The events of 2020 have brought to light how critical social media is for a company's success. With much of the world in lockdown, businesses increasingly turned to social media to retain and nurture their relationships with customers. But social media is more than just a communication channel - executives are seeing how effective it can be in advancing a company's overall marketing and business goals.
In the latest survey conducted by the Harris Poll for Sprout Social, more than a third of executives declared that devoting more resources to social media marketing was “absolutely essential”. Another 44% consider it “very important”. And businesses seem to walk the talk. 45% of surveyed executives expected that their social media marketing budget will increase significantly over the next three years, with 47% expecting at least a slight increase in their social media budgets.
Rachael Samuels, Senior Manager of Social Media at Sprout Social states that the social media research firm commissioned The Harris Poll to interview 250 executives and 1,006 social media users. Rachael also states, “Seeing how many business executives – 58% - not only expect their social media marketing budgets to increase over the next three years but also expect social to become their primary external communication channel solidifies just how critical social is for overall business strategy.”
What is surprising is that this sentiment was reflected by consumers as well, with 63% of consumer respondents feeling that social media will play an increasingly important role in their connection with brands. And consumers don't want the communication to be limited to pretty Instagram images. 61% wanted businesses to offer them a more tailored social media experience based on their previous interactions. 51% of consumers wanted businesses to learn more about them based on their social media behavior, while 63% said it was essential or really important for businesses to use consumers' social data "responsibly”.
According to Samuels, “Consumers expect customized interactions from the companies they associate with. The extent in terms of how often or to what depth people want brands to follow them online will differ from consumer to consumer. However, the data suggests that brands that do not take the time to learn about their audience's online activity would find it difficult to develop long-term relationships.”
Simply put, if a company's target demographic is mostly Gen Z, who are 43% more likely to buy directly from a social media site, it might make sense to have content that allows them to buy from Instagram or WhatsApp.
How are businesses using consumer data?
Driving informed business decisions: Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the executives surveyed had already used data gathered from social media to help them make business decisions. Only 37% use it to personalize their communications with individual customers. However, more popular uses for the data include product development (45%), measuring campaign success (47%), and collecting consumer insights (52%). “Companies that analyze this data in real-time will be able to quickly pivot a campaign, impact a product launch or inform future research and development, among other things,” Samuels says.
Delivering better customer service and support: The second most common use of social data, practised by 49% of the surveyed executives, is to provide customer service and support. This is crucial because responsive customer service can be the surest way for businesses to provide a personalized, meaningful social experience. Two-thirds of the consumers consider it essential or very important with relevant content coming in a close second (59%).
It was also revealed that just 60% of businesses are actually using social media for customer support, showing that they are underestimating the channel's importance.
Growing sales: The survey also revealed 78% of consumers are more willing to buy from a brand or company which have a positive social media experience and 72% will increase their spending with that brand. Additionally, the survey revealed 77% of consumers will choose the brand they had a positive social media experience with over a competitor.
For more on how businesses and consumers use and plan to use social media, download the full data report here.