Over the past few years, social media has changed the way consumers interact with brands, and the way brands reach consumers. Social media is widespread – pervading our daily lives – and offering marketers valuable data that removes the guesswork in developing strategy.
The question is no longer "does my brand need a social strategy?" but "how do I improve my social strategy?". At the end of the day, brands simply need to find social-centric ways to reach and retain an audience with authenticity and empathy. And the best place to start is with the data.
Here at Emplifi, we have the luxury of tapping into our own platform to pull social media data that sheds light on how brands are implementing social and what strategies are working best. Each quarter we release our findings to help our customers, and curious marketers, develop a social strategy based on actual data.
Our Q1 2022 findings encompass a variety of social media marketing efforts, with critical insights in three key areas: paid social, social media engagement, and social customer care.
Note: The analysis below uses the following acronyms for brevity:
QoQ: Quarter-over-quarter (Q1 2022 vs. Q4 2021)
YoY: Year-over-year (Q1 2022 vs. Q1 2021)
Some key takeaways from Q1 2022:
Median monthly social media ad spend in Q1 2022 was $3,631; a 19% dip QoQ after reaching a year-high during the holiday season in Q4 2021. However, ad spend increased 21% YoY.
Click-Through-Rates (CTR) for paid social media ads fell below 1%, continuing a steady decrease that was seen throughout 2021.
Median Facebook post interactions (likes, comments, shares) per 1K impressions was 5.4, representing a 17% drop YoY. On the other hand, median Instagram post interactions remained relatively stable over the past year, reaching 32.3 in Q1 2022.
Emplifi data suggests that publishing Instagram Stories in bulk rather than individually can result in lower Exit Rates and higher levels of users tapping back to rewatch them. Typically though, when brands publish multiple stories on a given day, followers are less likely to tap back and rewatch the first story of the day compared to the other stories they publish that day.
Brands were more likely to respond to user questions on Facebook and Instagram than on Twitter. While brands' median response times to user questions on Facebook and Instagram improved slightly in Q1 2022, they remained notably high (12.6 and 8.3 hours, respectively).
Facebook engagement rates (median post interactions per 1K impressions)
Instagram engagement rates (median post interactions per 1K impressions)
The current state of paid social media
Implementing a paid social media strategy is a bit intimidating to many marketers. Whether it’s boosting a post, featuring an ad, prompting likes, or messaging a group of people, paid social is used by the majority of brands.
Paid social is great for acquiring new followers, building brand awareness, driving traffic, and even bringing in sales. A data-driven approach to paid social will most likely produce tremendous results for savvy brands.
Comparing it to other digital marketing strategies like email or SEO, paid social media is just like other forms of marketing where free options can only take a brand so far. Injecting even a small budget into social media marketing can yield instant outcomes.
Organic posts are valuable for the brand’s existing audience, but to reach new audiences, paid social is the way to go.
The most valuable data when it comes to understanding the state of paid social media is found by analyzing ad spend, Click-Through-Rates (CTR), and Cost-Per-Click (CPC).
Global ad spend
Brands spend more on social media marketing leading up to the holidays to best position their products for the gift-giving season. So it's no surprise that after reaching a year-high in Q4 2021, the average brand spend on paid social decreased by 19% in Q1 2022, to $3,600 per month.
It’s worth noting though, that median ad spend increased 21% YoY, highlighting how much more brands have already invested in paid social this year.
Emplifi data shows that CTRs have consistently hovered around 1% throughout the last four quarters, showing a steady decrease since Q1 2021 and dipping 1% below last quarter.
This trend suggests that engagement remains fairly stable when consumers are interacting with paid social posts and that businesses can continue to depend on social media advertising to return value. The resilience of social media advertising combined with the effectiveness of the app algorithms to find the right people to engage with your content leads to positive advertising ROI.
Average Cost-Per-Click (CPC)
While CTR has steadily decreased, Emplifi data shows that CPC increased throughout the past year. But in Q1 2022, average CPC rates dropped to $0.18 after hitting a year-high level in Q4 2021. This translates to an 18% decrease.
Brands have quickly been realizing and harnessing the power of CPC campaigns on social media, making it a competitive space. While the average CPC dropped in Q1 2022, it will be interesting to see whether or not the upward trend that was seen before this quarter will continue.
Social media engagement rate
Engagement on social media clues brands in on the most effective posting strategies.
If someone likes, comments on, or shares a brand’s social media content, they are socially supporting that content as their followers can see this interaction. All brands want high engagement rates on social media, as this datapoint validates their social media marketing efforts. Doing a deep dive into engagement rates using Emplifi data offers a tangible benchmark for all social media marketing professionals.
Looking at each post and the median amount of interactions per 1,000 impressions is an easy way to evaluate this valuable information. It’s also wise to look at – and compare – engagement rates by industry as some industries do better on social than others.
Facebook engagement rates (median post interactions per 1K impressions)
After seeing a steady decrease throughout 2021, median Facebook post interactions saw a slight bump QoQ, reaching their highest level since Q2 2021.
However, Q1 2022 levels remain notably lower than Q1 2021, with brands earning approximately 5.4 interactions per 1K impressions, a 17% decrease YoY.
Instagram engagement rates (median post interactions per 1K impressions)
Applying the same lens to Instagram engagement, Emplifi data shows that Instagram posts received about 32 interactions per 1K impressions in Q1 2022. Despite some fluctuations over the past year, this figure is mostly on par with what was seen YoY and QoQ.
Comparing the number of interactions on the two platforms, Instagram clearly has higher engagement levels than Facebook, making it an attractive place for brands to interact with customers.
Engagement rates by industry
Some industries perform better than others on social media when it comes to engagement. As such, brands need to look not only at overall social media data, but also at how other brands in their industry are doing.
In Q1 2022, the median post interaction per 1K impressions on Facebook was 5.4. When breaking out average engagement by industry, brands in the Accommodation (11.1), Industrial (9.5), and Airlines (8.0) sectors performed the best – and well above average – while Ecommerce (2.9), Retail (3.4), and Retail Food (3.9) brands had the lowest engagement rates (2.9) – and fell well below average.
For the same time period on Instagram, interactions per 1K impressions were about 35. When we explore by industry, brands in the Beverages (47.3), Alcohol (46.8), and Software (45.0) sectors saw the highest levels of engagement, while Retail (16.9), Telecom (22.4), and Ecommerce (23.0) brands lagged behind with the lowest engagement rates.
Performance of Instagram Stories
In addition to standard photo and video posts, Instagram Stories provide brands with another way to share videos and photos that are visible on followers' Instagram accounts. What makes Instagram Stories unique is how they disappear after 24 hours, enticing followers to interact with them right away while they still can.
But what is the best way to publish Instagram Stories? Let's look at some key metrics, based on Q1 2022 Emplifi data, to gain a sense of which Stories are connecting the most with followers.
Back Taps: The number of times someone tapped back to rewatch the previous story. In other words, how often they wanted to rewatch your Instagram Story.
Exits: The number of times someone swiped out of your Instagram Story. In other words, when they decide to stop watching your Stories, for any number of reasons (good or bad). For example, when you've included a link they can follow to learn more about something you promoted in the Instagram Stories.
Brands that post multiple Instagram Stories in a given day are more likely to get lower Exit rates than those that post only one story per day.
Instagram Stories made up of short videos typically see higher Exit rates than those made up of images, or of videos that are split up into multiple Instagram Stories.
Followers are more likely to tap back or rewatch Instagram Stories when they were published in between other stories, or when it's the last one of the day.
Are brands seeing different results when they publish their Instagram Stories in bulk as opposed to publishing them one by one? Emplifi data suggests that brands that go the bulk route may see lower Exit rates and higher levels of taps back.
So, what does this data mean? Not all approaches to Instagram Stories are equal. The findings shared above can provide some guidance and offer different publishing strategies to consider, but you’ll want to experiment to see what works best for your followers.
Social customer care benchmarks
Social customer care is arguably as important as using various platforms for brand awareness. It involves directly interacting with consumers when they reach out to a brand on social media, which is a big part of retaining current customers and earning new ones.
Social media efforts related to customer service are a very recent shift. Gone are the days when consumers interact with brands by phone, email, or even traditional airmail – today’s consumers spend their time on social media, and that’s where they want brands to meet them.
Consumers have high expectations when it comes to how responsive brands are on social media. Brands are quickly trying to adapt to these expectations by blending client services with marketing on social media.
To analyze social media care, two key places to look are how often brands respond to user questions in the comments (response rate), and how quickly they respond to these questions (response time).
Response rate to user questions in comments
The average response rate when users ask a question on social media is a tangible way to apply data to determine how a brand is doing when it comes to social media care. For this exercise, we take a look at comments posted on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that include a question mark (“?”).
Q1 2021 Emplifi data shows that response rates have stayed stable QoQ, with the highest rates on Instagram and the lowest on Twitter. While figures have remained fairly stable across these three platforms, Facebook is the only one to have shown a slight decrease every quarter since Q1 2021.
This quarter, across all industries examined, Instagram had the highest response rates when compared to Facebook and Twitter.
When looking at engagement by industry, Beauty, FMCG Food, and Home & Living brands had comparatively higher response rates to user questions on social, while Automotive and Fashion brands had lower response rates.
Speed to answer user questions in the comments
Today’s consumers have high expectations of a brand’s social media presence, and response times to their questions can either solidify or lose a potential customer.
As consumers are taking their questions to social media more than ever before, Emplifi data shows that median response times among brands on Facebook and Instagram decreased slightly, QoQ, in Q1 2022 after having steadily increased in 2021. While response times on Facebook improved over Q1 2021, response times on Instagram have increased YoY.
As for Twitter, median response times saw a slight decrease for the second quarter in a row after having peaked in Q3 2021.
Interestingly, Twitter has the fastest response times and Facebook has the slowest, with Instagram falling in between the two. When considering response time by industry, Retail, Services, and Ecommerce brands fared better than other industries examined. Beauty, Automotive, and Home & Living brands were the slowest to respond.
What does it all mean?
Takeaway #1: Marketers still view paid social media as a key cog in their marketing mix, and are willing to pay the extra costs to reach their audiences.
While median ad spend was expected to dip in Q1 2022 following the holiday season, brands are still spending more than they were at this time last year even with decreasing CTR rates. Marketing teams must constantly seek ways to maximize the value of every dollar of ad spend and optimize the time spent creating social media content for their different profiles.
How can brands do this? The foundation of any successful social media campaign is content that truly resonates with your target audiences; content that makes people want to click "Like," share it with friends, or even take the next step in their purchase journey.
Takeaway #2: It all starts with truly understanding what consumers want and need at each stage of their purchase journeys. Then, it's critical to ensure that these insights reach your organization’s social media team at the right time so they can generate the most engaging content.
People want their questions answered quickly. In fact, 52% of consumers expect brands to respond to their questions within one hour. However, Emplifi data suggests that while brands' response times to user comments on Facebook and Instagram improved this quarter, they still often take hours to respond, potentially disappointing many users.
Takeaway #3: There is a critical need to continually evaluate and improve social customer care processes. Otherwise, there is a potential for brands to lose market share. Brands can take advantage of automated solutions such as AI chatbots, centralized community management tools, and dedicated social customer care tools to help them respond faster and resolve customer queries more efficiently.
The quarterly data presented in this report reflects the state of Emplifi’s database starting with the beginning of the previous quarter through the end of the previous quarter for the post. The data is pulled only once and is not updated between releases.
Median monthly ad spend: Calculated as median monthly ad account spend. Per each account we look at “total spend value” and from all of these ad accounts in one category, we calculate median value. All values are in USD. The charts displayed in the report show the average monthly median value for a given quarter.
Median monthly ad CPC: Calculated as median monthly ad account CPC. Per each account we look at “total spend value/total (all) clicks” and from all of these ad accounts in one category, we calculate median value. All values are in USD. The charts displayed in the report show the average monthly median value for a given quarter.
Median monthly ad CTR: Calculated as median monthly ad account CTR. Per each account we look at quarterly “total (all) clicks / total impressions” and from all of these ad accounts in one category, we calculate median value. All values are in USD. The charts displayed in the report show the average monthly median value for a given quarter.
Interactions / 1,000 impressions: Interactions on Facebook are calculated as a sum of all Reactions, Comments, and Shares on posts published by a Page. Interactions on Instagram are calculated as a sum of Likes and Comments on posts published by a profile. For charts displayed in the report, we calculated “Interaction / 1K impressions” for each post in the sample. Then median post value was calculated for each profile in the sample. In the last step, the median was calculated for the industry.
Instagram Stories average exit rate (Exits / Impressions) and average taps back rate (Taps back / Impressions) are calculated by taking the rate on each of the story separately, then calculating average per profile, and finally by calculating the average for the entire sample.
Response rate to user comment questions is based on English questions (2nd level) placed directly under the admin post (1st level). Answers are considered to be admin comments (3rd level) directly replying to the user comment (2nd level). First, the "answers/questions" ratio was calculated for each post, then the average was calculated for each profile. As the last step, the average is calculated for all profiles in the benchmark (industry).
Response time to user comment questions is based on English questions (2nd level) placed directly under the admin post (1st level). Answers are considered to be admin comments (3rd level) directly replying to the user comment (2nd level). Only answered comments are taken into account. First, the median response time was calculated for each post, then again median was calculated for each profile. As the last step, the median was calculated for all profiles in the benchmark (industry).
Additional terms relating to our Instagram Stories analysis:
Stories published in bulk: Stories that are published within a 5-minute window
Stories published individually: Stories that were published more than 5 minutes apart from other Stories.
Short video: Videos shorter than 15 seconds
Long Split video: Videos longer than 15 seconds. These automatically get split into multiple stories (sequence)