Report: Consumers want to be entertained on social media

A new study from Sprout Social reveals that PR has a lot to offer online campaigns, including understanding the target audience, content generation, brand visibility and more.

How invested is your organization in social media strategy?

Most communicators interact on social media as part of their ongoing PR and marketing efforts, but a new study from Sprout Social suggests most organizations have room to grow. The study asked 1,000 social media marketers about their current campaigns and goals and then asked 1,000 consumers whether brand managers were satisfying their desires.

The big takeaway: Most marketers still struggle to demonstrate the value of social media to their organization despite a profound belief that what they do matters to the bottom line.

How to define success

What is the role of social media marketing in 2019?

Most marketers say brand awareness remains the top goal for their social media outreach efforts. Other goals include lead generation and increasing community engagement to grow an audience. However, these same marketers are using metrics that don’t prioritize brand reach. Only 41% use metrics such as reach and impressions to measure success.

Going viral still seems the favored way to score a big social media success. Brand managers prioritize “likes” and comments, shares and retweets, and interaction with customers.

However, social media has a lot more to offer than just viral moments. A steady, consistent social media strategy can increase web traffic and generate new leads. The study suggests there is growth potential for marketers who can tie their campaigns to new revenue. Currently, only 34% of marketers define success through revenue attribution.

Facebook’s dominance

For marketers looking to prioritize a marketing platform, many in the industry say Facebook is the top dog.

Despite recent scandals that have rocked the social media industry (data misuse, election tampering, hate speech and fake news), Facebook still holds the prime position for social media marketers. Marketers report overwhelmingly using Facebook to represent their organizations (89%), and consumers are most likely to follow their favorite brands on that platform (66%).

Marketers say they choose their platforms based on the potential for audience reach (54%) and the cost of paid ads (47%). Many organizations aren’t yet prioritizing their ability to target relevant audiences, with only 24% reporting that they chose their platform based on retargeting options.

The obstacles facing social media marketers are similar to the threats that many communicators face, specifically proving ROI to leaders and decision-makers. Marketers also stumble over understanding the target audience, securing budget and resources, publishing content and measuring ROI.

What your audience wants

Do marketers know what social media audiences want from brands?

The study asked consumers what kinds of behavior would cause them to unfollow an organization on social media. At the top of the list: poor customer service.

What prompts consumers to follow your organization? The study cites an interesting consumer shift away from discounts and sales and toward entertainment and customer interaction. With 64% percent of consumers reporting that they want brand managers to interact with them online, social media marketers should reevaluate how they engage their audiences.

One key avenue available to marketers is employee advocacy. Almost three quarters (72%) of all social media marketers use their employees as brand advocates, and 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to research a product when someone relatable, like an employee, posts about it.

Everything is connected

Your social media campaigns don’t exist in a vacuum, and if your organization isn’t doing other things right, your social media efforts are likely to suffer. Consumers report that a positive experience with an organization is a top reason why they’ll seek out your social media handles, even more so than consumers with a negative experience.

At the bottom of the list is a brand’s stance on political or social issues. The lesson from this finding is clear: Focus on ways to let consumers interact with and even brag about your brand. Don’t expect bold political posturing to create a global following overnight.

It’s also important to make sure your posts align with your organization’s goals. Inspirational content does wonders for brand visibility, but many of your followers aren’t customers. The kinds of posts that trigger a purchase are different from the posts that make waves on social media platforms.

According to the Sprout Social study, posts that offer discounts or trials are the most successful at converting a sale (61%), followed by information on products or services (45%) and product demos (40%).

Build your team

Just how big is the average social media team in 2019? The bigger the organization, the more people who work for the social media group—yet some small organizations are building big teams, too.

Most social media marketers report that they don’t have enough time and resources to manage all the facets of their jobs effectively. However, there is a gap between what social media marketers say they want to accomplish and the people they tap to achieve those goals.

According to the study, PR pros aren’t consulted nearly enough, even though visibility is the top priority for many social media teams. Only 29% of social media marketers share their data with branding and PR teams.

PR pros are well-positioned to help social media campaigns achieve some top challenges, including understanding target audiences and creating communities with online engagement. PR pros know how to foster dialogue, drive brand awareness and create content that consumers want to share.

To get ahead of the curve, PR pros should study what consumers say they want from organizations and should become experts in creating that content. The study identifies these key areas: live video (45%) user-generated content (24%), Instagram Stories (24%) and private community groups (23%).

Learn more about the future of social media and your place in it by reading the full study.

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