It’s that time of year again when we’re all asking--what do I need to know about the Sprout Social Index? If you’re new to social marketing, the Sprout Social Index is a report compiled by Sprout Social, a company known for their social media management software as well as other resources for businesses. The report is meant to serve as timely advice for the ever-evolving field of social marketing, compiled from survey results of both social marketers and consumers. Needless to say, it’s an important document. It’s also a very long document. At 47 pages, it’s understandable that you may not have the time to go through everything with a fine tooth comb. Luckily for you, we have already—here are the key takeaways and what they mean for your business.
One of the biggest finds of this year’s Sprout Social Index is that people still primarily use social media as a means of connecting with their family and friends—not as a way of consuming content. As it says in the index, “As brands put together campaigns and messaging, they must remember that they are guests at dinner, not members of the nuclear family: their role in user feeds is delicate, valuable and should be treated with great care.” The way to combat this is by strategizing both awareness stage and consideration stage content.
Awareness stage content is just what it sounds like: It’s content that attracts a new audience, making them aware of your brand for the first time. Consideration stage content is content for the audience that already knows your brand and wants to learn more. The awareness stage is when the consumer knows that they have a need for your product, and the consideration stage is when they are looking for the solution—hopefully through you. The Sprout Social Index shows that 80% of social marketers are too focused on awareness stage content, meaning that they’re growing their reach but not ultimately making the sale.
Sprout social’s main advice for creating consideration content is focusing on “posts that teach.” These are educational blogs, articles, or posts that connect back to the product or solution you are trying to sell your consumer. Besides informing them about your product, this type of post also grounds your brand in a larger conversation that the reader may not know about, acting as both the awareness and consideration stages. This is also where you can introduce links and information on new products, discounts, etc. Hopefully, this combination of marketing priorities and consumer preference will lead your buyer to the third and final stage: decision.
ROI, or “Return on Investment,” is a major concern for over half of social marketers, according to the Sprout Social Index. The main reason for this may be that marketers aren’t correctly defining the term.
The “return” in ROI has traditionally been defined as sales made from the “investment” in social marketing. However, Sprout Social says a more accurate way to measure ROI is through brand awareness and engagement, which is what social marketers are mostly focused on anyway. In fact, only 40% of social marketers say their biggest goal is to generate sales, while 80% and 65% respectively say that they want to increase brand awareness and community engagement. As we mentioned before, consumers also prefer awareness and consideration, so marketers should quantify ROI based on those components, not necessarily the end sale.
The best way to increase ROI is by creating quality content that combines the awareness and consideration stages. Make sure you’re always engaging with your consumer and tracking your progress. According to Sprout Social, only 40% of social marketers are discussing ROI with their employers, so make sure to open up that communication. Additionally, don’t forget why consumers are on social media: to be social. Try to cater to that need with quality and creative content that will increase shareability.
Both consumers and social marketers agree on the importance of customer service. This means that consumers are reaching out to brands on social and marketers are responding effectively.
Because we live in a digital age, many customers actually head to social media first when they have a question or problem, making social marketers the frontlines of customer service. And, according to Sprout Social, 1 in 5 customers is actually more likely to buy from a brand that can be reached via social media.
As part of the engagement, customer service is not just the opportunity to resolve a problem or answer a question but also to form a relationship with the customer. Quality customer service can be achieved through quick response times and quality attention. Unfortunately, a lot of customer service concerns can be improved through greater resources and manpower (more on that later).
We all know the concept behind social media influencers. Social marketers pay a celebrity to endorse and advertise a product. Although it has become the norm, influencer marketing can be costly and not as effective as you might think. That’s why many brands are turning to employee advocacy.
While the idolization of social media influencers may persuade you otherwise, the majority of consumers actually aren’t more likely to buy a product because of a celebrity endorsement. In fact, over 60% of customers surveyed said they were more likely to look into a product more when it was recommended by a friend on social, rather than an influencer. Moreover, less than 20% of marketers have the budget for influencer marketing. That’s why your best bet is to use your employees as your own influencers! Not only is this strategy humanizing and authentic, but it’s also the magic word: free.
Although a lot more research needs to be done in this area, one thing is for certain: employee advocacy needs to be strategized. Make sure there’s a plan in place for how to post and track progress, so you know how to move forward to increase engagement.
Unfortunately, the social marketing industry is under-resourced. Over half of social marketers don’t have the necessary analytics and publishing software, while 65% don’t have the content development resources that they need.
Although some needs like staff and software are not an easy (or cheap) fix, a lot of time can be saved by evolving your social marketing. Is an ad campaign not working? Replace it with something else. Try employee advocacy instead of influencer marketing. Although we want to tell you to be ambitious, don’t take on projects that your team doesn’t have the resources to support—instead focus on the things you can control.
Almost 100% of social marketers list Facebook as the platform they find the most useful and that they use the most. Likewise, almost all consumers surveyed use Facebook, making it a very important platform for social marketing.
Like we said before, consumers use social media to be social and Facebook is no exception. Take advantage of all the functions of the platform, such as Facebook Live, Facebook Groups, and Facebook Messenger, to engage with your consumers.
The main takeaway from all of this is to use your audience—they are the best marketing tool you have. Get them to engage with your brand by liking, commenting, subscribing, and sharing. Social marketing is a reciprocal relationship, so don’t forget to cater to the consumer’s needs first.