A Brief Guide To Social Media Benchmarking

Siddharth Dwivedi
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Siddharth Dwivedi

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My height is five feet and seven inches. In India, I am just above average considering average height of an Indian male is five feet and five inches! (Whoo hoo!) However, in USA, I will be called short because average height of a US male is marked at five feet and seven inches!

So, here’s your question:

You got 10,000 engagements in your last social media campaign. Is that a good figure or a bad one?

Social media stats and graphs are like the measure of body weight and height before body-mass index (BMI) was invented. Before BMI, you didn’t have a benchmark to know if it’s in the right range.

The same goes for social media. It’s a common sight in industry to see two companies with same results emotions but conflicting emotions. A new blogger might be happy with ten comments a week. But for a content platform with $2 million USD in funding, it’s peanuts!

Companies, big or small, need to create social media benchmarks to analyze their social performance. So…

What is social media benchmarking?

Social media benchmarking is creating a standard strategically to compare it with one or many social media metrics.

Cliched as it may sound, ‘Strategically’ in the definition above is indispensable. Your social media benchmarks are highly influenced by the goals and objectives of your social media campaigns.  Creating benchmarks in finance or even in sales department is evident. Or at least, the standards are fixed. Since social media marketing is hardly a decade old, people are still exploring how to do it.

Another important aspect of social media benchmarking is that it is quantitative in nature. You just cannot say you have to improve your social media content. You need to improve your content to get a better engagement or reach per post.

Social media benchmarking techniques

Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing at Buffer, divides social media benchmarking into four segments:

  1. Aspirational benchmarking: Focuses on learning from social media leaders
  2. Trended benchmarking: It can also be termed historical benchmarking. It’s focused on learning from past performance
  3. Earned benchmarking: Learning from promotional, short-term campaigns
  4. Competitive benchmarking: Setting benchmarks based on performance of competitors

Although, it covers much of everything, I found that aspirational benchmarking is a misnomer as well as outdated. Learning from social media leaders, let’s say Fortune500 companies, doesn’t make sense. They are working on a different scale with different resources, goals, and budget. Aspirational benchmarking in its traditional sense is like a swimming race between a shark and a gorilla!

If used strategically, aspirational benchmarking can be assimilated into competitive benchmarking. I will explain that later in the article. Similarly, I like to call earned benchmarking, for the sake of making the term more descriptive, as campaign benchmarking.

So, all social media benchmarking techniques can be categorized into three major segments:

  1. Competitive benchmarking
  2. Trended benchmarking
  3. Campaign benchmarking

Here’s how each one looks.

What is competitive benchmarking?

Social media competitive benchmarking is a benchmarking technique where you try to set benchmarks for success by looking at your competitors’ social performance.

It’s probably the oldest and the most effective form of social media benchmarking. In our tool, we take a novel approach to benchmarking, making it more reliable.

Suppose, you’re a horizontal ecommerce store, selling everything from electronics and home appliances to books and apparels. Why do you need to be better in social media than a vertical ecommerce store, which only sells furniture?

You need to look at your own niche and industry as a whole and look at the competitors individually.

Social media competitive benchmarking is suitable for:

  • Periodical–week-on-week, month-on-month
  • Longer durations–quarterly, half yearly, and yearly
  • Special events of a year like Christmas and Valentine’s Day

Although, it can be done online, it’s wise to use social media competitive benchmarking tools. You can use social media competitive benchmarking tools like Vaizle, SocialBakers, and RivalIQ.

Trended benchmarking

Trended benchmarking is a social media benchmarking technique where you create benchmarks based on your past performance.

Trended benchmarking emulates the way finance teams work, It is driven by the idea that you have to improve after set intervals of time from your last results. For instance, if your social media KPIs were X, you have to improve by Y which is a 20% improvement month-on-month.

It is suitable for:

  • Longer duration of time frames (at least a quarter). You can align this time frame with every financial quarter for relating the results with your revenue charts
  • Not suitable for companies which do seasonal business. For instance, tax filing firms or startups which offer services during summer holidays

It comes, however, with a word of caution. You must exclude your seasonal campaigns data from it.

Everyone use social media differently during certain period of years. In festive times of the year, like Black Friday, Valentine, and Christmas, marketing, in general, is more aggressive. Since trended benchmarking focuses on a consistent performance for a longer period of time, tracking festive campaigns like Christmas will not give you a good view of your social performance.

Campaign benchmarking

Let’s say you do a promotional campaign every month or every quarter or every year. You need to set benchmarks for its success. Because you can only compare a campaign with another and not with something else. There’s a way to keep your festival-based campaigns separate from the usual ones: by using campaign benchmarking.

Campaign benchmarking is a social media benchmarking technique where you create benchmarks for your social performance by tracking results of a specific campaign.

This can further be implemented in two ways: either by comparing your campaign performance against your competitors or comparing your last year’s campaign performance.

A few tips to exclude your festive or promotion campaigns from usual daily campaigns is to use distinct hashtags and keywords. You can even use Google UTM builder to keep them separate in Google Analytics data.

Before starting benchmarking…

Why do you want to create social media benchmarks?

There are tens of social media KPIs that you can focus on. You can either track engagements, or even specific engagements like comments and shares, conversions, or new followers. Asking questions like “what is it that I want to achieve with social media?” can help you give a good start.

Which social channels to benchmark?

Not all social media channels are same. Each has a different objective. It’s a common sense to say LinkedIn is for B2B. Twitter is better for customer service. Facebook is for everything. Similarly, your intent changes when you shift from LinkedIn to Facebook.

Based on the purpose you want to use a social media channel for, social media benchmarks will be influenced. So you need to answer which social channel do you want to focus on in future.

Which graphs and metrics answer your objectives?

Numbers won’t help you much. Especially if you’re dealing in millions, accentuated with two decimals! Keeping your reporting and analysis to graphs will make social media benchmarking easier and insightful.

Since you know what you want to achieve from social media, you need simply map your social media goals on relevant social media graphs and metrics.

Conclusion

So that’s almost all of social media benchmarking in less than 1,500 words! To summarize, there are three social media benchmarking techniques:

  1. Competitive benchmarking
  2. Trended benchmarking
  3. Campaign benchmarking

Hope this article not only added to your knowledge base, but will also save your time and help you create better social media benchmarks.

The field is still new and I would love to know your views on how you do create social media benchmarks? What techniques do you use? Or if you have questions about the subject, let me know in the comments below.

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