How to Find the Best Social Marketing Benchmarks for Your Brand

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Marketing teams are all familiar with one inquiry: What are the benchmarks for our industry? It’s a question that’s asked frequently, from the planning and launch stages of a campaign all the way through to analysis. It also comes up when brands are considering testing new platforms or ad formats, to make sure there’s something reliable to base the test on. Unfortunately for those seeking tried-and-true numbers, the most accurate response to, “What are the industry benchmarks?” happens to be, “It depends.”

Developing reliable cross-platform benchmarks has always been a challenge for brands. As platforms continue to evolve, new ad formats and measurement capabilities are introduced. This makes the question even more complicated, throwing additional factors into the mix. It’s no longer trying to compare apples to oranges – often it’s apples to oranges to ramen to puppies.

Instead brands must ask themselves which strategies, ad formats, and measurement capabilities are proven most effective for their business goals, thinking beyond industry and focusing on the behavior of audiences on digital platforms. It’s also important to determine when your brand should evolve past traditional media benchmarks to focus on goals for a rapidly changing digital landscape.

It was only a few short years ago that most brands were focused on fan acquisition and follower campaigns for the bulk of their paid social spend. However as organic reach began to decline and more immersive ad formats were released, brands began to shift toward measuring performance based on engagement and traffic to site. Over time, performance benchmarks were established based on engagement and clicks, with marketers working to drive efficient spend based on those goals. But even then, measuring performance based on clicks and engagement raised a fundamental question: How are these results impacting my core business goals?

The platforms took notice, quickly releasing new tracking capabilities and measurement solutions to ensure advertisers’ needs were met. While these updates gave marketers access to a variety of new features, many brands struggled to keep up with the pace of innovation. Marketers have a trove of new ad formats and measurement solutions at their fingertips, but building strategy and setting goals around those metrics – which don’t compare to legacy benchmarks – remains a challenge.

Here are four steps to help you reevaluate your brand benchmarks for social platforms:

Step 1: Determine Strengths and Weaknesses

First evaluate where your benchmarks are strong and where you could better align performance objectives with real business goals. The best way to do that is by looking at the platforms’ newest measurement capabilities and reviewing case studies to see what competitors in your industry are tracking and where they’re finding success.

Step 2: Communicate the Changes Internally

The next step is all about communication. Deviating from traditional benchmarks can be a difficult leap, especially for team members who work outside of social and digital environments. Start by communicating that, although benchmarks are changing, it doesn’t mean the past way of measuring was wrong. Social platforms are constantly changing and evolving, and the best way to drive real business results is by considering the latest and most advanced offerings. This is also a good opportunity to stress that benchmarks will continue to evolve – that way the whole team is prepared the next time there’s a change.

Step 3: Find Benchmark Resources

You can also research industry resources such as eMarketer for baseline benchmarks. Data from eMarketer’s social benchmarks is based on more than 625 billion impressions, 14 billion clicks, and $7 billion in ad spend across global search and social platforms. No matter what source you use, you should look at holistic metrics across all social publishers. Accurate benchmarks from third-party providers should use data from multiple brands (blinded for confidentiality).

You’ll want to use industry benchmarks as an initial guideline, but ultimately create your own benchmarks from past campaign success and overall business goals. This allows your brand to determine what is successful based on your specific strategies and needs.

Step 4: Set Unique Brand Benchmarks

Always keep in mind that benchmarks need to be flexible and unique to each brand. Rather than leaning on industry standards, it’s crucial to develop an approach for defining your own benchmarks. This also allows you to be flexible, setting benchmarks that can evolve over time as the platforms change. That way your brand can determine what success looks like across different strategies, campaigns, and goals.

If you work at a company with multiple brands under a single umbrella, you have access to a wealth of additional information and valuable benchmarks. Collaborate with your counterparts at the various internal brands to establish benchmarks across platforms, objectives, and regions.

Benchmarking is important to determine whether your brand’s strategy is working, but it shouldn’t be too rigid. Having a benchmark will establish a true north for determining success, so campaigns that aren’t resonating with the target audience can be adapted to produce stronger results. As new platforms emerge, measurement capabilities expand, and new metrics become rapidly available, brands need to be increasingly selective in choosing benchmarks that best align with their core business goals.