For anyone following closely, what’s clear about social media marketing is that it continues to evolve alongside the people who use it. Just a few years ago, TikTok wasn’t on the radar of virtually any U.S. company. Now, it’s easily the fastest-growing channel out there. Change is inevitable, and it can happen faster than you think.
For our Social Media Benchmarks report, we examined hundreds of our clients’ social media accounts to gain a better understanding of how marketing and engagement are evolving over short periods of time, and to try to identify trends as they’re happening so that you can be better informed when building your strategy for 2023 and beyond.
Some of the data we came across was mostly expected, and some of it surprised us – and, we suspect, you as well. Especially when looking at the numbers from quarter to quarter, the numbers aren’t always intuitive. But it’s important to look at the data objectively if you’re going to make important decisions about budget and time allocation as we approach the end of the year.
Here’s what the data says, and what we think some of it might mean going forward.
Key takeaways from Q3 2022:
Overall, median social media ad spend increased year-over-year (YoY), ahead of an expected increase in Q4 during the holiday season.
This increase was driven in large part by North America, where brands increased their spending by more than 16% YoY (from $4,827 to $5,622).
Interestingly, Retail is the only industry in our analysis where spend has been consistently increasing in 2022.
An incoming recession could have some impact on end-of-year ad spend.
A gap in median post interactions continues to grow between Instagram and TikTok, with Instagram expanding its advantage again
It’s a similar story with post reach, with Instagram staying steady and TikTok dropping significantly
When Q2 began, TikTok easily outperformed Instagram when it came to video views. Instagram has flipped that in Q3.
However, the median reach engagement rate still favors TikTok by a fairly wide margin. This tells us that even though Tiktok reaches fewer people, those reached users are more willing to interact with the brand.
When it comes to fan growth, TikTok significantly outperforms Instagram
TikTok’s follower growth of close to 200% is a massive indicator of its explosive growth that’s currently happening.
Instagram’s median follower growth barely registered on our scale, which isn’t unexpected with a channel of Instagram’s maturity, but is still notable.
Click-through rate (CTR) continued its steady downward trend
For each quarter over the past year, overall CTR has steadily fallen for brands across social media channels
This trend is evident for every region in this analysis, with CTR down in each of them; this is most pronounced in Africa, where CTR is down 30% YoY (from 18.4% to 12.9%).
Most industries have seen a drop in CTR over the past year, with Beauty, Banks, and Accommodations the exceptions. The biggest decreases came in Retail and eCommerce.
In every industry except Fashion, brands respond fastest to comments on Twitter, but respond most often to comments on Instagram, and to Direct Messages on Facebook
Median response times to comments on Twitter continue to be less than half of Instagram and Facebook.
Every industry has a Facebook Direct Message response rate of over 70%, and some are over 80%. Some barely hit 40% on Twitter, or 30% on Instagram.
They also reply much quicker to Direct Messages on Facebook. That has been getting progressively better over the past year, from over 2 hours in Q3 2021 to about 45 minutes this quarter.
Perhaps relatedly, Facebook user questions in comments are up almost 50% YoY, from 2.1 questions per post to 2.9. In comparison, Instagram and Twitter are both either flat or down slightly.
The current state of paid social media
Global ad spend
Following a 16% jump in median monthly global ad spending in Q2, brand spending stayed steady in Q3, ticking down just 4% to remain well above where spending stood at the beginning of the year, representing a significant YoY gain.
That YoY gain is 13%, showing that major brands continue to see increasing value in investing budget in social advertising across most regions and industries.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)
Emplifi data shows the median monthly CTR continued its steady decline in Q3, with a 5% drop from Q2 after dropping below 1% in Q1. It has now fallen each quarter over the past year, decreasing nearly 11% YoY.
We still see solid numbers when it comes to engagement, with numbers remaining steady or even ticking up a bit on most channels, but the consistent decline in CTR is worth monitoring.
Median Cost-Per-Click (CPC)
After an 11% increase in Q2, median monthly CPC numbers fell 9% to get back to almost exactly where they were in Q1 2022 and YoY, suggesting this may be a reasonable baseline number.
Social media engagement rate
Facebook engagement rates (media post interactions per 1K impressions)
The engagement rate on Facebook has been remarkably steady over the past year-plus, staying within about 7% of its year-high rate throughout the past five quarters of results.
Compared to Q2, the Q3 engagement rate is essentially unchanged. YoY, the rate is down a little bit under 7%.
Instagram engagement rates (median post interactions per 1K impressions)
Engagement rates on Instagram are considerably higher than those on Facebook. But, similarly, they’ve been quite stable over the past year. Following a slight decrease earlier in 2022, a 3% bounceback this quarter brought the rate within 5% of the YoY high.
Engagement rates by industry
Depending on your industry, your expected results on social channels can vary quite a bit. It’s worth knowing the benchmarks for your specific industry rather than just accepting more general ones.
In Q3, the Industrial (10.42 median post interactions per 1K impressions) and Accommodation (9.17) industries had the highest rates, consistent with the results in Q2. On the other end of the spectrum, eCommerce (2.98), Retail (3.41), and Fashion (3.84) came in at the bottom when it comes to Facebook interactions.
When looking at the same period for Instagram, Software (43.24) and Alcohol (41.88) led the way, just as they did in Q2. Meanwhile, Retail (15.94) remained well behind other industries at the bottom of the list, while eCommerce (21.39) was next.
Looking at 463 sister TikTok and Instagram accounts from June 1 to September 30, it was interesting to see how Emplifi data showed these accounts compared across various metrics. Unsurprisingly – and similarly to the first six months of the year – Instagram brand accounts outperformed TikTok in median reach percentage (63% to 37%), median interactions (58% to 42%), and median video views (60% to 40%). But TikTok continued to shine in median reach engagement, with a 57% to 43% advantage.
Interestingly, when you look at how much relative median post interactions evolved across sister Instagram and TikTok accounts, Instagram had opened up an advantage of almost 40 percentage points by September. However, that change happened relatively quickly.
By early August, TikTok had closed a nearly 20-percentage-point gap to pull nearly even with Instagram and looked to have the momentum to search past until the two went in opposite directions over the next few months. A possible explanation for this is that the brands we see publishing on both Instagram and TikTok also have a higher propensity for creating Instagram Reels. And with Instagram perhaps giving Reels content a bit of a lift in order to keep pace with TikTok, numbers like this could make some sense.
Social customer care benchmarks
Response rate to user questions in comments
In Q3, Facebook and Instagram continued what has been a fairly steady decline in brands’ median response rate, reaching 24% and 28%, respectively. Meanwhile, Twitter’s response rate nudged up from 20.4% in Q2 to 21% in Q3.
For Facebook, the YoY drop in response rate sits at 14%. And with Instagram, the rate has dropped almost the same in the past two quarters, falling 13% since Q1.
When breaking the response rates down by industry, there are a couple of standouts:
Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Food had the highest numbers both on Facebook and Instagram.
Beauty brands were the most likely to respond on Twitter.
Speed to answer user questions in the comments
When it comes to the median time it takes for brands to respond to questions on each channel, Facebook continues to take the longest, but that gap is rapidly closing.
The median brand response time on Facebook has fallen almost 26% YoY, standing at just a little over 10 hours in Q3. Brands continue to be the quickest to respond on Twitter, taking 3-4 hours for the fifth straight quarter.
Breaking the numbers down by industry, we see some wild swings from one to the next:
Retail brands are doing the best on Facebook, responding in less than 5 hours.
Services are doing the best job with Instagram, getting back to people in about 4 hours.
eCommerce keeps close tabs on Twitter, catching up on customer questions in around an hour.
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 the 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 the 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 the 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.
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 TikTok vs. Instagram analysis:
Sister TikTok and Instagram Profiles: Profiles owned by the same Emplifi client on both Instagram and Tiktok that have the same handle (e.g., www.instagram.com/examplecompany and www.tiktok.com/@examplecompany.)
TikTok Engagements: Defined as the sum of Likes, comments, and shares.
Reach Engagement Rate: Defined as the sum of Engagements for a post, divided by total Reach for that post. For more information on the definition of these metrics, check out this resource (note: Socialbakers is now Emplifi).