A Marketer's Guide to Social Media Advertising Benchmarks

Why putting social campaign performance into context matters

Social media advertising has become a cornerstone of most marketing strategies. It’s an incredibly powerful vehicle for fueling brand growth and driving desired performance outcomes, like site visits and e-commerce activity. Our Social Media Shopping study found that over a third of consumers (39%) have already made an in-app purchase, and this will undoubtedly rise as social platforms introduce new pathways to purchasing products after being engaged by brand content.

As the value of social media advertising continues to grow, brands must  continuously optimize campaigns to win over… and retain consumers. Benchmarks are a helpful tool for marketers to better understand how their campaign performance in social media compares to competitors and other industries, as well as how social compares to other media channels. 

To help you leverage the value of social media advertising benchmarks, we put together this guide that answers the important questions:

What are social media advertising benchmarks?

Social media advertising benchmarks are standardized metrics used to evaluate ad effectiveness. They provide a framework for understanding how well your ads perform compared to previous campaigns and competitors’ ads. They indicate  how much incremental business growth may be attributed to your social campaign, along with how your social investments compare to other channels in your media mix.

Recessionary pressures across the industry have pushed ROI to the forefront. Proving the impact of advertising investments on your organization’s bottom line is more important than ever. Benchmarks allow you to gauge campaign effectiveness objectively, demonstrate whether the campaign is meeting its goals in context of your industry, and help identify areas for improvement.

Why do I need social media advertising benchmarks?

You may be asking, “why can’t I just use overall ad effectiveness benchmarks to measure social media performance?” And you can… but using social-specific benchmarks allows you to get a more accurate frame of reference for performance, so you can focus on the unique characteristics of the channel:

  1. Social media is one of the fastest growing advertising channels. In 2024, WARC  predicted that it will account for one-fifth of global ad spend, reaching $227 billion. This is due to social’s unique ability to reach influential younger audiences and digital-first consumers. But this also means that what people want to see from advertising content is evolving constantly.
  2. Social media offers innovative, engaging ad formats. Platforms are increasingly focused on dynamic and interactive content to capture the attention of ever-distracted consumers. However, this has also raised the bar for campaign effectiveness. Brands need to adopt casual tones, influencer partnerships, and platform-specific content to break through the noise.

How can I find trustworthy social media advertising benchmarks?

Your benchmarks are only as good as the aggregated campaign data used to create them. Considering the significant scale and longitudinal nature of normative datasets, data quality is of the utmost importance. We’ve outlined characteristics of high-quality social benchmarks to help you choose the right partner.

Metric breadth

Many benchmarks can tell you what a good or bad campaign looks like on a singular metric. However, if you want to see how your campaigns impact multiple metrics — and most social media marketers should — then you’re left relying on different sources for benchmarks. This is especially true as marketers increasingly seek to understand performance with attitudinal and behavioral metrics on social media.

Social media marketers need a research partner that offers behavioral outcomes on top of more traditional brand metrics. With social benchmark insights from both, you can see whether a campaign boosted awareness or favorability, and also whether it prompted downstream behaviors like search, site visits, and in-app purchases.

Consistency of source data

If you require two research providers to assess lift benchmarks — one for attitudes and another for digital behaviors — it’s difficult to determine if the change is significant enough to make valuable conclusions. Marketers should look for providers who can cover the vast majority of preferred metrics through one program. 

Consistency of source ensures each study is conducted on a similar social audience, eliminating the risk of comparing apples to oranges. Stronger conclusions allow for more effective communication with stakeholders. Explaining the nuances of multiple vendor datasets to an audience is an unenviable task, while describing findings from a single solution makes for a more compelling internal narrative.

Coverage across platforms

Keeping tabs on exposed and unexposed consumers in a highly fragmented social environment is challenging. Social platforms, in particular, are known for walling off specific user data, which leaves huge gaps in measurement validity. If your research provider can’t see on social platforms, benchmarks will be heavily biased toward those platforms where it does have access. 

When assessing your benchmark partner, look for providers with strong, consistent ways to view longitudinal consumer behaviors on social media. 

Recency of data

Benchmarks should change as the advertising landscape evolves. Campaigns tested 5-10 years ago may have launched at a time when consumer behavior differed notably from where it is today. Generational changes and COVID-19 impacts, are transforming advertising in ways that make recency a critical component of reliable benchmarks.

Be sure to review the relevance of campaigns included in any benchmarks you choose to use. You don’t want to evaluate performance against an aged dataset. Partner with a vendor who you can trust and who will continue to grow as the advertising industry evolves. Finding a provider who is more relevant in today’s environment can help future-proof your research efforts and normative comparisons.

How can I use social media advertising benchmarks to optimize campaigns?

Social media advertising is more than just creating compelling ads and targeting the right audience. It also involves continuously monitoring and optimizing campaigns to ensure they deliver maximum ROI. Social media advertising benchmarks offer answers to key questions about your ad effectiveness to help you better navigate conversations with the rest of your organization and continue to raise the bar on the brand experiences you deliver. 

Measuring performance against competitors and the broader industry.

By measuring your campaign metrics against overall and category benchmarks, you can identify areas where your performance exceeds industry averages and areas where it falls short. This analysis helps pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in your campaigns. If you are fortunate enough to work with a measurement partner who provides insight into category-specific benchmarks, you can also get a much clearer view of how you’re doing against your most successful competitors.

Identifying areas of improvement for in-flight optimization or future campaigns.

Identifying areas of improvement based on benchmark data enables marketers to refine their strategies and tactics. Are your ads failing to resonate with your target audience? Is your targeting too broad or too narrow? For instance, if your CTR (click through rate) is below the industry average, you may need to optimize your ad creatives or targeting parameters to enhance engagement.

Benchmarks can also be used to inform budget and resource allocation to optimize ROI. You can identify which platforms where you’re the most successful, or at which stage in the customer journey where you’re having the most impact. From there, reallocating resources intelligently can help you maximize ad spend.

Setting and socializing realistic goals for social media advertising campaigns.

Social media advertising benchmarks also serve as a valuable tool for setting realistic goals and expectations for your campaigns. Rather than aiming for arbitrary targets, use benchmarks as a guide to establish achievable objectives based on industry standards and historical performance data. Setting realistic goals ensures that your social campaigns are focused on delivering measurable results that align with your overall marketing objectives.

Measure ad effectiveness with DISQO’s full-funnel, cross-media benchmarks!

Because our audience members opt into having their digital behaviors metered across all channels—including all social media platforms—DISQO can see social media ad exposure without relying on tags or data provided by the platform itself. This allows us to leverage a consistent methodology across all studies and all platforms. 

Our 2024 Social Media Ad Effectiveness Benchmarks just dropped! Download now to compare your brand's performance across channels and categories. For a high-level view of industry performance, download our 2024 Brand Lift and Outcomes Lift Benchmarks.

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