What Social Media Marketers Need to Know: Insights from the 2018 Sprout Social Index

July 18, 2018 8:56 pm Published by

As more companies embrace social media as a valuable place to conduct business and advertise, we are seeing more companies give thought to actual social media strategy. But figuring out a social strategy that’s right for a specific company’s mission, audience, and goals can be tricky. Luckily, companies dedicated to making social media easier for business have done their research and provide valuable information to any social media marketer.

In our office, we use Sprout Social to manage all of our clients’ social accounts, as well as to track performance and growth across the different platforms. Sprout recently released a whopping 47-page Social Index, which looked at how social media marketers can redefine ROI, what customers actually want to see, and how social media teams can work together to make it happen by polling thousands of social media marketers and customers on these very topics.

The bottom line? Serving audiences. Social media’s nature is in the name—it’s a social platform, and most users are there to interact with friends and family, not businesses. It’s imperative that business social strategies focus on fostering a relationship with followers in a way that matters to them and is the least intrusive on their otherwise personal feed.

Key Findings

Most social marketers are still focused on awareness as a goal of their social efforts, but Sprout found that consumers really want brand awareness and consideration stage content on social. Most social marketers can take a hard look at their strategy and look for ways to incorporate more of these into their everyday posts.

Return on investment (ROI) remains the top challenge for most social media marketers, especially those who are just launching a company’s social strategy. Oftentimes, the C-Suite is looking for tangible reasons why social media is or isn’t working for a company, but there aren’t exactly industry-wide measures of success to make this reporting easy.

Customer service is increasingly becoming a key part of the social media marketer’s job. Nearly half of customer respondents said they have reached out to a company on social, and this number is expected to grow as number of social users has been on the rise since its inception.

It’s in any social media marketer’s interest to understand what consumers need when they reach out to brands on social. The top reasons people reach out to brands on social:

  1. Question
  2. Issue with product/service
  3. Praise for product/service
  4. Comment about online experience
  5. Comment about offline experience

Influencer marketing is huge on social, but it’s not always cost-effective, and for some companies (such as law firms) it doesn’t make sense. Employee advocacy can be a great way to build brand awareness. Who knows a company better than the people who work there? Additionally, employees are likely to have a high number of friends and family on their own accounts, and those people will trust their friend’s opinion much more than a celebrity or influencer.

As social media marketers find their rightful seat at the table, many social departments are under-resourced. More than half of respondents don’t have access to all the software they need, and 65% indicate needing a dedicated resource for content development. With clear goals, social marketers can prove the value of their work, and advocate for the resources to make this work more efficient, and thus even more profitable.

Facebook still reigns king, among both marketing strategies and consumer behavior. 97% of social marketer respondents listed it as their most used and useful social network. Additionally, Instagram blows Snapchat out of the water when it comes to social marketer usership and consumer adoption.

So what is a social media marketer to do? We’ve broken it down with the top insights anyone working on a social media strategy should know

Content consumers want from brands on social, in order of the most to least wanted:

  1. Links to more information
  2. Graphics/images
  3. Produced video
  4. Text/conversations
  5. Produced/edited photos

Marketer Posts vs. Consumer Wants

Top content marketers are posting:

  1. Posts that teach something
  2. Posts that tell a story
  3. Posts that inspire

Top content consumers want:

  1. Discounts or sales
  2. Posts that showcase new products or services
  3. Posts that teach something

The best social strategies integrate brand awareness and consideration stage content. This is the best way to get social campaigns to resonate with a specific audience, but the threshold for consumers sharing content is still pretty high.

The #1 type of content that consumers share and engage with in equal numbers? Inspirational content. Marketers take note: posting inspirational content is the easiest way for a brand to build both engagement and attract new audience members.

So what’s the best way to address everything just discussed?  Below is a list of a social marketer’s must have tools:

  1. Social media management software
  2. Social media analytics software
  3. Visual Creation Tools
  4. Ad budget

Most everyone agrees that social media marketing is an important part of the marketing landscape. This next phase of social’s development will focus on perfecting technique, establishing clear ROI metrics, and connecting with consumers in ways that matter to them. Hopefully, some of these insights will make their way into your social strategy.

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This post was written by Kristen Heintz

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