Sprout Social has this week released its latest Social Index report, which incorporates responses from over 1,000 marketers, and 1,000 consumers, in order to get a sense of how each group views social media engagement, and what variances there are between the two.
You can read the full report here (with sign-up), but here are some of the key points of note.
First off, Sprout asked marketers to identify their primary goals for using social platforms, with 'Increasing brand awareness' coming out as the clear top choice.
Building an audience and maximizing promotion are where brands see the most significant opportunity in social - which is a shift from times past, when social platforms were seen to be a quick fix for boosting sales. Social media marketing can indeed increase sales performance (and should), but its interesting to see the alignment evolving to a more realistic measure of maximizing branding in order to move towards that goal, as opposed to social being an immediate bridge to direct conversion.
But what may be most interesting to note here is that while 'Increase community engagement' is fourth on this list for marketers, it's actually an essential element for consumers, in regards to what they view as an effective brand social presence.
As you can see, in this question, marketers have also identified engagement as important, but it's worth noting that for consumers, engagement on brand social profiles is key, more so than content quality, transparency and even customer service.
In terms of marketer challenges, identifying and reaching audiences remains difficult for many.
Marketers have access to more audience insights and analysis tools than ever before, but it seems that many are still finding them difficult to use in regards to pinpointing key audience behaviors - though it's probable that most of the responses here have focused on the second element of that top response, with reaching an audience becoming harder due to algorithm limitations and usage shifts.
Measuring ROI is also more complex when you're calculating brand awareness, as opposed to direct, bottom-line impact, while supporting your business goals seems more of an internal communications issue, and ensuring everybody is on board with the defined aims for company social use.
Sprout has also provided some insights into which platforms marketers and consumers use more often, which highlights a couple of interesting divides.
Going on these insights, YouTube, Messenger and Pinterest are underserved by brands, while Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn are significantly over-emphasized.
Part of that comes down to the question posed - no doubt marketers would be spending more time on LinkedIn, for example, as much for professional development purposes, as they would for marketing their brand. In that sense, this insight may not be highly indicative in relation to marketing performance, but it does provide some additional considerations for your outreach.
Also worth noting - how consumers find brands to follow:
In-feed suggestions mostly come down to how active you are on a chosen topic and platform, and how much engagement you see, which are key indicators that platform algorithms use to subsequently highlight your content to other users interested in the same.
Word of mouth also remains a key driver of brand discovery, while influencers - either actual people or other brands - can also play a big role in helping to spread the word.
And another key chart of note:
Consumers are less interested in your funny takes on the latest happenings, and more interested in promotions and discounts.
It might feel like you're gaining traction by posting the latest memes, and it might seem like it based on your Like counts, but going on these insights, the brands that are having a real impact with the people who subsequently buy from them are the ones that focus on sharing relevant updates about their offerings.
There's a heap more in the full Sprout Social Index 2020 Report, which you can download here. The notes might help you re-think how you're approaching your social media promotion efforts, and your strategy going forward - which will become even more relevant as communities move closer to re-opening after the COVID-19 lockdowns.