigns were mostly a broad mandate to increase sales or spread awareness, social media campaign goals can be more targeted and specific. The goal of a campaign could be to grow community size, to increase app downloads, to get more people talking about the brand through mentions, solving customer pain points, showing product usage or even simply positioning the company through a standard content type or voice. As the goals have become more specific, measuring has also become that much defined.

“Top level management isn’t simply interested in knowing how your end of season sale performed, they want to know how it did in comparison to “other” brands. If you made more money than the previous year that is obviously good, but if your competitors were able to increase their sales by an even larger percentage it puts your efforts into perspective. Whether it is for reporting or internal assessment, benchmarks are essential to justify any analysis.”

Social media benchmarking helps you understand how your content strategy is resonating with your audience, and if it is not, benchmarking can direct you to areas where there is room for improvement.

For example, on Instagram, Nike seems to be growing their follower base at a rate slightly higher than the industry average. Though that seems to be impressive, other brands such as Adidas Football are growing at a rate higher than them. This could be a cause for concern.

By doing a simple search on Research section in the Unmetric app, it was found that Adidas had a few tweets that redirected their Twitter followers to their Instagram account. This could be one of the factors that led to their growth.

This way, benchmarking could lead a brand to unravel competitors’ strategy through which they can fuel their own efforts.

Metrics to Benchmark

You can start by benchmarking fundamental metrics such as community growth and then graduate to metrics such as frequency of posting, share of voice and customer service. Here is a table that details all metrics that will benefit from benchmarking:

Facebook benchmarking

For most brands, Facebook was the first social network where social media marketing was attempted. This could mean that most social media marketing professionals are familiar with the site, and the available analytics and benchmarks to be measured. However, the nature of digital age means that there are constant changes to metrics available, key metrics to benchmark, and actionable insights to inform content strategy.

Facebook Insights actually offers a basic level of benchmarking in the overview tab. You can add competing brands (or even brands that you might admire) and you can compare your basic stats like fan numbers, number of posts and interactions over the past week.

Side note: If they are getting more interactions than you, then it would serve you well to go and do a bit more digging and find out exactly what content is doing so well for them. Head over to the Posts section and select Top Posts from Pages You Watch. This will show you the top posts from those pages from the past week. It’s not much but it’s better than nothing.

As a snapshot, this is a pretty good way to understand how you’re doing vis-a-vis the competition. It’ll tell you at a glance whether you need to be posting more or if your competitors are getting more interactions on their content.

Facebook insights also gives you the ability to benchmark your performance against yourself for a specified period. For each chart on the Likes, Reach, Page Views etc. charts, there is the option to benchmark various metrics like the Paid or Organic reach.

While these benchmarks are useful for your own analysis, they don’t give much information in a wider context. Your boss or your client will naturally want to see a consistent improvement in your own performance but many are likely to ask: is it good enough?

Twitter benchmarking

While social media as a whole serves multiple purposes – content and campaign level marketing, increasing brand awareness, educating on brand message, customer relationship management, community building, lead generation, etc. – giving each social network a primary objective helps build the relationship with your audience more efficiently.

Twitter lends itself quite naturally to CRM, so keep that in mind when choosing which metrics you’re going to benchmark for the platform.

Twitter Analytics itself offers a range of metrics that you can benchmark. By default, when you first see the dashboard, you’ll find a vertical scroll of your performance on Twitter benchmarked on a monthly basis. From the number of Tweets, to impression, profile views and even Tweets linking to you and your content, it’s a pretty efficient format of analytics that gives you a sense of how your performance on Twitter has evolved.

The dashboard also highlights your best engaging Tweet and best performing Mention, to help you understand which parts of your content strategy are particularly working best for you. Twitter Analytics also provides advanced insights, but that topic will be discussed in social media intelligence, as they are not easy to benchmark.

While this can give you a general sense of your content strategy, it doesn’t shine a light on how you’re doing compared to other brands in the sector. Gaining 300 new Followers sounds like a great number until you realize that your competitor gained 1200 in the same time period. That’s when competitive benchmarking can really help you understand not just what ‘works’ for your competitors but also provide tangible insights into your audience as well.

What things can be benchmarked on social media? Is it only quantitative?

The very nature of benchmarking makes it quantitative but don’t think that doesn’t mean you can measure quality from the numbers.

I benchmarked Chipotle’s tweet frequency to estimate the quality of its content.

I then benchmarked engagement to give the number some context.

We can see that Chipotle is way above the industry and sets the benchmark high for other QSR brands. We can also see that in spite of tweeting more McDonald’s hasn’t been able to achieve the same results while Starbucks by posting much less has been able to engage a lot better than the industry.

By looking at multiple benchmarks, we’re able to elevate the qualitative value of the metric to a quantitative level. However, keep in mind that content strategy can be understood at a greater depth with metrics like ‘Content Type’ and, ‘Paid post detection’ can help you identify if the content is simply being sponsored.

Interpreting a benchmark

Benchmarks are pretty simple to read, right? You see the number your brand has and all you need to see if that’s bigger than the industry average and competition.

In most cases, reading a benchmark is that simple, but in a few other cases, especially in social media, benchmarks need to be dissected further.

Say your brand’s engagement score is higher than that of the industry average, that’s a good sign that your content is being appreciated a lot more than those of other brands by your audience.

Here we can see that Airbnb only has a short distance to go to perform as good as the average brand in the hospitality sector. However, looking at the scores of a few other top hospitality brands  with similar fan bases, we can see that Airbnb could be performing a lot better.

Do smaller brands need to benchmark themselves on social media?

Small businesses often have enough on their plate without having social media to think about as well. In Unmetric’s early incarnation as Eyes and Feet, we provided social media data to small businesses like spas, bars and restaurants only to discover that these small business owners had no time to analyze and take action upon the social media data we provided. That insight was the catalyst to create what is now Unmetric.

“In an ideal world, even smaller brands will benchmark themselves on social media because if they are taking the time to publish content and updates, then they need to know if what they are doing is working well. If they are spending an hour or two a week updating their Facebook page or Instagram account but the amount of interaction is well below what their competitors are getting then it could certainly be seen as a waste of effort. Without benchmarking to find this out, small businesses could be directing too many resources to a channel that’s not bringing results.”

If a small business has never done a social media audit to benchmark their performance before, there’s never a better time than now to do it. The audit across social networks will give the brand an idea of where they stay now versus the competition and may dictate a change in strategy. For example, it could be that spending time publishing content on Facebook is not as beneficial as publishing content on Instagram or perhaps the performance on Twitter is far below what the competition achieves.

How frequently should you benchmark yourself?

This is going to be one of those ‘it depends’ answers unfortunately as there’s no hard and fast rule.

For small businesses and businesses that don’t have a dedicated social media person or team or don’t have social as a focus point for its marketing activities, a one-time audit should give you a broad view of the landscape you are competing in so that you understand where you stand.

For businesses that do rely on social media as a means to generate visibility, sales and provide customer support, social media benchmarking should be a regular activity. If not every month then it should be done a minimum of once a quarter. Ad-hoc benchmarking should be done whenever a new campaign launches and ends to see the impact it has ended. If the social media is outsourced to an agency, then doing a full audit to benchmark current standings is absolutely essential so that the performance of the agency can be properly measured.

What are the top 5 metrics for social media ROI

When marketers spend serious money, then the guys upstairs want to see some results. Until now people have experimented with low budgets and without very specific goals. The bigger budgets will bring a need to show return.

Return on investment is very simple. You put something in – the investment. You get something out – the return. And the return should be higher than the investment.

ROI = (return – investment) / investment.

Now the question is what is social media ROI.

The trick on the investment side is not to leave anything out. If you spend half of your time managing communities on social networking sites, then half of your salary should be considered as an investment in your social media efforts.

We estimate that close to two thirds of social media budgets may be used in-house.

Social media expenditures can be any of the following:

If we do stuff in the right way, we are going to see some results.

These results are not yet ROI. You should call something a return if you can attach a dollar sign to it. Some of the results you might see are:

Some of these results are relevant to your business. Select the results that apply and set concrete goals what you want to achieve.

Make sure that you note the existing levels of that metric so you can attribute the change to your activities. For instance, if you have 10,000 monthly visitors to the company website, then mark it down as a starting point.

There are a lot of things you can measure about your social media efforts. I have compiled a list of 48 social media KPIs (key performance indicators) that you can consider for your specific activities. One thing to remember is that you should set at least some social media metrics that indicate if you are turning profit. Otherwise, you can reach your KPIs and still lose money. — Read 48 Social Media KPIs You Need to Know

Now you have to find out how to tie these results to an actual monetary business value. How much money comes in because of your activities.

For example, you may have 1,000 Facebook fans and get 100 visitors per month from your Facebook fan page. 25 of those visitors make a purchase that gives you 500 dollars of profit.

Now you know that if the quality of fans is constant, each additional fan will generate 50 cents of profit per month. You could use up to 49 cents per month acquiring more fans through advertising or other activities and still have a positive ROI.

Consistency, predictability and repeatability are important when dealing with ROI.

Experiment with small budgets. Weed out money losers and channel the funds into profitable activities.

As soon as you can show positive ROI, bosses will get really happy, invite you to dinner, pat you on the back, and give you a rise. Budgets will grow even more.

It’s clear that there’s no single easy way to measure social media ROI. However, combining several different methods may get you the results you need.

1. Direct Method

The clear path exists for social media marketers who use social media in a direct selling way.

It’s pretty straightforward to set up your web analytics tools to segment the visitors arriving from social media sites and then analyze if their behavior or conversion rates are different from other visitors.

You can check out my posts about How to Tag Social Media Links for Google Analytics and Measuring Your Social Media Success with Google Analytics.

The problem here is that not all marketing is direct and if you don’t have financial goals on your website, there’s no direct R or return on investment.

These vague goals mean that you need to consider indirect metrics like leads from website, sales volume over campaign period and other tactics that may also be influenced by other marketing channels besides social media.

If your website’s goal is a lead then you need to analyze which leads convert to sales and what were the referring channels.

2. Sentiment, Share of Voice

One indirect method to estimate social media marketing ROI is to measure brand metrics. The number of mentions, sentiment, the share of voice are a few indicators that can be measured quantitatively. Then you can correlate these numbers with sales figures.

If sales and social brand metrics move in unison, then there’s a causal relationship.

You can test that hypothesis by changing your social media marketing activities and measuring resulting changes in sales.

3. Isolated Campaigns

Another simple solution would be to run social media test campaigns when there are no other marketing activities in the target market. If you see lift in results the you can attribute all that to your social media campaign.

Isolating social media campaigns might not be possible so here are some other options to see the connection between social media marketing and financial results.

To do that you might want to start from the other end of the sales funnel. Look at the people who have already purchased your products or services and try to determine how much social media channels influenced their decision.

4. Segmenting existing customers

Segmenting your customers by different marketing touch-points will give you insights into the effect that your social media marketing activities have on your business. For example, we get a lot of feedback from new clients that they started to consider us after reading our blog posts that led to joining our email list and eventually becoming a paying customer.

Look for ways to find out what channels influenced the purchasing decision and compare social media results with other channels.

5. Connect Loyalty Programs, CRM and Social Media

To reach the master level make connecting through social media a part of the loyalty programs. This way you can see how people who have indicated their social media connection behave differently from other groups.

Create incentives for people to indicate their social media presence and connect with your brand.

The next step from here would be a full-blown CRM system that includes social media interactions, purchase information and other key information about your customers.

These metrics will make social media marketing ROI a real dollar value for your business, and you can also bridge the gap between on and offline interactions.

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