The Proper Way to Benchmark in a Shifting Social Landscape.

Let’s tackle benchmarking head-on with our 3 key steps to getting benchmarking right.
Alina Bally
October 14, 2020 - 5 min. read

So far, this decade has tested every “normal” we assumed we had, turned the whole world upside down, and forced many of us to come up with a Plan B (or Z, who is counting at this point?). This is why our annual marketing conference Spark joined forces with TechBBQ to give you a digital conference experience bringing you the latest trends in digital marketing and some of the most impactful people in the Nordic tech scene.

Our Senior Strategist Casper Vahlgren sat down with Jonas Hemmingsen, CEO at Group M, to discuss how not to mess up benchmarking in a shifting social landscape (and in general).

Benchmarking and proving social media ROI has never been a piece of cake and adding a global pandemic to the mix does not make it any easier to navigate. But don’t worry! We’ve outlined the most valuable insights from the session here and also provided some of the best recommendations on how to benchmark and measure success on social media, no matter the size of your brand.

So, why even benchmark?

Well, analyzing numbers without any context makes it essentially impossible to make any tangible conclusions. Benchmarking is the best way to elevate your reporting game to deliver measurable results because you will be measuring your performance in the context of external criteria. Also, benchmarking is equally valuable for both start-ups and global corporations. Benchmarking on social media works really well because everything is measurable and definable, no matter when you joined the game.

Let’s tackle benchmarking head-on with our 3 key steps to getting benchmarking right:

1. Translate your objectives to social media KPI’s

We know this sounds fluffy, but it’s a critical step. It is all about WHAT you are measuring.

Do you want to drive brand awareness, and make sure people actually see your brand, messages, and products? You might want to look into fan/follower growth, your posting volume, and your reach.

Do you want to improve consideration and get people to care about what you do and say? Then your engagement rate and overall engagements are worth taking a closer look at.

Is your objective to drive purchases? Your social media KPI’s should focus on clicks and conversions.

Curious about whether you have true brand advocates and if you’re driving advocacy? Tracking mentions, hashtags, sentiment, or share of voice is a great way to start.

Remember: Use different metrics for different goals!

2. Who should I benchmark against?

Who are you comparing yourself to? Who should you even be looking at? Taking a step back and looking at who you should be benchmarking your brand against is essential to getting valuable insights and measurable results!

Carefully selecting competitors is especially relevant for a lot of start-ups and investors, as it can be difficult to benchmark yourself against existing brands or agents in your industry when you just entered the game.

Below you can find six potential clusters you can use to group competitors that are comparable in different ways that you can benchmark against. Ideally, you want to select 4-6 competitors that can be grouped into one or more of these clusters.

Remember: Data without a benchmark is just a number! social media benchmarking Also, here’s everything you need to know about what social media statistics—exactly— you should be benchmarking and how to use a social media benchmark solution to optimize a campaign.

3. Set the bar right

Be realistic and benchmark yourself against someone relatable. Clustering and setting the bar right go hand in hand. The exercise of clustering is essential because it makes you address the wildly different budgets and business models of your brand and your competitors.

This way you avoid benchmarking yourself against a company that would be completely impossible to compete with. This does not mean you should not look at such aspirational brands at all, you can still learn from them, but it provides a different context for your benchmarking and analysis.

This is all great in theory, but what about in practice?

Nowadays, we find ourselves in an ever-growing social media ecosystem that is getting more and more complex.

This means you can’t have a one size fits all benchmarking approach. You have to be specific about how you work with your different networks and create different KPI’s and benchmarks for each individual channel.

To make sure you are on the right track, you need to stress-test your KPIs and your approach. In the discussion between Casper and Jonas, they touched upon different ways of doing this.

Create localized benchmarks

In this shifting social landscape, the topic of channel consolidation vs. a global-local setup comes up often. There is currently a trend of many global brands closing down local channels and using paid ads to reach local audiences.

A global-local setup is not easy to master. It comes with a lot of dependency on the global teams, and the local teams want to benefit as much as possible from ‘corporate’ content, whilst making sure it is localized.

Just redoing global = watering down global efforts.

It is important that in such a setting, local channels have the ability, time, and resources to create localized content and identify and target the audience they should be talking to. Offering curated content to your local audiences is the key to success for a local channel and driving more valuable engagement than one size fits all global content.

And if you want to drive and prove a local success, you need local benchmarks.

Final thoughts

Throughout the last months, we have seen media spend as well as the share of digital media purchases going up.

It makes sense that media buy follows consumer behavior. COVID-19 created a massive shift towards all things digital. However, this change is an unnatural one as it stems from a crisis and not an underlying change in behavior that makes it risky for benchmarking.

We do not know which of these new digital trends will live on, and which ones are the new normal.

So, when you are creating your benchmarks, make sure you account for external influences when analyzing your data. Try to account for these factors when you are benchmarking performance and understand how they may change when the landscape shifts again.

Be mindful of how you are impacted by the COVID situation. Remember this context when we get out of this situation and tweak KPIs depending on what was going on then. Most importantly: Be conscious of data bias.