It’s possible you’ve never heard of benchmarking. That could be because there are plenty of ways to measure success on social media. For example, you can try to gauge a company’s success on Instagram by simply taking a quick glance at their follower count. Engagement, however, is what’s really key…

How many likes does the company get in comparison to their following? How far is their reach? How many people engage with them on a daily or weekly basis? Compared to other accounts of a similar nature, is this company really doing well on Instagram?

There may be plenty of ways to measure success on social media, but benchmarking, in particular, stands out


What is Benchmarking?


In short, benchmarking is the process of comparing your company’s process, growth and methods to those of industry leaders. It allows you to align successful social methods alongside your current practices and, from your observations, set practical goals and standards to close the gap between them.

Although they sound similar, benchmarking is not the same as competitor research. Benchmarking and competitor research, while equally valuable, are very different. Competitor research is a quick-fix that focuses on performance measures and benchmarking looks at best practices to ensure continuous improvement over a longer period of time.

Here’s how you can start incorporating benchmarking into your social media reports and use it to create tangible goals for your accounts.


What Should I Measure?


In other words, when benchmarking, which statistics matter — and why? This is important. If you’re seeking to build relationships with your audience, then quantitative measures (replies, comments, and followers) matter. This is the case for most people looking to integrate benchmarking techniques and goals into their social media strategies.

What do these measurable statistics look like? Buffer lists these three phases as ways to quantify and understand your social media metrics.  

  1. Stats per day, e.g. total clicks
  2. Stats per post, e.g. average clicks
  3. Stats per follower, e.g. click rate

The first two phases are self-explanatory. For example, stats per day (total clicks) measures every website click you receive through Twitter in one day and generates a single statistical number. Although this method doesn’t take into account the number of tweets you sent out that day — making it slightly less useful — it’s still a good, big-picture overview of engagement rate.

Stats per post (average clicks) incorporates the number of posts per day but doesn’t take reach and impressions into account. For example, if your post gets 25 likes after reaching a total of 30 people, that’s awesome. If your post gets 25 likes after reaching 200 people, that’s a different story; 25 likes doesn’t always mean the same thing.

Stats per follower (click rate) is usually the most telling measurement of social success. This method is incredibly easy to measure — simply divide your chosen statistic (i.e. engagement rate) by the number of followers you have. If you know your impression/reach data, that will work best: Divide the chosen metric by the number of users who saw the post.


The 4 Ways To Benchmark


To make the benchmarking process easier, Simply Measured’s Kevin Shively wrote a blog featuring four distinct ways to approach this process.

  1. Aspirational Benchmarking
  2. Trended Benchmarking
  3. Earned Benchmarking
  4. Inspirational/Competitive Benchmarking


Aspirational Benchmarking


Possibly the most common of the four, Aspirational Benchmarking allows you to learn from social industry leaders and think big — and then bigger. An aspirational benchmark is made by looking at the metrics of leaders in a specific industry — who a company “aspires” to be — and setting goals in an attempt to match them.

How do you find these larger companies’ metrics? There are a few ways, but performing a Google Scholar search to track new social media studies will often provide you with data on larger companies.


Trended Benchmarking


In trended benchmarking, your company is the subject. This works if you’re performing well and want to continue receiving the same level of engagement.

Using the stats per follower (click rate) phase of measurement, I’ve pulled an example of using trended benchmarking to establish an Instagram “benchmark.” With the Instagram platform, I could use my follower count or Instagram Insights with a business profile as my first stat. I’m going to use Insights, which includes the total number of times my last post has been seen (impressions) over the past week. That number is 1,868. This post generated 311 likes — or, engagements — leaving me with an engagement rate of 16%.

My benchmark, moving forward, will be that 16% of those who see my Instagram posts will engage through a like.


Earned Benchmarking


This benchmark covers promotions and campaigns. The best way to set an earned benchmark is to take a look at your previous campaigns and promotions and evaluate those stats. This includes any paid advertisements, pinned tweets or postings about hiring, sales, or special offers.

You can learn from other campaigns and case studies if you have access to their authors or performance stats.


Inspirational/Competitive Benchmarking


Similar to aspirational benchmarking, both inspirational and competitive benchmarking allow you to learn from companies within your industry that either inspire you or are in direct competition with you.

Additionally, this process requires some research concerning your direct competition and any influential leaders in your field. Buffer says utilizing the BuzzSumo Influencer search, reviewing Twitter bios using Followerwonk, and pursuing LinkedIn’s Pulse discover section to find competitors and influencers may help when benchmarking.

Finally, create benchmarks using manually-pulled data from inspiring or competing accounts. This can be done by averaging the visible engagement an account receives per post or taking a glance at their follower count.


Happy Growing!


Firstly, whichever method you choose is sure to benefit your growing social media platforms by helping you create tangible benchmarks and goals. In addition, beginning to think past follower count and content creation should be a fundamental step in every social strategy.

To conclude, growing an engaging online space is the goal — and thoughtful benchmarking provides the sunlight, water, and care.


-Written by Lily Tillman