Social media agency slams Facebook benchmarks as ‘rubbish’, launches new benchmarks

Content and social media agency The Conscience Organisation has released what it claims are Facebook marketing benchmarks the industry should be adhering to.

The figures are, according to TCO, a measurement of Facebook community management success.

Founder Clive Burcham told Mumbrella: “TV has ratings, magazines have circulation figures and IAB has figures for digital, but there’s no benchmark in social other than those created by Facebook itself and agencies setting their own for clients, which are generally rubbish.”

TCO Facebook report

“We need some formality and rigour across the industry to deal with snake-oil salesmen and help clients get more bang for their buck. It’s a nuanced tactical environment. We’re all learning and those learnings change every few months. It’s time to let the cream rise to the top.”

TCO’s standards suggest that use engagement should range from 16.6% to 27.2%, and percentage of fans talking about a brand should range from 10% to 17%, compared with a Facebook average of 5%.

The figures have been released at the same time as Online Circle’s engagement figures for July.

The report rates engagement by sector, with banks and finance rating highest.

  1. Banks:  8.6%
  2. Trave- accomodation: 7.2%
  3. Retail grocery: 5.1
  4. Energy / utilities: 3.8%
  5. Department stores: 3.7%
  6. Retail / fashion: 3.4%
  7. Automotive: 3.3%
  8. Travel – airlines: 2.8%
  9. Pharmaceutical – 2.2%
  10. FMCG snackfoods: 2.1%Online Circle FB report


  1. Shamma
    22 Aug 12
    11:37 am

  2. what does any of this stuff even mean?

    The TCO benchmarks are straight biz dev – wheel them out in a preso and ask a client ‘what is your agency generating’. Smart.

    The Online Circle ones don’t mean anything at all.

    To measure engagement you generally have to understand what it means.

  3. Esther Clerehan
    22 Aug 12
    11:42 am

  4. Speaking of Facebook, how do we remove that annoying pop up when reading Mumbrella?

  5. RR
    22 Aug 12
    12:13 pm

  6. The methodology behind those metrics seems faultless.

  7. Golum
    22 Aug 12
    12:14 pm

  8. fine with me as long as TCO offers a money back guarantee if any of its work fails to meet its own benchmarks

  9. karalee
    22 Aug 12
    12:18 pm

  10. Props to TCO for effectively creating a pitch platform. While I agree SM should consider industry-wide standards of behaviour and measurement, between this and the Communications Council’s Social Media Guidelines, I’m left wondering how we (those working in this area) can take ourselves seriously…

    “It’s a nuanced tactical environment”. Bang on, Clive. Perhaps moving past ‘engagement’ figures and ‘sector benchmarks’ might help bring some credibility and industry standard to weed out the snake oil sales men (and women)?

  11. Trevor
    22 Aug 12
    12:31 pm

  12. Agree Esther. That pop up means it does not work at all on a iPhone.

  13. Kerry
    22 Aug 12
    12:38 pm

  14. Wouldn’t a metric of how facebook actually contributed to sales be more illuminating – creating a new language that encourages you to increase doing something that has no tangible result seems like snake oil sales (or religion) to me.

    just sayin….

  15. Mark Zuckerberg
    22 Aug 12
    12:58 pm

  16. You can’t Esther.

    Seriously good question though, they’re pissing me off. Why did I approve it?

  17. Carl
    22 Aug 12
    1:19 pm

  18. Esther couldn’t agree with you more about that annoying pop-up. Almost as annoying as disabling the Back button on your site.

  19. Marie
    22 Aug 12
    1:22 pm

  20. I love the pop up. What’s so annoying about it? New York Times does it as well – and normally it’s right on the money in suggesting stories I’d be interested in.

  21. Nathan
    22 Aug 12
    1:35 pm

  22. Both are a load of BS.

    They are influenced by paid advertising. Very easy to get a high ‘people talking about’ % when you’ve been sinking $$$ into cheap ‘like’ ads.

    I ask you, how on earth do you know creative is working if your measuring against a variable such as fan base?

    All an engaged user is is someone who has liked your page, or had an interaction with content. It gives you a broad spectrum of page health, nothing more.

    Want a true figure? then you need to get into the hard data that’s available. You need to look at your CONTENT, not the page as a whole. There are two data sets for each, both telling a different picture of what’s going on. But wait a second… it also helps you stay on strategy for your creative.

    Content interactions Vs Content impressions – not influence by advertising, takes into account reach and frequency. Gives you a nice percentage..or engagement rate.

    Clive Burcham says that agencies are setting their own benchmarks which are generally ‘rubbish’. Well sir, look at your own garbage.

    I really hope brand managers are not paying heed to this article and no damage is done. It’s hard enough educating people about the importance of real data and accountability without this crap being spouted.

  23. KS
    22 Aug 12
    1:45 pm

  24. Adblock works on it, Esther. I wouldn’t block it if it didn’t pop up every single time with all of the stories I’ve already read!

  25. Mark Zuckerberg
    22 Aug 12
    1:48 pm

  26. Esther, the only way to do that is not be logged into Facebook with the same browser that you’re using to view Mumbrella.

    P.S. Got a job for me?

  27. Media Neutral
    22 Aug 12
    2:13 pm

  28. HA! Love the subtlety of delivery RR. Outstanding.

    Mumbrella can you please send me a rate card for these advertorials? Do you do in house creative too? If so, just flick on another column and chuck a few points on top of TCO’s made up, made up stats.

    Oh, and average ‘virality”? Love, Love LOVE that shit. My two year old makes up words too.

  29. Cathie McGinn
    22 Aug 12
    2:57 pm

  30. Hi,

    We’ll be removing the Facebook recommend pop-up very soon. Readers that hate it seem to far outweigh those who don’t- thanks for letting us know.


    Cathie – Mumbrella

  31. Ralph
    22 Aug 12
    3:00 pm

  32. Keen irony that he says the measures agencies come up with are rubbish given he came up with measures and he is an agency.

  33. Esther Clerehan
    22 Aug 12
    3:15 pm

  34. @ Cathie McGinn


    22 Aug 12
    3:53 pm

  36. Standardised reporting available in real time means you can start measuring your return on investment (cost per conversion, engagement and transaction) Even edit your campaign in real time according to the data.

    Stay Tuned!

  37. LOL
    22 Aug 12
    4:16 pm

  38. Show me the data and how it was cut. Not a slide from a pitch deck.

  39. Liam
    22 Aug 12
    4:17 pm

  40. Assuming these figures are based on TCO run pages – they would be largely local and not global sites. Facebook includes global pages which have much lower engagement rates due to fans spread across multiple time zones (and locally targeted posts). So, a nice idea for locally run pages, but to call Facebook numbers rubbish is, for lack of a better term, rubbish.

  41. Emily
    22 Aug 12
    4:28 pm

  42. TCO forgot to mention that they pay for their posts to appear in the newsfeeds of their fans. It’s not all organic and viral engagement. I see the little ‘sponsored’ icon next to a fair chunk of the Facebook posts from the most prominent page they manage.

    Not making this clear seems like a ‘snake-oil salesmen’-type thing to do.

  43. Kate Richardson
    23 Aug 12
    7:46 am

  44. Looking forward to the day when someone can actually define engagement beyond its reference to an impending marriage

  45. max
    23 Aug 12
    9:34 am

  46. take the pop up off please!!!

  47. Peter Bray
    23 Aug 12
    9:55 am

  48. Meausuring performance by fanbase size is just plain stupid. Hopefully this isn’t being peddled by agencies of any type. What seems to be missing in the whole industry is an appreciation of Meaning.

  49. Nathan
    23 Aug 12
    10:17 am

  50. @Peter Bray

    Spot on mate.

  51. Tobacco Bush
    23 Aug 12
    1:26 pm

  52. Want a perfect example of “Likes’ on Facebook which don’t seem quite right?
    Take a look at ScienceAlert which has 1.6million “Likes” – more than NASA.
    This is a website run out of Canberra which recently managed to get $200,000 out of the Federal Govt.
    Mind you – most of the “likes” come from Nepal…… just doesn’t add up to me.

  53. Kim Hopwood
    23 Aug 12
    1:44 pm

  54. I love our attitudes of sledging people who are just having a crack at something. If you’re going to shoot someone down, do it constructively and suggest a solution. Don’t just bag them out. At least TCO is having a go.

  55. Jack
    24 Aug 12
    11:45 am

  56. Clive is absolutely right in the need for performance benchmarks. A number of people have already pointed out the issues with using “People Talking About”, namely media distorting the real level of engagement. And although you can’t separate organic from paid engagement (unless you have admin access) we need a more rigorous benchmark than People Talking About to measure how active a page is. Personally I prefer another interpretation of Engagement Rate. By taking the average total engagements (likes, comments & shares) for a post and then comparing that to total fan base you can strip out people liking the page counting towards engagement. You can see the Top 100 brand Facebook pages in Australia ranked by this interpretation of engagement here: Although the Fast 100 can’t segment paid and organic engagement, it’s time to move beyond PTAT as a metric for success.

  57. Nathan
    24 Aug 12
    1:25 pm

  58. Dividing engagement by the number of page fans still doesn’t work.

    There is one crucial thing missing here – not every fan sees a page post.. in fact 16% on average see a post by the brand – 30%+ if the post is a good one.

    Any engagement metric needs to take into consideration not only unique reach, but frequency. There are a number of ways a person can see a post on Facebook, Newsfeed is only one of them.

  59. Jack
    30 Aug 12
    2:16 pm

  60. That’s a good point Nathan, but how could you gauge the reach of competitor’s posts without admin access?

    Measuring by frequency faces the same problem. If we had access to those figures it would certainly give us a far more detailed measure of engagement.

    But with the data available, dividing engagement by fan page size still gives you a more nuanced view of how engaged a brand’s fan base is compared to PTAT.