2021 Social Media Benchmark Report: 4 Takeaways for Your Social Refresh

2021 Social Media Benchmark Report 4 Takeaways for Your Social Refresh

Take a peek into the Convince & Convert team messaging threads and you’ll find us sharing all sorts of research and new data. In fact, when the Rival IQ 2021 Social Media Benchmark report was first released, Corynn shared it with the note,  “TL;DR–everyone needs more carousels.” 

You can stop reading now if that’s all you need to refresh your social content plans. But for the rest of you, I’ve got a few more ideas. 

The Social Media Benchmark report is an annual study from Rival IQ, our friends in the social content performance data business. The 2021 edition evaluates thousands of brand accounts across 14 industries to set the benchmarks that marketers use to measure social content performance. 

2021 Rival IQ Social Media Benchmark report

Keep in mind that most of the data analyzed were pulled from 2020/early 2021. Social media platforms are constantly shifting their algorithms to respond to new content types, technology, and audience habits. 

What is presented in any benchmark study shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but it does enlighten how to plan for your 2022 social media content strategy

4 Cues For Your Social Media Strategy Refresh

1. Posting every weekday may be “expected” but is not necessary.

Creating enough content to post once a weekday on each channel is a common expectation of social teams. Yet as social media engagement rates decline or stay stagnant, brands respond with fewer main feed posts on each channel. 

Rival IQ discovered that brands posted on Facebook on average the most per week; but outside of Media brands sharing 53.5 posts a week (7.5 a day!), the average was 5.5 posts weekly. 

We’ll take the exception with the finding that brands are only posting content on Instagram four times a week. The API that makes data available is news feed specific. Yet remember that Instagram has 12 different ways in the channel to serve up content or connect with audiences. This data point is a bit misleading because we can’t accurately benchmark Stories, Reels, Highlights, and Guides with the API. 

Twitter was the channel that saw the most volume by brands, almost 3x more tweets than Instagram news feed posts. But Instagram is the clear social media royalty based on Engagements. Instagram audiences responded with more than 7x engagements than on Twitter, on just one-third of the total content. 

Quality Over Quantity of Posts Matters Most

No doubt you’ve heard quality outranks quantity. This is especially true for B2B brands that are building content to support longer awareness and consideration timelines in their customer’s decision journey.  

Focus on creating less social media content that resonates more with key audiences. 

Show up in the nooks and crannies of social media channels; focus on different content outlets, like Reels, Stories, and Reddit threads. Even better, explore participation in ways that create more 1:1 micro-connections with your audience. Direct interaction with audiences in spaces like AMAs, TwitterChats, Audio Rooms, and even DMs can go a long way with building affinity with audience members. 

When everything is important, nothing stands out. So when there is actually an opportunity for different-than-usual content, make it shine.  Increase frequency around real-time opportunities, like events, webinars, launches, behind-the-scenes. Take a cue from Media and Sports, which hyper-focus on wall-to-wall coverage of the top story or game day. Media and Sports teams tweeted more than all of the other industries combined.

When everything is important, nothing stands out. Click To Tweet

2.  Mix Up Content Types 

We’ve been saying “Video Wins Social” for several years. While in some instances that can be true, the social media benchmarking data shows that in main news feed posts, actually photos and carousels now outrank videos for engagement. 

The algorithm may prioritize video content when it’s available, but audiences care less. The reality is that even today, video is still more difficult for content teams to produce at scale unless it is a core part of the business (media, sports, etc). That’s why video appears less frequently as post types across most industries. 

What can B2B brands do without a consistent video workflow? Remember that in today’s visually dominated social feeds, carousels and photos perform well. Avoid posting a simple status in text-only on Twitter or Facebook, especially when it’s easy enough to include a GIF, image, or infographic. 

Carousel impressions are repeated in a user’s news feed if they don’t engage the first time. On subsequent impressions, Carousels will display images two and three. You don’t have to win with the first image in a Carousel. Be sure the second and third ones are just as compelling. 

3.  Identify And Measure What Metrics Matter 

An engagement rate is calculated based on all measurable interactions on a post. Social networks are diversifying how audiences choose to engage with any post on their newsfeed–Facebook alone has up to six emotional reactions along with commenting, sharing, and saving posts. Does an Angry reaction carry more weight or meaning than a Laugh? How does Love compare to a Share? 

A better way to measure engagement is to identify what specific reactions are most valuable for your brand. Metrics are like pizza toppings–each one of us has our favorites, so we tend to always stick with those and overlook the other options. 

Measure specific, meaningful reactions as a percentage of total engagements to ensure you don’t lose sight of engagements that move the needle. Padding posts to garner more “Likes” to hit engagement numbers is easy to do — but Likes don’t pay the bills (even for Influencers).  

Take a Look at Your Own. Social Metrics

Rival IQ acknowledged a better way to measure engagement rates is by using the engagement rate per post metric. Engagement rate per post is the [best] metric because it controls for post volume and audience size and helps marketers understand how they’re doing in relation to their competitors. 

Unfortunately, social network APIs continue to skinny the data that is publicly available, so Rival IQ and others cannot do this type of competitive reporting at scale. But you can with your own native metric reports. 

4.  Plan Seasonal Content and Align Hashtags Accordingly

Hashtags were all about the holidays on Instagram and Twitter this year, so that signals brands must keep up with content that aligns with the seasons. Work ahead by identifying these in your annual and quarterly editorial calendars and planning. Planning in advance means your team is better positioned to capitalize on seasonal content by finally deploying all the “next year we should do this” ideas that are missed after the fact.

Hashtags that performed consistently well across all industries included: giveaways, alcohol-related, or those relating to holidays and current events. One smart note from the social media benchmark report is that hashtags are not equally used across social media channels. Use research and hashtag tools to identify the right hashtags and how many to use for each social channel. Update these monthly or quarterly for best effect. 

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Get started with benchmarking and analyzing social content performance with the Head to Head Social Snapshot, where brands can see 1:1 performance against the Rival IQ benchmarks. 

Go further by completing a social media audit that identifies the insights to set up strategic decisions for next year’s social media plans. I built a self-paced, free course that explains social auditing and insights, available to guide you through using social media metrics to audit and build social media strategy. 

How will you approach social media differently in 2022? Tweet me @LaurenTTeague to let me know.

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