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The HubSpot Blog’s 2022 Instagram Marketing Trends Report



The HubSpot Blog’s 2022 Instagram Marketing Trends Report

If you’ve been on Instagram lately, you’ve probably noticed that the app looks a bit different every time you log on.

The heart-shaped notification button seems to move with a mind of its own, IGTV has disappeared, and the addition of the Reels and Shop buttons has completely changed the way we interact with the platform.

While these changes seem arbitrary, they’re the crucial next steps in Instagram’s evolution into a video-centric social shopping platform.

In 2022, Instagram will continue to prioritize video, expand on social shopping tools, make it easier for creators to monetize their content and partner with brands, and rework direct messaging (DM) interfaces.

While these shifts align with the trends we saw in our Social Media Trends survey, we decided to dive even deeper by asking another 580 Instagram marketers about how they’ll approach marketing on this changing platform in 2022.

Top Instagram Marketing Survey Findings

Based on our results, most Instagram marketers are already ahead of the game:

  • 79% have leveraged Instagram Shopping tools and one in three plan to use them for the first time in 2022.  
  • 82% post video content on the platform and the content formats they use most are video-based.
  • Instagram Live has the highest ROI of any content format. It is also the most effective for gaining followers, gets the most shares, and will see the most investment from Instagram marketers this year.
  • Content that reflects your brand’s values and showcases your products/services have the highest ROI on Instagram.
  • The best strategies to grow your following on Instagram are posting interactive and engaging stories, engaging with other users, and partnering with influencers.
  • Instagram marketers will prioritize fostering relationships with their customers in 2022 by focusing on interacting with their audience and creating content that encourages engagement.
  • 35% use the app for customer service and see high ROI.
  • 30% work with influencers (or creators) and 42% plan to start this year.
  • 84% say Instagram marketing was effective for their company last year.

what percentage of marketers find their Instagram Strategy EffectiveNow that we’ve given you a taste of our survey findings, let’s dive deeper and take a look at some Instagram benchmarks to help you see how your brand’s account stacks up against the competition. 

If you’re looking for some specific insights, click below to jump to the section you’d like to read first.

Instagram Marketing Benchmarks To Know In 2022

1. Over half of branded Instagram accounts have between 10K-100K followers.

More than a quarter, or 27%, of branded accounts have under 10,000 followers, while 19% have over 100K. Regardless of the size of your community, stay tuned for a breakdown of the top strategies for growing your Instagram following.

how many instagram followers do you have

2. Impressions can come from anywhere on the platform.

Hashtags, Explore, and Profile, are all tied at 19% for the top Instagram impression sources, but Home and Location are just slightly behind.

top sources of instagram impressionsHashtags and Profile are more easily discoverable by search, so make sure your handle and hashtags are search-optimized.

Some posts may do exceptionally well due to a certain combination of hashtags you used, or thanks to the algorithm suggesting your content on the Explore page. Take a look at where the impressions came from on your top posts and keep an eye out for any patterns you can turn into a consistent strategy to re-create your success.

3. Less than half of business accounts have major YoY follower growth.

But, this doesn’t mean brand accounts are dramatically losing followers. In reality, only 14% report a loss while 42% have a stagnant following. 

How have follower counts changed on your Instagram channels

Now that we’ve gone over some benchmarks, let’s talk about goals and strategies.

Instagram Marketing Strategies

Top Strategies and Goals of Instagram Marketers

With all the changes coming to the platform, marketers’ goals on Instagram are also shifting.

The top goals Instagram marketers have for 2022 are increasing brand awareness/reaching new audiences, advertising their products/services, increasing sales, fostering relationships with customers/increasing brand loyalty, and improving customer service and retention.

primary goals of instagram marketers

Let’s talk about each of these goals in terms of how they relate to Instagram’s changing platform.

1. Spreading Brand Awareness with Content Like Videos

Instagram has made clear that its focus is turning away from photos and toward video content. Not only does this indicate that Instagram users are more interested in seeing video content, but we can assume that video content will be more likely to be suggested to users by Instagram’s algorithm.

But which type of videos should you be making?

If the amount of Reels present on your Instagram feed and explore page didn’t give it away, Instagram also added a dedicated tab for Reels in the navigation bar to drive the point home — Reels are taking over.

And it’s not just Instagram — our social media trends survey found that short-form video is the most popular and effective format across all social platforms.

So to reach the widest audience on Instagram this year, focus on videos, especially Reels.

2. Driving Leads and Conversions With Instagram Advertising.

Advertising products/services is another top goal for Instagram marketers, and they will accomplish this by creating content showcasing their products/services and leveraging Instagram’s new shopping tools.

Content centered around a brand’s products/services is the second most popular type of content among Instagram Marketers and has the second-highest ROI of any content type.

Instagram Strategies with the Highest ROIMy survey also found that marketers who leverage this type of content are 13% more likely to say their Instagram strategy was effective last year than those who don’t.

However, the most popular and most effective Instagram marketing strategy is leveraging the app’s shopping tools. But with a handful to choose from, let’s take a look at which ones perform the best.

Screen Shot 2022-04-11 at 3.27.37 PM

3. Gaining Revenue With Instagram Shopping Tools

Although Instagram Shopping tools are still rather new and evolving, Instagram Shopping strategies offer the highest ROI and are already used most by Instagram marketers

While just 37% currently use the app’s shopping tools, 94% of them will increase or maintain their investment this year. On top of that, one in three plan to use Instagram shopping tools for the first time this year.

Also, marketers who leverage Instagram’s shopping tools are 15% more likely to say their Instagram strategy was effective last year than those who don’t. So which tools perform best?

Of the shopping tools, Instagram Live Shopping and Instagram Shops have the highest ROI and are the most leveraged.

1650395694 913 The HubSpot Blogs 2022 Instagram Marketing Trends Report

Additionally, the use of both will grow significantly in 2022, with 55% planning to try Instagram Shops and 48% planning to use Instagram Live Shopping for the first time.

Instagram feed shopping posts, Instagram Stories Shopping, and Instagram Guides Shopping are all used by over one in three marketers and are just behind Instagram Shops and Instagram live Shopping for ROI.

Reels Shopping has the lowest use and ROI, however, 42% of Instagram marketers plan to use Reels Shopping for the first time this year, the 3rd highest of any Instagram shopping tool.

which shopping tools will brands use for the first time

Is selling on Instagram right for you? And, what are the biggest benefits and challenges you could see when using it? Stay tuned for a deep dive on even more data that we’ll be sure to link to this post. 

4. Building Customer Relationships and Community

The ability to foster meaningful relationships with customers is one of the biggest benefits of having a brand presence on social media platforms, so it’s no surprise that this is a top goal for Instagram marketers that will become even more of a priority in 2022.

Marketers will accomplish this by investing in interacting with their audience and creating content that encourages engagement.

1650395694 150 The HubSpot Blogs 2022 Instagram Marketing Trends Report

The Importance of Interacting With Your Audience

Audience interaction is the #1Instagram strategy marketers plan to leverage for the first time in 2022, with 46% planning to try it this year. On top of that, 15% of marketers plan to invest in it more than any other Instagram marketing strategy.

1650395695 53 The HubSpot Blogs 2022 Instagram Marketing Trends ReportInstagram offers a wide variety of ways to interact with your audience, from simple reactions to comments and DMs. Taking the time to engage with your followers can make them feel special and strengthen their bond with your brand. But interaction is a two-way street, so you’ll also want to create content that encourages engagement.

5. Putting Engaging Content Before Other Tactics

Creating content that encourages engagement is the strategy Instagram marketers plan to invest the most in for 2022, with 17% planning to invest more in it than any other strategy.

Additionally, 43% plan to use it for the first time in 2022, the second-highest of any Instagram marketing strategy, and it has 3rd highest ROI of any strategy.

instagram marketing strategy with the best ROIEncouraging engagement can be as simple as ending your video with a question that your followers can respond to in the comments, running a poll on your story, or going live and having a conversation with your viewers.

Going out of your way to connect with those in your digital community, especially when you aren’t trying to sell them anything, can help foster a deep relationship between them and your brand.

But there’s another great way to leverage Instagram to help serve your customers and keep them coming back – using the app for customer service.

6. Embracing Customer Service

Being a marketer doesn’t mean you should toss good customer service opportunities aside on Instagram. 28% of Instagram marketers say improving customer service and retention is among their top goals in 2022, and with good reason. Leveraging Instagram for customer service is the 2nd most used Instagram marketing strategy and has the 2nd highest ROI of any strategy.

To make the case for providing customer service on the app even stronger, I found that marketers and brands who leverage Instagram for customer service are 17% more likely to say their Instagram strategy was effective last year compared to those who don’t.

7. Leveraging Hashtags

Hashtags have been around on Instagram since 2011, and 82% of Instagram marketers continue to leverage them, with 85% following a documented hashtag strategy. But are they effective?

80% of Instagram marketers say hashtags were effective for their Instagram strategy last year. Furthermore, marketers who leverage hashtags when posting on Instagram are 23% more likely to say Instagram marketing was effective for their brand last year. That number goes up to 30% when looking at those with a document hashtag strategy.

We also found that marketers who use a mix of niche and general hashtags are 20% more likely to say Instagram marketing was effective for their brand in 2021. 

Make sure to leverage a few specific hashtags like #Dachsunds along with more popular ones like #Dogs for the best results.

How Many Hashtags Should You Use on Instagram?

Our survey shows that 62% of Instagram marketers use 4-9 hashtags, and only 1% use the maximum of 30.

how many hashtags do instagram marketers use

Also consider using a branded hashtag when posting on Instagram, such as #CocaCola, for example.

53% of marketers say most of the brands they work for use branded hashtags, which can be great for creating a community around your brand and offer an easy way to find posts from or about your brand in one place.

Next, let’s talk about which call-to-action is most effective on Instagram.

8. Including Calls to Action in Content

We asked Instagram marketers whether asking followers to “like,” “share,” or “save” their content is most effective at triggering the algorithm to promote their content, as these are known to be the top metrics Instagram monitors. Here are the results:

the most effective CTA type on Instagram

While Instagram marketers rank likes at #1, shares second, and saves last, I would argue that this is backwards.

To explain why, consider your behavior when on Instagram. If you’re like me, you probably give out likes mindlessly while scrolling through your feed, but how often are you sharing content to your story or in chats with friends? How often are you saving posts to look at later? Those pieces of content are probably much more carefully selected.

When we share posts on Instagram, we are telling others that we found the content so valuable that we couldn’t help but share it with them – the algorithm picks up on this. Sharing also gets bonus points because it inherently exposes more people to a piece of content.

Similarly, when saving content, we tell the algorithm that we found it so valuable that we want to bookmark it for future reference.

So while all three of these are the most important metrics Instagram tracks, I would prioritize saving, sharing, or even commenting in your call-to-actions ahead of asking for likes.

Strategies Marketers Aren’t Using in 2022

User-generated content, contests or giveaways, and affiliate marketing have low usage, ROI, and are the least likely to be leveraged on Instagram for the first time in 2022.

While these strategies can still be successful and valuable to some brands, marketers we surveyed say they are not as effective as the other strategies we asked about.

If you’re having difficulty building an effective UGC, affiliate marketing, or giveaway plan, consider alternatives, like partnering with influencers in your niche who can generate authentic content for your brand to establish social proof and spread awareness. Our marketing trends survey found influencer marketing to be the most popular and most effective trend, with the highest ROI.

Now that we’ve gone over Instagram marketers’ goals and strategies in 2022, let’s talk about which formats are most effective on the platform.

Which Instagram Formats Are Most Effective?

The formats Instagram marketers leverage most are live, stories, and interviews/Q&A/Expert discussions. Let’s take an in-depth look at each of them.

1650395695 83 The HubSpot Blogs 2022 Instagram Marketing Trends Report

Instagram Live

Instagram Live has the highest ROI and use will grow significantly in 2022 as 49% of Instagram marketers will invest in Instagram Live for the first time and 22% will invest more in Instagram live than any other format.

which formats do marketers leverage on InstagramWe also asked Instagram marketers which format is most effective for gaining followers, and Instagram Live came out ahead there as well, though closely followed by stories and feed posts.

which instagram formats provide ROI


Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories have the 2nd best ROI and are leveraged by 45% of Instagram marketers. Of those who don’t use it, 45% plan to leverage stories for the first time in 2022, the 2nd highest of any format. Instagram stories are also the #2 format for gaining followers and getting your content shared on IG.

Which format gets the most shares on instagram

Interviews, Q&As, and Expert Discussions

Interviews/Q&As/Expert discussions are used by 31% of marketers, with 42% planning to try them for the first time in 2022 and 10% planning to invest more in them than any other format.

which format gets the most shares on Instagram

Instagram Reels

Only one in four Instagram marketers use Reels and just 29% of Instagram marketers plan to leverage reels for the first time in 2022.

1650395697 934 The HubSpot Blogs 2022 Instagram Marketing Trends Report

While Reels fall in the middle of the pack across all metrics, we believe that this is feature is greatly underutilized and could actually provide unique and new opportunities for brands.

In fact, brands and influencers who have focused on it have seen major benefits to leveraging it. For example, we recently spoke with Kar Brulhart, who has organically grown her Instagram account from zero to 45,000+ viewers in under 10 months using Reels. She told us about the incredible opportunity Reels presents for Instagram marketers:

 “I went from less than 2,000 followers in February 2020 to over 15,000 the next month through Reels, because Instagram is pushing Reels to new audiences. And 75% of the people who find my account are coming from Reels — compared to Stories and posts.”

Considering the popularity of short-form videos and the emphasis Instagram is placing on Reels, Instagram marketers may want to give Reels a shot as they are relatively easy to make and can provide a boost in exposure.

Now that we’ve gone over the top formats, let’s take a look at which content types are most popular on Instagram.

Which Types Of Content Perform Best On Instagram?

The top Instagram content types reflect a brand’s values, are centered around a brand’s products/services, are interactive, authentic, and funny. Let’s take a look at what makes each of these content types so popular among Instagram marketers.

Content That Reflects Brand Values

Content that reflects a brand’s values was the #1 content type in our social media trends survey and that is also true for Instagram marketers, 44% of whom use it.

which instagram content types have the highest ROI

Instagram marketers say it has the highest ROI of any content type. Additionally, 45% say they will invest in it for the first time in 2022, the highest of any content type, and 11% will invest more in it than any other type of content.

which types of content to Instagram marketers plan to invest in

Content Centered Around A Brand’s Products/Services

Content centered around a brand’s products/services is leveraged by 39% of Instagram marketers and has the 2nd highest ROI. 39% will leverage this type of content for the first time in 2022.

content types with the highest ROIInteractive Content and/or Authentic/Behind-the-Scenes Content

Interactive content and authentic/”behind the scenes” content are both popular among Instagram marketers and will grow in 2022.

44% of Instagram marketers plan to leverage interactive content for the first time in 2022, followed by Authentic/”Behind the scenes” content at 40%. Both are tied at the #1 spot for the content type marketers plan to invest more in than any other in 2022.

Funny Content

Funny content is the most effective for getting followers, shares, and engagement on IG.

1650395698 909 The HubSpot Blogs 2022 Instagram Marketing Trends Report

Now that we’ve gone over the different Instagram formats and content types, let’s dig into the top strategies for growing your following on Instagram.

Instagram Audience Growth Benchmarks

How Brands Grow Instagram Audiences

To grow your following on Instagram, the top 3 strategies are posting interactive and engaging stories, engaging with other users, and partnering with influencers.

1650395698 497 The HubSpot Blogs 2022 Instagram Marketing Trends Report

At #4, sharing your Instagram page and content on various channels, like other social media platforms or your website, is also important for growth.

The next most popular strategy is diversifying your content to resonate with a wider audience, but you’ll also want to study your audience for trends and make targeted content to attract others with similar interests.

Another powerful growth strategy is adding a simple call-to-action to “like,” “save,” or “share” your content at the very end of your captions – if someone read it all the way through, they probably got value from your content and will be inclined to comply. If users take these actions, it will give your content a boost in the eyes of the algorithm and put it in front of more people, who may end up following you.

Lastly, you can also get a boost in growth by partnering with brands or accounts in a similar niche, as their audiences will likely be interested in your content as well.

These are the best strategies to grow your following in general, but we also asked marketers about the top strategies they used to reach their first thousand followers, and the results show some key differences.

How To Get Your First 1,000 Instagram Followers

Earning your first 1,000 followers on Instagram is a massive milestone, and 78% of Instagram marketers have been part of growing an account to 1k followers. According to them, creating shareable content and captions, as well as using relevant hashtags are key to reaching your first 1k followers.

strategies brands used to get their first 1000 followers

Remember that the formats most effective at getting shares are live video, stories, and feed posts, while the top content types for shares are funny, interactive, and reflective of your brand’s values.

Now that you know how to reach 1,000 followers, you may be wondering how long it might take.

How Long Does It Take To Reach 1,000 Followers On Instagram?

Around 1 in 4 Instagram marketers reach 1,000 followers in 1-3 months, while 39% say it takes 4-6 months. Only 13% were able to reach the 1k milestone in under a month, and just 1% took over a year.

But just as you gain followers, it’s also possible to lose them. Let’s take a look at what has caused Instagram marketers to lose followers, so you can avoid those mistakes.

What Causes Instagram Marketers To Lose Followers?

Not posting enough and being too “sales-y” are the top culprits when it comes to losing followers. 1 in 3 Instagram marketers also report losing followers from posting too often and not being consistent with their brand voice or aesthetic.

Lastly, using “banned” hashtags can result in your posts being hidden. You can check if a hashtag is banned by searching it on Instagram and looking at the top or most recent posts — if those sections come up empty, it’s likely banned. what causes instagram accounts to lose followers

Speaking of hashtags, we asked marketers how many they use, and whether broad or niche hashtags perform better. Let’s take a look at the results.

Instagram Video Features

In line with Instagram’s video-centric changes, 82% of Instagram marketers currently post videos on the platform, and those who do are 16% more likely to say Instagram marketing was effective for their brand last year.

The most popular video formats among marketers are Instagram Live, posting videos to their stories, posting videos to their feeds, and Instagram Reels.most used instagram video features

So let’s take a look at some feature-specific data on each of these.

Instagram Live

Instagram live is not only the most leveraged video feature, but marketers who use it are 22% more likely to say that Instagram marketing was effective for their brand last year. Here are the content types that get the most engagement when going live on Instagram:

1650395699 882 The HubSpot Blogs 2022 Instagram Marketing Trends Report

Instagram Stories

78% of Instagram marketers leverage stories, and those who do are 23% more likely to say that Instagram marketing was effective for their brand last year.

But how often should you be posting stories? 43% post stories multiple times a week, while 26% post multiple times a day, and 23% post daily.

How often do marketers use Instagram storiesAnother common question is how long stories should be. 75% of Instagram marketers who leverage stories say their audience watches 4-9 story pages before dropping off, with only 7% saying their audience watches the entire story regardless of length.

We also asked about the ideal number of stories to have up at once – 74% of Instagram marketers say 4-9 stories is best:

how many stories do brands have up at once

Curious about which story types are most engaging? Check out this post.

Instagram Feed Posts

Though not exclusive to video, the modern Instagram feed is dominated by video content. 80% of marketers post to their feeds in their marketing role, but the frequency of their posting varies, with 45% posting multiple times a week, 23% posting once a day, and another 23% posting multiple times a day.

how many times a day do instagram marketers post to their feeds

You may also be wondering about how long your captions should be when posting to your feed. 2 in 3 marketers say the optimal caption length to maximize engagement with a feed post is medium (31-50 words).

What is the optimal instagram caption length

For a deeper dive on this, check out this post on instagram video formats.

Next, let’s take a look at whether Instagram marketers are leveraging organic or paid media on the platform, and which performs better.

Organic vs. Paid Instagram Content

Among those who use a mix of paid and organic content, paid content is somewhat more effective for reaching business goals and for gaining followers.

organic vs. paid engagementHowever, effective marketers are 20% more likely to leverage both organic and paid content compared to those who described Instagram as ineffective for reaching their business goals in 2021.

Speaking of effective and ineffective marketers, let’s end with a look at what sets the two groups apart.

Setting Effective and Ineffective Instagram Marketers Apart

Lastly, we asked Instagram marketers whether Instagram marketing was effective or ineffective in 2021, and looked at the data by the two separate groups. Here are some of the biggest differentiators:what sets effective and ineffective strategies apart on instagram

As we end this post, here are a few themes we’ve picked up from the chart above, and the overall results of our survey:

  • Video is key: Instagram is constantly evolving to welcome more and more video formats. While you don’t need to create a large live video event, consider starting small with Reels as it is being favored by consumers and the Instagram algorithm.
  • Engage constantly: Whether you’re responding to their comments, exchanging DMs, or creating content that sparks a conversation – it’s important to ensure that your Instagram strategy caters to your audience and meets them where they are.
  • Social Shopping is the future: Shopping on social media is the future of e-commerce, and Instagram is the best place to do it. With a handful of shopping tools to choose from, there is no better time to get started.
  • Use Instagram for customer service: Using Instagram for customer service is a quick and convenient way to answer customers’ most pressing questions, and marketers who use it see high ROI.
  • Hashtags aren’t going anywhere: Hashtags are highly searchable, make your content more discoverable, and most marketers who use them plan to continue doing so. While you shouldn’t go overboard with too many hashtags, consider how you can leverage them creatively within upcoming content or if there are ways you can participate in hashtag trends on the platform.

More of Our Instagram Marketing Research

Check out these posts for a deeper dive as well as tips and tricks related to our Instagram marketing data.

Interested in learning even more about Instagram marketing and engagement from some of our expert partner brands? Be sure to download the free resource below.

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The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader



The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

Introduce your processes: If you’ve streamlined a particular process, share it. It could be the solution someone else is looking for.

Jump on trends and news: If there’s a hot topic or emerging trend, offer your unique perspective.

Share industry insights: Attended a webinar or podcast that offered valuable insights. Summarize the key takeaways and how they can be applied.

Share your successes: Write about strategies that have worked exceptionally well for you. Your audience will appreciate the proven advice. For example, I shared the process I used to help a former client rank for a keyword with over 2.2 million monthly searches.

Question outdated strategies: If you see a strategy that’s losing steam, suggest alternatives based on your experience and data.

5. Establish communication channels (How)

Once you know who your audience is and what they want to hear, the next step is figuring out how to reach them. Here’s how:

Choose the right platforms: You don’t need to have a presence on every social media platform. Pick two platforms where your audience hangs out and create content for that platform. For example, I’m active on LinkedIn and X because my target audience (SEOs, B2B SaaS, and marketers) is active on these platforms.

Repurpose content: Don’t limit yourself to just one type of content. Consider repurposing your content on Quora, Reddit, or even in webinars and podcasts. This increases your reach and reinforces your message.

Follow Your audience: Go where your audience goes. If they’re active on X, that’s where you should be posting. If they frequent industry webinars, consider becoming a guest on these webinars.

Daily vs. In-depth content: Balance is key. Use social media for daily tips and insights, and reserve your blog for more comprehensive guides and articles.

Network with influencers: Your audience is likely following other experts in the field. Engaging with these influencers puts your content in front of a like-minded audience. I try to spend 30 minutes to an hour daily engaging with content on X and LinkedIn. This is the best way to build a relationship so you’re not a complete stranger when you DM privately.

6. Think of thought leadership as part of your content marketing efforts

As with other content efforts, thought leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It thrives when woven into a cohesive content marketing strategy. By aligning individual authority with your brand, you amplify the credibility of both.

Think of it as top-of-the-funnel content to:

  • Build awareness about your brand

  • Highlight the problems you solve

  • Demonstrate expertise by platforming experts within the company who deliver solutions

Consider the user journey. An individual enters at the top through a social media post, podcast, or blog post. Intrigued, they want to learn more about you and either search your name on Google or social media. If they like what they see, they might visit your website, and if the information fits their needs, they move from passive readers to active prospects in your sales pipeline.

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips



How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

Collecting high-quality data is crucial to making strategic observations about your customers. Researchers have to consider the best ways to design their surveys and then how to increase survey completion, because it makes the data more reliable.

→ Free Download: 5 Customer Survey Templates [Access Now]

I’m going to explain how survey completion plays into the reliability of data. Then, we’ll get into how to calculate your survey completion rate versus the number of questions you ask. Finally, I’ll offer some tips to help you increase survey completion rates.

My goal is to make your data-driven decisions more accurate and effective. And just for fun, I’ll use cats in the examples because mine won’t stop walking across my keyboard.

Why Measure Survey Completion

Let’s set the scene: We’re inside a laboratory with a group of cat researchers. They’re wearing little white coats and goggles — and they desperately want to know what other cats think of various fish.

They’ve written up a 10-question survey and invited 100 cats from all socioeconomic rungs — rough and hungry alley cats all the way up to the ones that thrice daily enjoy their Fancy Feast from a crystal dish.

Now, survey completion rates are measured with two metrics: response rate and completion rate. Combining those metrics determines what percentage, out of all 100 cats, finished the entire survey. If all 100 give their full report on how delicious fish is, you’d achieve 100% survey completion and know that your information is as accurate as possible.

But the truth is, nobody achieves 100% survey completion, not even golden retrievers.

With this in mind, here’s how it plays out:

  • Let’s say 10 cats never show up for the survey because they were sleeping.
  • Of the 90 cats that started the survey, only 25 got through a few questions. Then, they wandered off to knock over drinks.
  • Thus, 90 cats gave some level of response, and 65 completed the survey (90 – 25 = 65).
  • Unfortunately, those 25 cats who only partially completed the survey had important opinions — they like salmon way more than any other fish.

The cat researchers achieved 72% survey completion (65 divided by 90), but their survey will not reflect the 25% of cats — a full quarter! — that vastly prefer salmon. (The other 65 cats had no statistically significant preference, by the way. They just wanted to eat whatever fish they saw.)

Now, the Kitty Committee reviews the research and decides, well, if they like any old fish they see, then offer the least expensive ones so they get the highest profit margin.

CatCorp, their competitors, ran the same survey; however, they offered all 100 participants their own glass of water to knock over — with a fish inside, even!

Only 10 of their 100 cats started, but did not finish the survey. And the same 10 lazy cats from the other survey didn’t show up to this one, either.

So, there were 90 respondents and 80 completed surveys. CatCorp achieved an 88% completion rate (80 divided by 90), which recorded that most cats don’t care, but some really want salmon. CatCorp made salmon available and enjoyed higher profits than the Kitty Committee.

So you see, the higher your survey completion rates, the more reliable your data is. From there, you can make solid, data-driven decisions that are more accurate and effective. That’s the goal.

We measure the completion rates to be able to say, “Here’s how sure we can feel that this information is accurate.”

And if there’s a Maine Coon tycoon looking to invest, will they be more likely to do business with a cat food company whose decision-making metrics are 72% accurate or 88%? I suppose it could depend on who’s serving salmon.

While math was not my strongest subject in school, I had the great opportunity to take several college-level research and statistics classes, and the software we used did the math for us. That’s why I used 100 cats — to keep the math easy so we could focus on the importance of building reliable data.

Now, we’re going to talk equations and use more realistic numbers. Here’s the formula:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

So, we need to take the number of completed surveys and divide that by the number of people who responded to at least one of your survey questions. Even just one question answered qualifies them as a respondent (versus nonrespondent, i.e., the 10 lazy cats who never show up).

Now, you’re running an email survey for, let’s say, Patton Avenue Pet Company. We’ll guess that the email list has 5,000 unique addresses to contact. You send out your survey to all of them.

Your analytics data reports that 3,000 people responded to one or more of your survey questions. Then, 1,200 of those respondents actually completed the entire survey.

3,000/5000 = 0.6 = 60% — that’s your pool of survey respondents who answered at least one question. That sounds pretty good! But some of them didn’t finish the survey. You need to know the percentage of people who completed the entire survey. So here we go:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

Completion rate = (1,200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Voila, 40% of your respondents did the entire survey.

Response Rate vs. Completion Rate

Okay, so we know why the completion rate matters and how we find the right number. But did you also hear the term response rate? They are completely different figures based on separate equations, and I’ll show them side by side to highlight the differences.

  • Completion Rate = # of Completed Surveys divided by # of Respondents
  • Response Rate = # of Respondents divided by Total # of surveys sent out

Here are examples using the same numbers from above:

Completion Rate = (1200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Response Rate = (3,000/5000) = 0.60 = 60%

So, they are different figures that describe different things:

  • Completion rate: The percentage of your respondents that completed the entire survey. As a result, it indicates how sure we are that the information we have is accurate.
  • Response rate: The percentage of people who responded in any way to our survey questions.

The follow-up question is: How can we make this number as high as possible in order to be closer to a truer and more complete data set from the population we surveyed?

There’s more to learn about response rates and how to bump them up as high as you can, but we’re going to keep trucking with completion rates!

What’s a good survey completion rate?

That is a heavily loaded question. People in our industry have to say, “It depends,” far more than anybody wants to hear it, but it depends. Sorry about that.

There are lots of factors at play, such as what kind of survey you’re doing, what industry you’re doing it in, if it’s an internal or external survey, the population or sample size, the confidence level you’d like to hit, the margin of error you’re willing to accept, etc.

But you can’t really get a high completion rate unless you increase response rates first.

So instead of focusing on what’s a good completion rate, I think it’s more important to understand what makes a good response rate. Aim high enough, and survey completions should follow.

I checked in with the Qualtrics community and found this discussion about survey response rates:

“Just wondering what are the average response rates we see for online B2B CX surveys? […]

Current response rates: 6%–8%… We are looking at boosting the response rates but would first like to understand what is the average.”

The best answer came from a government service provider that works with businesses. The poster notes that their service is free to use, so they get very high response rates.

“I would say around 30–40% response rates to transactional surveys,” they write. “Our annual pulse survey usually sits closer to 12%. I think the type of survey and how long it has been since you rendered services is a huge factor.”

Since this conversation, “Delighted” (the Qualtrics blog) reported some fresher data:

survey completion rate vs number of questions new data, qualtrics data

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The takeaway here is that response rates vary widely depending on the channel you use to reach respondents. On the upper end, the Qualtrics blog reports that customers had 85% response rates for employee email NPS surveys and 33% for email NPS surveys.

A good response rate, the blog writes, “ranges between 5% and 30%. An excellent response rate is 50% or higher.”

This echoes reports from Customer Thermometer, which marks a response rate of 50% or higher as excellent. Response rates between 5%-30% are much more typical, the report notes. High response rates are driven by a strong motivation to complete the survey or a personal relationship between the brand and the customer.

If your business does little person-to-person contact, you’re out of luck. Customer Thermometer says you should expect responses on the lower end of the scale. The same goes for surveys distributed from unknown senders, which typically yield the lowest level of responses.

According to SurveyMonkey, surveys where the sender has no prior relationship have response rates of 20% to 30% on the high end.

Whatever numbers you do get, keep making those efforts to bring response rates up. That way, you have a better chance of increasing your survey completion rate. How, you ask?

Tips to Increase Survey Completion

If you want to boost survey completions among your customers, try the following tips.

1. Keep your survey brief.

We shouldn’t cram lots of questions into one survey, even if it’s tempting. Sure, it’d be nice to have more data points, but random people will probably not hunker down for 100 questions when we catch them during their half-hour lunch break.

Keep it short. Pare it down in any way you can.

Survey completion rate versus number of questions is a correlative relationship — the more questions you ask, the fewer people will answer them all. If you have the budget to pay the respondents, it’s a different story — to a degree.

“If you’re paying for survey responses, you’re more likely to get completions of a decently-sized survey. You’ll just want to avoid survey lengths that might tire, confuse, or frustrate the user. You’ll want to aim for quality over quantity,” says Pamela Bump, Head of Content Growth at HubSpot.

2. Give your customers an incentive.

For instance, if they’re cats, you could give them a glass of water with a fish inside.

Offer incentives that make sense for your target audience. If they feel like they are being rewarded for giving their time, they will have more motivation to complete the survey.

This can even accomplish two things at once — if you offer promo codes, discounts on products, or free shipping, it encourages them to shop with you again.

3. Keep it smooth and easy.

Keep your survey easy to read. Simplifying your questions has at least two benefits: People will understand the question better and give you the information you need, and people won’t get confused or frustrated and just leave the survey.

4. Know your customers and how to meet them where they are.

Here’s an anecdote about understanding your customers and learning how best to meet them where they are.

Early on in her role, Pamela Bump, HubSpot’s Head of Content Growth, conducted a survey of HubSpot Blog readers to learn more about their expertise levels, interests, challenges, and opportunities. Once published, she shared the survey with the blog’s email subscribers and a top reader list she had developed, aiming to receive 150+ responses.

“When the 20-question survey was getting a low response rate, I realized that blog readers were on the blog to read — not to give feedback. I removed questions that wouldn’t serve actionable insights. When I reshared a shorter, 10-question survey, it passed 200 responses in one week,” Bump shares.

Tip 5. Gamify your survey.

Make it fun! Brands have started turning surveys into eye candy with entertaining interfaces so they’re enjoyable to interact with.

Your respondents could unlock micro incentives as they answer more questions. You can word your questions in a fun and exciting way so it feels more like a BuzzFeed quiz. Someone saw the opportunity to make surveys into entertainment, and your imagination — well, and your budget — is the limit!

Your Turn to Boost Survey Completion Rates

Now, it’s time to start surveying. Remember to keep your user at the heart of the experience. Value your respondents’ time, and they’re more likely to give you compelling information. Creating short, fun-to-take surveys can also boost your completion rates.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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About the author

Cynthia RamsaranCynthia Ramsaran

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.

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