What ever happened to fan acquisition? How are social marketers measuring success today? Should they be reevaluating their brand benchmarks for social platforms, and how? For answers to these and other pressing questions, Social Media Insider consulted the counsel of Ted McCrea, recently appointed account supervisor at social media agency Adaptly.
Social Media Insider: When it comes to paid social, it wasn’t that long ago that brands were laser focused on fan acquisition. What changed?
McCrea: Organic reach began to decline, and so did the value of those vanity social metrics. As 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.
Social Media Insider: As brands have shifted toward measuring performance based on engagement and traffic, how has that impacted brands’ core business goals?
McCrea: Focusing on more tangible metrics like engagement and traffic gives brands more insight into purchase intent and lower-funnel consumer activity. It brings them one step closer to closing the loop and proving ROI on social. Brands have begun to ask themselves which strategies, ad formats and measurement capabilities are most effective for their business goals, thinking beyond industry and focusing on the behavior of audiences on digital platforms.
Social Media Insider: Have the platforms made matters better or worse by rolling out so many tracking capabilities, measurement solutions and new ad formats?
McCrea: As brands’ priorities shifted, the platforms took notice. 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.
Social Media Insider: For brands, what’s the first step to making sense of so many metrics and offerings?
McCrea: Evaluate where your metrics are already strong and where you could better align performance objectives with real business goals. Look 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.
Social Media Insider: How does communication factor into this equation?
McCrea: Deviating from traditional benchmarks can be a difficult leap, especially for team members who work outside of social and digital environments. It’s important to factor in communication early, showing them that although benchmarks are changing, it doesn’t mean the past way of measuring was wrong. Social platforms are constantly evolving, and the best way to drive real business results is by considering the latest 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.
Social Media Insider: What about benchmark resources?
McCrea: 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).
Social Media Insider: And, how about unique brand benchmarks?
McCrea: 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.
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.
Social Media Insider: Finally, how do brands plan for the future when the platform rules evolve so frequently?
McCrea: Benchmarking is important to determine whether your brand’s strategy is working, but it shouldn’t be too rigid. As new platforms emerge, measurement capabilities expand, and new metrics become available at an overwhelming rate. Brands need to be increasingly selective in choosing metrics that best align with their core business goals.