The Sprout Social Index 2020 Report is Here and So Are Our Takeaways
An integrated marketing campaign without social media is like a burger without fries. Social media is crucial to integrated marketing campaigns because consumers aren’t only engaging on the platform. They’re visiting the website, making purchases, and sharing that experience with their own network. If you’re in a highly competitive industry, your social presence might be essential to consumers choosing you over your competition.
Here at The DeBerry Group, we like to do our due diligence in reviewing annual, year-in-review reports because they are an excellent resource for up-to-date marketing trends. However, not all year-in-review reports are equal. The Sprout Social Index Report stands among the top tier because it combines consumer preferences and marketer objectives. This two-prong analysis yields substantial marketing insights, and it also helps recalibrate foresight and strategy, keeping our social media recommendations fresh from conception to execution. Whether we’re tracking an existing campaign or planning future ones, our integrated social team at The DeBerry Group loves to reference the report’s findings to stay ahead of the curve.
Here’s our top takeaways from the 2020 Sprout Social report and our breakdown of how transparency trumps trendiness, why consumers follow brands, how data is underutilized, why it’s important to keep consumers engaged on multiple levels, and how to learn from “unfollows.”
Disclaimer: The Sprout Social Index is an annual report examining the state of social media marketing based on U.S. consumer and social marketer surveys. The DeBerry Group is a Sprout Social Agency Gold Partner, which provides access to a robust resource library that includes a more detailedAnnual Report. This blog is not sponsored by Sprout; The DeBerry Group received no compensation for this content.
Transparency Trumps Trendiness
Keeping up with social media’s constant cycle of trending topics can be exhausting, so it should be a relief to find that audiences aren’t looking for trendy content and pop culture references from brands on social media. When working with clients on a social media strategy, we recommend consistent, open, and honest messaging; authenticity consistently resonates with consumers. Responsiveness is also key, whether it’s a quick response to a direct message or recurring live Q&A sessions. When crafting content that speaks to your followers, don’t overlook the value of actually speaking with your followers. As the report explains, “…while marketers prioritize memorable content (46%) and compelling storytelling (45%), consumers are focused on transparency (45%) and strong customer service (44%). If social marketers want to ensure their brands are considered best in class, they may want to be more transparent and responsive on social media.”
A relevant case study of “transparency over trendiness” on social media is the Black Lives Matter movement and brand responses. Many brands were quick to jump on the bandwagon and share “Black Lives Matter” content across their social channels to check a box. However, users were quick to dismiss these seemingly generic posts, and in the worst cases, users voiced their negative experiences with these companies in the comments of their public posts. Movements are important, and if you plan to say something on behalf of your brand, you must make sure it is authentic, transparent, and adds value to the conversation.
Acknowledge why followers are there
When it comes to your social presence, don’t be afraid to let the brand speak about itself. Users choose to follow brands because they want to hear from them. For our client Brooks, social followers love to hear about the latest business developments, such as new business openings and construction updates for highly anticipated businesses. Sprout’s reporting backs up this analysis, which shows that “When it comes to connecting with brands, 57% of consumers will follow a brand on social media to learn about new products and services. Forty-seven percent follow brands to stay up to date on company news, while 40% want to learn about promotions and discounts.”
Use your brand’s social presence to keep followers informed, but keep it light. Entertainment is still valuable to consumers. Even if your informational content is on the heavier side and lacks excitement, your creative content does not need to follow suit. Social media is about providing engaging, snackable content that a user can grasp in a few quick seconds before scrolling past. For instance, our “Live Brooks” campaign focuses on highlighting the stories of “Brooks Believers” or people who live, work, and play at Brooks through video content that is both interesting and quick. This video content acts as a breadcrumb for us, allowing us to further explain the Brooks story of success and innovation through longer-form content once we’ve sparked initial interest.
Social data is an underutilized resource
Target audiences are a crucial component of marketing strategies, so it’s not surprising that a vast majority of marketers rely on social data to understand their target audience. A campaign’s target audience is based on a brand’s ideal consumer, and social data can help marketers build a persona that goes beyond the usual demo/geo/psych audience characteristics.
However, only 16% of marketers use data for competitive insights. This is a missed opportunity to keep an eye on industry peers and contextualize social page health. For example, competitor reports that focus more on engagement and follower growth rates can show the true impact of a page by going beyond follower count. A page with a large following might have a low engagement rate, reflecting on overall page health because it shows how “active” their followers are with that page.
Experiment with New Types of Content, Trust Tried and True Formats
Consumers continue to prefer image and video content on social media, but they are also showing increasing interest in newer formats like Stories and Polls. It’s all about having a mix of content to keep audiences engaged on multiple levels. For example, we’ve seen high engagement with user-generated content (UGC) but would never recommend a UGC-focused presence. Stories are another unit that’s growing in popularity. As the report explains, “With roughly half of Instagram’s one billion users using Instagram Stories every day, brands would be wise to build out their strategy for Stories (if they haven’t already).” In The DeBerry Group’s experience, Story ads increase campaign effectiveness by expanding reach to a younger audience. We utilized Story ads to support in-feed video and image ad content for the SAWS Waterful campaign, increasing engagement among younger age groups, an important target for our client.
Learn From “Unfollows”
In general, growing a brand’s social presence is a key objective, which means maximizing overall page reach. Follower growth is a useful benchmark to measure within that strategy. Conversely, unfollows can be a great source of constructive feedback when measuring overall response to your content. Unfollows can be concerning, but when they happen, try to analyze the reason behind an unfollow. Compare the timing of unfollows with your content calendar to pinpoint specific posts and topics that lead to more unfollows than usual. As the latest Sprout research shows, consumers unfollow a brand on social media most likely because they’ve lost interest in the product and/or content, and less about negative press coverage or privacy concerns.
Think with your brand’s target audience in mind. Before posting, ask yourself: “Does this content serve a purpose for my audience?” “Does this content feel fresh and engaging?” “Am I providing value to consumers with this post?” These questions can assist in keeping content focused and engaging.
Keep content rich and relevant, and don’t be afraid to post too frequently. Consumers are happy to receive quality content, so don’t be scared to experiment and test limits. Routinely check platform analytics to see how followers engage with the type of content you’re sharing and the frequency.
Social media continues to be an essential marketing communications tool for brands and companies, with endless opportunities for communicating with your audience in meaningful ways. Although we believe that there’s room for social in every marketing strategy, social is not “one size fits all.” Each brand requires its own unique strategy and approach.
As consumers on social media become increasingly selective of the content in their newsfeeds, it’s more important than ever to analyze consumer data. Referencing resources like Sprout Social’s yearly Index Report helps build a data-informed social media marketing strategy that is successful. Listen to your audience, analyze your social data, and stay authentic to the brand to ensure your content stands out in the crowded media landscape.