Benchmarks for Great Social Content

April 30, 2015

Casey Petersen

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In nearly every conversation that has ever happened regarding internet metrics, the conversation invariably turns to one single question: Are my numbers “good?”

We may be talking about a Social Media Manager attempting to explain why they have 500,000 Facebook Fans, when a competitor has 1 million, or a blogger questioning whether 100 shares and a 60% bounce rate is good or bad. It can be very difficult to figure out how to measure success and decide who or what you should measure against. Is my traffic good? Is my engagement bad? How can you begin to answer these questions?

Searching Google may give you some basic answers, or rules of thumb. However, the truth isn’t quite so cut and dry. Not only is there no right answer to what is “good,” but there’s also very few ways of benchmarking your performance to understand if you are better or worse than your peers. The truth is every audience, social channel, and website is different. The way you create content, the way it’s presented, the photography, your word count, every part of your online content affects the type of audience you cultivate and grow. Whether you mean to or not, over time, you train your audience to engage with your content in particular ways. “Is my site good?” would then be the wrong question to ask. Asking “How can I better the experience for my users?” would be far better.

Establish Benchmarks

You are your own best Benchmark. Understanding best practices, and general peer performance is one thing. But your online content channels are the best source you have for understanding success. Set your current average performance as your benchmark to beat. Effectively measuring success is based on solid metrics. Take a snapshot of everything you’re doing online. Here are a few we typically recommend starting with:

  • >> Social Reach and Engagement: Facebook and Twitter provide very good analytics that give you an understanding of how well your audience is engaging with your content, and how many of them are seeing it.
  • >> Site traffic: As with Social, there are many ways of looking at this, and many different metrics that can be important to different people. For traffic alone, make a note of your unique visitors and pageviews. We can catch a glimpse of how engaging your content is by looking at Pages per Visit, Bounce Rate, and Time on Site.
  • >> Determine Timeframe of Measurement: Unless you have specific reasoning for other needs, we recommend measuring month over month. This is long enough to allow both unusually great and unusually bad days to average out, but not so long that we miss good opportunities to change strategies based on the data.

As you move forward each month, you can compare your current performance to past performance. Your engagement per post, pages per visit, and overall numbers should be increasing. With this information, it’s easy to identify types of content that perform well, and create more of that content, and see how it affects your numbers over time. The goal is to improve each metric against your own benchmark. If your numbers have plateaued, it’s important to focus on the 2-3 key metrics that are the most important to your business, and optimize for those.

What about my competitors?

It may be great to say that you should only compare yourself against your own benchmarks, but comparisons to competitors, or other players in the same industry, are inevitable. If you can’t avoid this, keep in mind these rules of thumb:

  • >> Learn from what your competitors are doing that is or isn’t working.
  • >> Only compare yourself against companies with similar growth plans and strategy.
  • >> Don’t become too discouraged or too self-assured, based on how you compare.

When looking at competitors, it’s very easy to believe that you can never get to their 1 million followers. You may believe you’ll never have the budget to pull off their fantastic photos and video. Conversely, you may be the only company among your competitors who is giving any serious effort toward social and digital content. Both of these situations can give you a false sense of success or failure.

Your brand personality may significantly differ from a competitor as well, which means you’ll develop very different audiences, based on your content. Starbucks, for instance, creates beautiful and emotive content for their social and web properties. Every picture evokes emotions and memories of the ambience, smells, and experience of the Starbucks brand.  Compare that to, say, Denny’s, who has nearly become a meme-factory with its extraordinary commitment to funny, slapstick, or downright silly photos, gifs, and web jokes. The types of people who will follow those, and choose to interact with them, may be different. The way they interact which such different content will also be different.

The morale is to create content that fits your brand, and content that your audience enjoys.  There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Don’t emulate someone else’s success – improve upon your own.

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