Editor's Note: This post was originally created by Spredfast before the Spredfast + Lithium (now Khoros) merger.
Ever wonder how many likes or comments your brand's posts should be getting on Facebook? Calculating engagement benchmarks sounds easy in theory, but if you’ve ever been tasked with creating these benchmarks, you’ve had to make some difficult decisions first.
How should you calculate engagement rate? Should engagement benchmarks be uniform across all post types or should video be treated differently than text, link, and photo posts? Should you calculate benchmarks based on your past performance in an attempt to increase your brand’s engagement over time, or should you set benchmarks based on your competitors’ performance?
If your goal is to become a leader in your industry, setting benchmarks based on your competitors’ performance is ideal, yet the lack of insight into their paid strategy complicates the process. If your competitors are spending twice as much as you on social, you will find yourself setting a benchmark that is nearly impossible to reach.
In order to help you set benchmarks on an even playing field, we set out to calculate industry benchmarks for organic posts only. After all, if your brand's posts are falling behind organically, boosting the post with paid spend won’t fix the problem—failing to meet your benchmark on organic posts means you will need to improve the quality of your content to make your paid strategy effective. To set industry benchmarks for organic posts, our research team aggregated 73 thousand organic posts from Facebook pages operated by 33 of the largest brands in five key industries: media, consumer packaged goods (CPG), retail, financial services, and travel and hospitality.
Travel leads in likes, finserv, and media fall behind
Travel and hospitality companies receive the most likes per view, while organic content from media companies average the lowest number of likes. Why do media companies receive fewer likes than other industries? Although media brands publish some content that achieves thousands of likes, the same brands put out content that sees the lowest like-per-view ratios.
These low-engagement posts are almost always from the many local Facebook pages operated by large media companies. The largest leading media brands often have one or several main Facebook pages that cater to audiences across the world, but they also operate hundreds of pages that cater to small regions. On these regional pages, organic posts often do not receive any likes, despite these pages having thousands, or sometimes hundreds of thousands of fans.
If likes are your goal, post more photos
Post type has a large impact on likes-per-view, but the impact is different between industries. Photo posts generate the most likes per view across industries and they perform better than text or video for all industries except travel and hospitality. Photos receive one-third more likes per view than the average.
Live videos are most effective for travel and hospitality companies, averaging 10 likes per one thousand views—this means one out of every hundred people who sees a live video posted by a travel or hospitality brand clicked “like.” One out of one hundred may not seem like much, but it's an exceptionally high like rate for a branded post.
In contrast, live videos are the least effective content form in generating likes for financial services companies—and, surprisingly, media companies. However, in the case of media companies, few likes is often reflective of the post type rather than the quality of the content. Live videos from news outlets in particular generated few likes because of negative content that is not intended to drive likes, such as news coverage of a missing child.
For media companies, cover photo updates receive the most likes per view. Travel brand Airbnb achieves the highest rate of success with their Airbnb Concerts series. Though many of these posts are published to Airbnb’s main Facebook page which has over 11 million fans, the event posts receive only a few thousand total impressions, which means they are targeted to a small sub-segment of their fans. Of the small audience that does see the event pop up in their newsfeeds, hundreds click “like.”
Finserv leads in comments, but this could be bad for brands
The industries that lead in comments per view illustrate one of the most important insights regarding comment volume: leading in comment volume is not always a positive. Financial services companies see a high volume of comments: they receive nearly twice as many comments per view than average across all industries. While comment volume is higher, a higher share of those comments are negative compared to other industries. Financial services brands also receive more questions from their audience than other industries and they respond to comments more often. CPG brands receive the second highest volume of comments for largely the same reasons: their comments are often complaints and questions about products that demand a response.
Brands of all types have an opportunity to generate more post comments if they incorporate live video. Media companies posted 94% of the live videos we studied in our analysis during the month of January. Live videos comprise about 1% of content from media brands, which may not seem significant until you realize that the fraction falls to less than one-tenth of one percent for other industries.
People stay longer to watch awards shows and live news coverage
People watch videos posted by media companies for approximately three times longer than they watch videos posted by CPG, finserv, retail, or travel and hospitality brands. This explains why videos posted by media companies receive few likes—people are engaging with media brands’ videos by clicking play and they are spending time watching, rather than liking, the posts.
The trade-off between viewing and liking a post illustrates an important rule of benchmarking: marketers should set different engagement benchmarks for different content types. If media brands were to judge the impact of their videos by the number of likes the videos received, most videos would fall short of the benchmark. However, videos from media companies are meant to entertain. A long average view time is more indicative of success than a high like count, therefore video benchmarks should prioritize views while other types of posts may prioritize likes.
Though average view time per video is longest for media companies, when we look exclusively at live videos, CPG companies produce the content that is watched the longest. Retail brands also perform much better when posting live videos, ranking third behind CPG and media brands in average view time. Both the CPG and retail live videos that perform best are those related to beauty. The two highest-performing videos for CPG and retails brands, respectively, are a live makeup tutorial video by Maybelline New York and a live workout posted by Kohl’s.
People stay longer to watch awards shows and live news coverage
If the video is live, the average time viewers spend watching the video is nearly twice as long. Industries that take advantage of more live content are more likely to captivate their audience's attention for longer as a result. We found that the top 1% of videos viewed for the longest average duration are livestreams of awards shows, high-profile political speeches, or live news footage. Of the nearly eight thousand videos we analyzed, the one that was watched longest, on average, was a live stream of the Golden Globe Awards posted to Australia’s ABC Landline Facebook page. Other videos that landed in the top 1% in terms of average time watched included videos of Trump’s State of the Union Address (interestingly, also from an Australian news channel), a high-speed car chase, and a livestream of the 2008 Golden Guitar Awards.
Put benchmarks to use for your industry
Avoid creating region-specific Facebook pages unless there is both enough engaging content to fill the page and a large enough audience to engage with the content. Many of the posts with the fewest likes per view are from regional media outlets with thousands of fans, yet these posts receive little to no engagement.
Finserv companies should be prepared to respond to a high volume of comments, not all of which will be positive. People are five times as likely to comment on a finserv post compared to posts by other industry brands, but the comments are also most likely to be negative. Finserv brands also respond to comments on their Facebook posts most often, setting a standard for the industry.
Travel & Hospitality
Create Facebook invites for any events that your travel or hospitality brand hosts. Organic events posts see more likes per view than other post types. Airbnb was successful in achieving one of the highest like-to-view ratios among hospitality brands largely because of their Airbnb Concerts series, which piqued the interest of local music fans.
CPG should experiment using more live video, especially to promote beauty products. CPG brands see the highest average view times on live videos compared to other industries thanks to high-performing makeup and hair tutorials. Though live videos perform well, they comprise less than one-tenth of one percent of CPG brand posts.
Like CPG brands, retail brands also see success promoting beauty products with live videos. However, photo posts drove the most likes for retail brands by far. Retail brands should experiment with urging their audiences to tag friends in organic posts featuring the product as these posts receive the most likes per view on organic posts. Organic posts are mainly seen by those who already are fans of the brand, and urging fans to tag a friend is a safe way to spread brand love to friends of fans.