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Benchmarking social media

Author's avatar By Annmarie Hanlon 07 Aug, 2010
Essential Essential topic

Using The Social Media Balance Sheet"„¢ tool to measure social media presence - for sector and competitor research

Social Media Metrics have to date mainly focused on the view of their effectiveness from inside the company. At Evonomie we"€™ve been looking for a while for an external qualitative method to measure companies"€™ online activities as part of a strategic review.

Internal or in-company quantitative methods are in abundance and focus on activity, surveys and return on investment (ROI). These are certainly valid metrics and there is a comprehensive list in Jim Sterne"€™s book Social Media Metrics. The real question when conducting research is how can you capture the metrics if you"€™re outside the company? You don"€™t have access to their analytics so need to make a judgement on what"€™s important and whether the information is available.

Benefits of benchmarking competitor use of social media

Reasons we want to measure the social media activity from an external perspective include:

  • The review competitors"€™ activity, their strengths and weaknesses
  • To understand where and how the market segment is using social media
  • To identify opportunities
  • To identify threats
  • To review new markets companies may consider moving into

There are advantages of The Social Media Balance Sheet"„¢ from an internal perspective too:

  • Once completed, it provides a benchmark and can be reviewed for ongoing comparative analysis of the market sector and / or key competitors
  • It is a tool for in house brand managers to ensure no brand creep is taking place
  • It is a great way to explain to staff how and why it"€™s essential to maintain key brand messages


We needed a methodology that would provide a 'one page snapshot' of what was happening with several companies and after trial and error we"€™ve developed The Social Media Balance Sheet"„¢.  This provides a summary of the key issues. I"€™ve shared this here along with the rationale as to why these areas were considered important.

Using since A way to identify early adopters. When did the organisation embrace social media or dip their toe into the digital waters? Are brand leaders leading the field?
Who updating To understand their commitment to social media. Is it an internal person (junior, senior, IT or marketing) or an external agency? All the updates on one day or over a period of time?
When updating Social media is 24/7, how does the organisation manage this? Monday to Friday or more?
Latest update To measure activity and if the account is still current. Have they captured their brand name but not taken action?
Contribution To see the impact of their communications. The number of updates (may be linked to number of fans) and interaction from their network.
Network size To gauge their share of the voice in the sector.
Programmes used To look at their management of social media. Multiple programmes or streamlined?
Joined up To understand their approach to marketing and whether it"€™s integrated throughout all their communications. Links to landing pages
Identity format To identify brand consistency and brand creep. Some companies use a corporate face, others use the individuals within the company, what identity is being used?

We have been reviewing the top 10 UK FTSE 100 companies"€™ activities and their social media approach. So far we"€™ve reviewed:

  • Lloyds Banking Group PLC
  • Vodafone Group Plc
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC
  • BP Plc
  • National Grid Plc
  • Barclays PLC
  • BT Group PLC
  • Income & Growth VCT
  • HSBC Holdings PLC
  • Prudential Plc

Initial results of benchmarking

Our initial conclusions as to the social media being actively used (i.e. within the last 2 months) show that Facebook and Twitter are the most popular vehicles for these companies. As you might expect, a telecoms company, Vodafone, is using the most social media tools.

Within this group of 10 we discovered that blogs and photo sharing sites were not popular. This may be as blogging requires more effort from the company and is less interactive and engaging than Facebook. Equally photo sharing sites represent a challenge for service businesses as I"€™m not sure I would stand in my bank and take photos! Five of the companies reviewed were in financial services and these companies are lowest users of social media.

The overview shown here illustrates which social media tools these FTSE companies are currently using (nb this is subject to change within any hour!)

Company Blog Facebook Twitter YouTube Photo sharing No of tools being used by company
Vodafone Group Plc X Y Y Y X 3
The Royal Bank of Scotland PLC X Y YRBS_Economics X X 2
National Grid Plc X Y X Y X 2
BT Group PLC Y X Y btcare X X 2
HSBC Holdings PLC Y X Y hsbc uk careers X X 2
Lloyds Banking Group Plc X Y X X X 1
BP Plc X X BP America X BP America X BP America Y 1
Barclays PLC X X X X X 0
Income & Growth VCT plc X X X X X 0

We were surprised that the adoption of social media as part of an overall marketing strategy was so low within this group. Over the next 5 years social media tools will change our business models yet these giant corporations are largely ignoring its potential.

Notably, BP, which has recently been in the news a great deal in the UK and US and yet their social media presence is restricted to the US only. A Sunday paper reported that BP had hired Brunswick (specialist financial PR company) to help with PR. Will this have an impact on their social media?

One of the challenges is that failure to adopt social media may result in others (detractors, campaigners) taking your share of the voice and controlling your message. What"€™s your company"€™s approach to social media?

We"€™re adding more details to this review in future blog posts. In the meantime, do you have any examples of benchmarking or corporate company use of social media that you can share?

Author's avatar

By Annmarie Hanlon

Annmarie Hanlon PhD is an academic and practitioner in strategic digital marketing and the application of social media for business. Dr Hanlon has expertise in the strategic application of social media for business and the move from digitization, to digitalization and digital transformation for business. Her expertise spans consumer touch points, online customer service, the use of reviews, the role of influencers, online engagement and digital content. You can follow her update on Twitter https://twitter.com/annmariehanlon

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