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The HubSpot Blog’s 2022 Social Media Marketing Report: Data from 310 Marketers



The HubSpot Blog's 2022 Social Media Marketing Report: Data from 310 Marketers

In our recent Marketing Trends survey, we learned that social media is the most effective channel marketers leverage, as well as the channel they use most.

But the world of social media is constantly evolving, with new features coming out every month, constant algorithm updates, and disruptive social apps changing the way we communicate.

To get the most out of your social media strategy, it’s critical to keep up with these changes.

The pace of social media can be intimidating. But, the great news is that with change comes opportunities for you to tap into exciting new marketing strategies and help your company grow better.

To help professionals just like you, we surveyed 310 social media marketers across B2B and B2C industries in the United States to find out:

Without further ado, let’s dive into some data that will help your social media strategy stay up-to-date as we jump into the new year.

2022 Social Media Marketing Trends Survey Key Findings

  1. Facebook is the most used social media platform and has the highest ROI, engagement, and highest quality leads.
  2. Funny, interactive, and relatable content, as well as content that reflects a brand’s values, performs best on social media and will see increased investment from marketers in 2022.
  3. Short-form video is the most popular and effective social media format and will see significant growth in 2022.
  4. When it comes to partnering with influencers, followers aren’t everything. Marketers are placing an emphasis on quality of content, engagement rates, and alignment with values before considering follower count.
  5. Overall, social media marketers located in EST say the best time to post is 6-9PM, while marketers in PST consider the 3-6PM window to be best. 
  6. The most popular demographics social media marketers target are Millennials (25-40), followed by Gen X (41-56), Gen Z (6-24), and lastly, Baby Boomers (57-75).
  7. Younger audiences prefer shorter video content that is funny, trendy, and reflects a brand’s values, while baby boomers prefer interactive/educational content, such as interviews, podcasts, expert discussions and/or live videos.
  8. Nearly two-thirds of marketers are building social media communities, and this number will grow in 2022. .
  9. Social media marketers search for new or emerging platforms/features to leverage often, and the top features they invested in this year are Twitter Spaces, YouTube Shorts, and Instagram Shops.

The Top Social Media Platforms of 2022

There are many factors that go into determining which social media platforms you should consider in 2022. While below we highlight a list of the most used platforms in 2022, here’s a quick graphic with quick stats on a few of the platforms you might want to watch as they grow and evolve in the coming year.

four social media platforms to keep on your radar in 2022Download Image as File

The Most Used Social Media Marketing Platforms

1. Facebook

Facebook is used the most, has the highest ROI and engagement of any social platform, as well as the highest quality leads.

One in four social media marketers plan to invest more in Facebook than any other platform in 2022, and it is the platform marketers buy paid ads on the most.

2. YouTube

YouTube comes in second for usage, engagement, and ROI, but it’s the number one platform marketers plan to invest in for the first time this year.

On top of the fact that one in five social media marketers plan to invest the most in YouTube this year, the platform will continue to grow along with the use of video content.

3. TikTok

TikTok is only used by one-third of social media marketers. Although these marketers report low ROI and engagement levels compared to other platforms, 52% of those who use TikTok plan to increase their investment this year, tied with Twitter for the highest increase of any platform.

4. Twitter

Twitter is used by about half of social media marketers and comes in third for engagement and ROI.

52% of those who use it plan to increase their investment this year, and 16% of all social media marketers plan to invest more in Twitter than any other platform in 2022.

5. Instagram

Instagram is leveraged by 45% of social media marketers, coming in 4th for usage, ROI, and engagement.

However, Instagram comes in second place for generating the highest quality leads. And,

the platform is set to grow in 2022, with 40% of marketers planning to use it for the first time and 15% planning to invest more in Instagram than any other platform.

6. LinkedIn

LinkedIn has become host to lots of B2B marketing and expert thought leadership over the past few year. It’s unique professional social media experience is likely why it’s leveraged by more than one-third of social media marketers. In 2022, LinkedIn marketing will only grow with 38% planning to use it for the first time.

Which platforms will see less investment in 2022?

You may also be wondering which social platforms marketers plan to reduce their investment in this year.

Clubhouse, Snapchat, and Reddit are the top platforms marketers plan to decrease their investment in for 2022.

Although Clubhouse was a viral app in 2021 — and offered marketers a new way to connect with consumers — this expected dip in investment could be due to the platform’s brand challenges. For example, Clubhouse offers minimal advertising opportunities or ways to share outside content or URLs, because of this, it will yield less ROI to brands than platforms like Facebook where advertising and link-sharing opportunities are always growing.

Not to mention, like many viral social media apps, Clubhouse has gotten some tough competition from social media channels owned by larger corporations like Twitter, Meta (formerly Facebook), and LinkedIn which could have social media marketing managers considering these options as those platforms are much more familiar to them. 

While Snapchat and Reddit have also hosted viral content in the past, they too cater to more niche audiences and consumers looking to avoid ads and branded content, which could cause more ROI-generation challenges than the most-used social media platforms. Like Clubhouse, they have also had a more difficult time competing with larger social media channels to win over brands.

Think one of the three platforms we just mentioned should still be part of your strategy? Don’t panic!

It’s important to remember that what works for your brand might not be what works for everyone else. And, while many marketers might not see their bottom line impacted by evolving platforms like Clubhouse, Reddit, and Snapchat just yet, that doesn’t mean no marketer ever has or will benefit from using them.

Ultimately, you’ll need to build your strategy around your audience and brand and take steps to determine which channels are best for you. 

4 Content Types Social Media Marketers Will Lean Into in 2022

1. Value-based Content

Content that reflects your brand’s values is the most popular type of content among social media marketers right now and has the 3rd highest ROI of any content type.

This type of content will see more investment from users in 2022, with 95% of those who leverage it planning on increasing or maintaining their investment, and 21% planning to use this type of content for the first time.

Additionally, we found that social media marketers who say their social media strategy has been effective in 2021 are 21% more likely to leverage content that reflects their brand’s values than those who reported an ineffective social media strategy last year

which social media content types have the biggest ROI

2. Funny Content

Funny content is tied with interactive content at #2 in terms of usage by social media marketers.

However, funny content has the highest ROI and is the most effective content type. The use of funny content will continue to grow in 2022, with 33% of all social media marketers planning to invest more in funny content than any other format.

Additionally, 95% of those who use funny content will increase or maintain their investment, while 56% of those who don’t leverage it plan to use it for the first time in 2022.

3. Interactive Content

Interactive content is #2 when it comes to usage, ROI, and effectiveness and will grow significantly in 2022.

97% of those who leverage it plan to invest more or maintain their investment this year, while 49% of those who don’t plan to use it for the first time in 2022.

On top of all that, we found that social media marketers who say their social media strategy has been effective in 2021 are 25% more likely to leverage interactive content than those who reported an ineffective social media strategy last year.

types of social media content marketers will invest in

4. Relatable Content

Relatable content is currently leveraged by 39% of social media marketers and will see increased investment among current users as well as first-time users.

93% of marketers who leverage relatable content plan to increase their investment or continue investing the same amount in 2022 and 54% of social media marketers who don’t leverage it are planning to for the first time this year.

which social media content types will get the biggest investment

The Top Content Formats for Social Media Marketing

1. Short-Form Video

Short-form video is the most popular and effective social media format and will see significant growth in 2022.

50% of social media marketers plan to leverage short-form video for the first time this year, and 95% of those who already use it will increase or maintain their investment.

On top of that, 26% of all social media marketers plan to invest more in short-form videos than any other format this year.

Building a video strategy for 2022 and not sure which platforms to share it on? Check out this data on the best social platforms for video or watch the video below to learn more about short, or snackable, content.

2. Live Video

Live video is No. 2 when it comes to usage and effectiveness, and will continue to grow in 2022.

43% of social media marketers plan to leverage it for the first time this year, and 66% of those who already use it plan to increase their investment next year, the highest increase of any format.

3. Audio Chat Rooms

While marketers are still easing on to platforms like Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces, this doesn’t mean they have no interest in the audio experience. Audio chat rooms rank third in usage and effectiveness, though social media marketers report low ROI.

However, 44% plan to invest in live audio for the first time in 2022, and 17% of marketers plan on investing more into live audio than any other content format.

Social Media Strategies

This section will go over a wide range of social media metrics, from the best time and day to post on social media, to which metrics marketers use to measure the ROI of their campaigns, and much more.

The Best Times to Post on Social Media

73% of marketers say their company has a posting schedule or calendar for social media marketing. While tools like TK, TK, and TK can help the social media marketers we surveyed in building out an effective scheduling strategy, it’s also helpful to know the best times to post social media content to optimize likes, clicks, and other engagements.

Overall, social media marketers located in Eastern Standard Time say the best time to post is 6-9PM, while marketers in Pacific Standard Time consider the 3-6PM window to be best. 9-12PM and 12-3PM are also popular times to post.

Keep in mind that while all of these times can work, the best time will ultimately depend on when your audience is most active on the platform, so make sure to look at your insights when deciding when to post. You can also run your own tests to see which posting time results in the most engagement.

Speaking of platforms, the best time to post can vary based on which one you are using. Here’s a breakdown of the top three times to post for each platform:

  • Facebook: 6-9PM,  3-6PM, and  9-12PM
  • YouTube: 6-9PM, 3-6PM, and 12-3PM
  • Twitter: 6-9PM, 3-6PM, and 12-3PM
  • Instagram: 6-9PM, 3-6PM, and 9-12PM
  • LinkedIn: 6-9PM, 3-6PM, and 12-3PM
  • TikTok: 6-9PM, 3-6PM, and 12-3PM

When it comes to the most engaging days of the week, social media marketers say Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are the best days to post across social media platforms.

Documenting and Templating Social Media Strategies

Much like posting schedules, more than two-thirds of marketers say their company has a documented social media strategy. If you need help getting started, check out these templates.

Below are some of the top questions social media marketers ask themselves when building out a social media strategy and our data-backed guidance around them:

1. Which metrics should I use to measure the ROI of my social media marketing campaigns?

Measuring ROI is one of the biggest challenges marketers anticipate in 2022. With more data available to us than ever before, it can be hard to zero in on the metrics that are most important.

According to social media marketers, website traffic is the most important metric when measuring ROI of social media campaigns, followed by

  • impressions/views
  • clicks
  • sales/conversions
  • likes/comments

2. How do I know if I should keep using a platform for social media marketing?

Believe it or not, the biggest challenge marketers anticipate struggling with in 2022 is determining which platform to market their brand on.

If you are one of those marketers, you may be wondering what metrics you should be looking at when deciding whether to continue leveraging a social channel.

Coming in at number one is impressions/views, followed by sales, then subscriber/follower count, website traffic, and clicks.

3. Which new or emerging platforms or features are marketers investing in for 2022?

With new social media platforms popping up every few months, it can be overwhelming to keep up with all of them while also managing your active campaigns.

Nevertheless, you might be wondering which new platforms marketers plan to invest in this year, how often you should be searching for new platforms to leverage, and when you do find a promising opportunity, how do you determine whether it is worth your time and investment? Let’s break it down.

emerging features brands will invest in in 2022

  • Twitter Spaces is a new live audio feature on the already popular Twitter platform, so it’s no surprise that 39% of marketers invested in it in 2021, the highest of any platform. Twitter Spaces is also the #1 new feature marketers plan to invest in more than any other in 2022.
  • YouTube Shorts is widely considered YouTube’s response to TikTok and 31% of marketers invested in it in 2021, with 15% of marketers planning to invest more in Shorts than any other new feature next year.
  • Instagram Shops is the 3rd most popular new feature marketers invested in last year, with 30% of social media marketers giving it a try in 2021.
Emerging Social Channels and Features That are Losing Steam

When it comes to reducing their investment, social media marketers are pulling back on lesser-known live audio platforms as more established ones like Twitter begin to incorporate live audio features.

In 2022, marketers plan to stop their investment in live audio platforms like Spoon, Discord, Spotify Greenroom, and Riffr.  These platforms all involve live streaming and audio discussions, adding to the over-crowded audio social market. While the saturation of this social media category could be one issue causing stagnant marketing growth, these platforms could also host similar niche audiences or low-ROI challenges like Clubhouse. 

How often do marketers search for new platforms to leverage?

Marketers search for new platforms often, with 29% searching once a month, followed by 22% searching once a week and 20% searching multiple times a week. 14% search once a quarter, 4% search once per year, and only 1% never search for new platforms.

So if you aren’t currently setting aside a small chunk of time to search for new platforms, you run the risk of missing out on a new and exciting opportunity. But once you find something, how do you determine if it’s worth the investment?

How do marketers determine if a new platform is worth investing in?

Marketers determine which social media platforms are worth investing in based on the potential for driving traffic to their website, then the potential for lead generation, followed by the potential audience reach, the cost of paid ads, the cost of influencer partnerships, and the demographic makeup of the platform’s users.

Social Media Demographics

When we asked social media marketers about the age groups they target, we discovered:

  • Millennials (ages 25-40) are the #1 group being targeted by social media marketers by far, with 84% of those surveyed saying they target them.
  • Gen X (ages 41-56) are targeted by 52% of social media marketers
  • Gen Z (ages 6-24) are targeted by 22% of social media marketers
  • Baby Boomers (ages 57-75) are the least targeted demographic among social media marketers, with just 14% saying they target them.

which age groups will brands target on social media in 2022

And, when it comes to targeting each age group, the strategies can be slightly different. Below are some additional learnings we gained from our survey:

What type of content do Millennials and Gen Z prefer?

According to marketers, younger audiences like Millennials and Gen Z prefer shorter video content that is funny, trendy, and reflects a brand’s values.

If you’re targeting this audience, you’ll want to leverage short-form video platforms such as TikTok, as well as YouTube and Instagram now that they’ve implemented similar short-form features.

What type of content do Baby Boomers prefer?

On the other hand, Baby Boomers prefer interactive/educational content, such as interviews/podcasts/expert discussions and live videos.

If you’re targeting this audience, you’ll want to leverage those formats on Facebook, which marketers say is the most popular among baby boomers.

To learn even more about social media demographics, check out and bookmark this post.

The State of Social Media Communities

In an increasingly online world, you may be wondering if you should be investing in building social media communities.

Let’s go over what they are, which platforms are most effective for building social media communities, and some of the top challenges marketers face when leveraging them.

Currently, around 64% of marketers are leveraging social media communities (or online groups where members interact over shared interests).

This number will only keep growing, as 30% of those who don’t use social media communities plan to start in 2022. Additionally, 51% of those who already leverage social media communities plan to invest more this year, while 45% will continue investing the same amount.

Which platforms are marketers building social media communities on in 2022?

Facebook is the top platform marketers build social media communities on, followed by YouTube and TikTok tied for #2, with Instagram and Tumblr close behind.

social media community investments of 2022

What are the biggest challenges marketers face with building social media communities?

Despite the growth in online community building, social media marketers are still learning how to build the perfect strategy and navigate regular challenges associated with community management.

According to social media marketers we surveyed, the biggest challenges marketers face with building communities are:

  • actively managing their community
  • measuring the ROI of their community-building efforts
  • growing their community,
  • fostering an engaged community.

What sets effective social media marketers apart from others?

In our survey, we asked marketers how effective or ineffective their social media strategy has been this year. I then examined our data through these two separate groups, the first being those who said their social media strategy was effective, compared to the second which rated their social media strategy as ineffective.

Here are a few key differences between those who say their social media strategy was effective (77% of respondents) vs. ineffective (7% of respondents):

The effective group is 25% more likely to leverage interactive content (polls, games, etc.) and 21% more likely to leverage content that reflects their brand’s values.

When determining which influencers to partner with on social media, the effective group is 26% more likely to consider the quality of influencers’ content and 18% more likely to consider whether influencers align with their company’s values.

When trying to find their audience on social media, the effective group is:

  • 21% more likely to use social listening
  • 17% more likely to research the demographics of social media platforms
  • 17% more likely to research relevant online communities
  • 14% more likely to analyze demographic data their company already has

effective vs. ineffective social media marketers

In terms of the age demographics they target with their social media marketing efforts, the effective group is:

  • 5% more likely to target Millennials
  • 14% less likely to target Gen X
  • 7% less likely to target baby boomers
  • 6% less likely to target Gen Z

Oh, and one more thing. Those who use HubSpot to track social media analytics were 16% more likely to say their social media strategy was “very effective” in 2021, compared to those who use another analytics tool.

Want to learn more about our social media findings? Check out our most recent follow-up posts below, and stay tuned for even more research-driven content:

For even more data and exclusive tips from social media thought leaders, you can also download our free Social Media Trends Report.

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OpenAI’s Drama Should Teach Marketers These 2 Lessons



OpenAI’s Drama Should Teach Marketers These 2 Lessons

A week or so ago, the extraordinary drama happening at OpenAI filled news feeds.

No need to get into all the saga’s details, as every publication seems to have covered it. We’re just waiting for someone to put together a video montage scored to the Game of Thrones music.

But as Sam Altman takes back the reigns of the company he helped to found, the existing board begins to disintegrate before your very eyes, and everyone agrees something spooked everybody, a question arises: Should you care?

Does OpenAI’s drama have any demonstrable implications for marketers integrating generative AI into their marketing strategies?

Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explain (and give a shoutout to Sutton’s pants rage on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), or keep reading his thoughts:

For those who spent last week figuring out what to put on your holiday table and missed every AI headline, here’s a brief version of what happened. OpenAI – the huge startup and creator of ChatGPT – went through dramatic events. Its board fired the mercurial CEO Sam Altman. Then, the 38-year-old entrepreneur accepted a job at Microsoft but returned to OpenAI a day later.

We won’t give a hot take on what it means for the startup world, board governance, or the tension between AI safety and Silicon Valley capitalism. Rather, we see some interesting things for marketers to put into perspective about how AI should fit into your overall content and marketing plans in the new year.

Robert highlights two takeaways from the OpenAI debacle – a drama that has yet to reach its final chapter: 1. The right structure and governance matters, and 2. Big platforms don’t become antifragile just because they’re big.

Let’s have Robert explain.

The right structure and governance matters

OpenAI’s structure may be key to the drama. OpenAI has a bizarre corporate governance framework. The board of directors controls a nonprofit called OpenAI. That nonprofit created a capped for-profit subsidiary – OpenAI GP LLC. The majority owner of that for-profit is OpenAI Global LLC, another for-profit company. The nonprofit works for the benefit of the world with a for-profit arm.

That seems like an earnest approach, given AI tech’s big and disruptive power. But it provides so many weird governance issues, including that the nonprofit board, which controls everything, has no duty to maximize profit. What could go wrong?

That’s why marketers should know more about the organizations behind the generative AI tools they use or are considering.

First, know your providers of generative AI software and services are all exploring the topics of governance and safety. Microsoft, Google, Anthropic, and others won’t have their internal debates erupt in public fireworks. Still, governance and management of safety over profits remains a big topic for them. You should be aware of how they approach those topics as you license solutions from them.

Second, recognize the productive use of generative AI is a content strategy and governance challenge, not a technology challenge. If you don’t solve the governance and cross-functional uses of the generative AI platforms you buy, you will run into big problems with its cross-functional, cross-siloed use. 

Big platforms do not become antifragile just because they’re big

Nicholas Taleb wrote a wonderful book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. It explores how an antifragile structure doesn’t just withstand a shock; it actually improves because of a disruption or shock. It doesn’t just survive a big disruptive event; it gets stronger because of it.

It’s hard to imagine a company the size and scale of OpenAI could self-correct or even disappear tomorrow. But it can and does happen. And unfortunately, too many businesses build their strategies on that rented land.

In OpenAI’s recent case, the for-profit software won the day. But make no bones about that victory; the event wasn’t good for the company. If it bounces back, it won’t be stronger because of the debacle.

With that win on the for-profit side, hundreds, if not thousands, of generative AI startups breathed an audible sigh of relief. But a few moments later, they screamed “pivot” (in their best imitation of Ross from Friends instructing Chandler and Rachel to move a couch.)

They now realize the fragility of their software because it relies on OpenAI’s existence or willingness to provide the software. Imagine what could have happened if the OpenAI board had won their fight and, in the name of safety, simply killed any paid access to the API or the ability to build business models on top of it.

The last two weeks have done nothing to clear the already muddy waters encountered by companies and their plans to integrate generative AI solutions. Going forward, though, think about the issues when acquiring new generative AI software. Ask about how the vendor’s infrastructure is housed and identify the risks involved. And, if OpenAI expands its enterprise capabilities, consider the implications. What extra features will the off-the-shelf solutions provide? Do you need them? Will OpenAI become the Microsoft Office of your AI infrastructure?

Why you should care

With the voluminous media coverage of Open AI’s drama, you likely will see pushback on generative AI. In my social feeds, many marketers say they’re tired of the corporate soap opera that is irrelevant to their work.

They are half right. What Sam said and how Ilya responded, heart emojis, and how much the Twitch guy got for three days of work are fodder for the Netflix series sure to emerge. (Robert’s money is on Michael Cera starring.)

They’re wrong about its relevance to marketing. They must be experiencing attentional bias – paying more attention to some elements of the big event and ignoring others. OpenAI’s struggle is entertaining, no doubt. You’re glued to the drama. But understanding what happened with the events directly relates to your ability to manage similar ones successfully. That’s the part you need to get right.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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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

Image Source

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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