Last week we had the opportunity to attend a new edition of Sprout Sessions. The social media management platform organised a virtual summit, in short sessions, to help marketers understand how the role of social media can evolve within their organisations, regardless of their size or industry.
The influence of social media is evident. Its impact on public opinion, purchasing decisions, and shaping the credibility of a brand or product is a fundamental factor in any company’s success. The importance of social media is that companies are starting to consider social data as a business intelligence resource.
This year’s edition started with Junie Dinda (VP, Product Marketing, Sprout), welcoming “people from all over the world” and highlighting the importance of team collaboration through social media: “When teams across an organisation come together and collaborate on solving hard problems and creating new products, amazing things can happen”.
The Sprout Sessions aimed to analyse social media use from different perspectives: social data and the rise of social commerce, using insights and listening tools to analyse consumer behaviour to social media channels for brand awareness and communication strategy.
See Social Differently
There’s no doubt that social media helps consumers to make purchase decisions. Up to 70% of people go to social media to research a product and read comments from other users before buying it. And now, with the rise of social commerce, the gap between decision and transaction is getting smaller. This was one of the main topics of Ryan Barretto talk, President of Sprout Social:
“Social isn’t just about awareness. We increasingly see the influence it has on the actual purchase behaviour. 78% of consumers will buy from a brand when they positively impact social media, and 77% will select that brand over a competitor. And social commerce is just starting to accelerate”.
These younger generations will be the buyers and workforce of the future. According to the Harris Poll research, 61% of millennials and 78% of Gen Z first learn about a brand from social media. In the same space, platforms see an increase in users looking and using their channels to research and buy products. Facebook said that up to 80% of consumers use its apps for product research, while on Pinterest, this number reaches 90% of users. In both cases, Shopify merchants are increasing exponentially every month.
Social data shows how users share their views unfiltered, making this information the most valuable source for business intelligence. Social data will shape strategies in the future, not only from a marketing perspective but within an entire organisation. In fact, according to Ryan Barretto, eight out of 10 executives said that they’d be selling their products or services on social media, and 91% will increase the budget for social media over the next three years.
“This is not just the voice of the customer. It’s the voice of culture. This social data just can’t be siloed in marketing departments. It’s far too important when the entire organisation harnesses this data. The opportunities are infinite. This rich data isn’t just informing your social or marketing strategy. It’s influencing what products you make, who you’re making them for, how you’re selling them and how your entire business is run. That is the power of social, all of these insights, making clear it’s time to see social differently“.
See Your Customers Differently
Wearing the social media goggles give you access to what your customers want to buy and what they feel and think about your brand. Having access to insights and listening tools allows your business to understand the audience, identify opportunities and reshape your message to turn buyers and followers into fans and brand ambassadors.
This session, moderated by Katherin Kim (Content Strategist, Sprout), had Jodi Lawrence (Associate Digital and Social Media Manager, Lodge Cast Iron) and Cindy Coughlin (Digital Campaign Manager, ITW Welding North America) discussing how their organisations use social insights and listening tools. While Jodi explained the process from a small company perspective, Cindy shared how a big company with divisions across the country uses social data to mapped up KPIs.
While Lodge Cast Iron has a small marketing team and can have cross-functional meetings where everyone is involved, allow them “to understand social media better and how social media affects everything that we’re doing“, ITW works with between six and eight different divisions across the country, so the analysis of social insights is done distinctively: “Our number one goal is to make sure that everybody is pulling from the same source, that the data is rock-solid and that everything is all mapped up to the same KPIs and objectives“.
Whilst insights point out what actions are working and what to improve, listening tools allow a brand to identify topics and conversations regarding its products and services and understand customers’ sentiments about the brand. This information can help a company rethink or improve its social media and content strategy and discover audiences and niches previously overlooked.
“We use listening to uncover insights about the broader community. They’re not interacting with us yet, but there are potential customers. We’ve used the listening report to create content initiatives more product-focused. For instance, what recipes we’re adding to our website for people to go then and make it on cookware. And also to put together the content calendar every year. It was a big point of growth for us”, explained Jodi.
For ITW, the implementation of the listening tool is similar for content creation. However, listening is helping the company consider new channels: “Our customer base is very diversified. So we’re trying to understand what content resonates with each of those audiences. We’re testing content, audiences and objectives. For example, industrial customers prefer more technical articles on Facebook. We understand what platforms we will be moving heavier into and which ones we’re going to make sure we keep the pedal to the metal. This is critical for differentiation“, concluded Cindy.
See Brand Awareness Differently
Utilising social media as a PR tool is now a critical part of any impactful marketing and content strategy. In this session, Vanessa Mbonu (Digital Director, NAACP) explained how a civil right organisation such as the NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) had used social media to amplify the brand voice and meet the audience exactly where they are.
Vanessa started sharing her initial approach to NAACP social media strategy, “to reach as many people as possible and doing it quickly”. This can only happen if you deep dive into social media. Being connected all the time, using the platforms -even as a researcher-, following competitors, reviewing what works and whatnot, and breaking silos: “My main priorities are social media, email marketing, digital advertisements. Still, I need to know what my press team is doing because that helps me produce my content”.
As immediate as it is, there’s no room for mistakes in social media. The same goes if your brand wants to lead the conversation. As busy as all the platforms are, with an oversaturation of content and information, making sure that your message stands out is a matter of communication. In the case of the NAACP, their style is assertive, bold and straight to the point, especially on Twitter. “Engaging with your audience is super important. This is invaluable to understand the tone and the temperature of the community you are working in”.
Think about those buzzwords to get people to stop scrolling. You want to provide something that they’re going to be like, ‘Let me engage’. Also, the metrics are changing. For instance, now Instagram is not about likes; it’s actually about what you’re saving. A post can have 200,000 likes on it, but if no one is saving that content, if no one is free sharing that content and commenting…did it really happen?“.
When creating a content strategy and content calendar, Vanessa recommends using the social channels more strategically by creating specific content for each one and based on its audience. For instance, the NAACP uses Twitter for a more real-time engagement with the community, while the Youtube channel serves as an archive. Same with the press lists, social media has opened a new source of information and created a new type of content providers: influencers and content creators.
“Social media also diversified your press lists. There are reporters, content creators and influencers. There are movers and shakers across every industry who are talking about whatever you want to publicise. Make sure those people are on your press list as well. And then, of course, meet your audience where they are“.
Using social media within your organisation
The influence of social media continues to permeate all areas of an organisation, from marketing and sales to human resources. In recent years, this channel stopped being an exclusive part of the marketing department to become a pivot of the success of a brand. Social reflects what happens on the street, what your consumers think, the latest trends and the next steps your brand should follow.
Social channels have affected e-commerce, generating a new way of buying and interacting with brands: social commerce. While on Facebook, the number of Shopify merchants has quadrupled in Q1, Pinterest has announced the extension of its partnership with Shopify to 27 new markets. Social data is now one of the most valuable Business Intelligence sources, and the investment in social media platforms and social commerce will triple by 2025.
However, what you do with social is critical to make the best out of it. From content creation, PR and communication strategy to the use of social listening tools. The heart of any social media strategy must be the customers: how to engage with them and make them “stop scrolling” to pay attention to what your brand is saying. Strategic use of the different channels is key to stand out in a saturated and very competitive arena.
If you are looking to improve your social media strategy, a brand audit, or enhance your digital marketing efforts, contact us!