The 2018 Sprout Social Index is a 50-page report packed with useable data for anyone whose marketing, advertising or branding touches social media (i.e., every marketer). It further distinguishes social channels as the unique forum that it is to connect with our audiences. Social media has always been a platform that allowed us to achieve many of our traditional marketing goals, however, through much different methods. Social media is not a monologue platform. Those who only talk, talk only to themselves. Those who create, drive and respond to the existing dialogue, tap into the true ROI available for brands on social media.
There are a number of data points in the report that can help direct social strategy. I’m going to focus on two. Or, one and a half more so.
The first one can be found on page 10 of the report. It highlights the difference between what marketers post on social media versus what consumers want on social media.
At first glance, it appears that we have our priorities flipped. Markers are more apt to post content that teaches, tells a story, or inspires. Those are key talking points for anyone who has ever given a pitch for what their digital content strategy is intended to do, so it’s no surprise those are the answers top-of-mind for marketers. Consumers on the other hand are more interested in discounts and new products.
This is one of those findings we should be taking with a grain of salt. There seems to be a disconnect between what consumers want to see from brands on social media, and what brands can actually provide. We can’t, and shouldn’t, always provide discounts to our products and services. Similarly, we can’t always come out with new products. Good companies know the value of their offerings and good marketers know how to create demand for the products they have at the price point that is necessary.
If we remove those two from the top of the consumer list, we see our first overlap: “Posts that teach something.” Consumers want value. Brands provide value to their consumers through quality products and services. Brand marketers provide micro-value to consumers through regular takeaway knowledge that makes them more effective, efficient and happy people. If you offer quality products, you should believe that the smarter, more informed your audience is, the more they will gravitate to the quality products an educated consumer demands.
A come to Jesus moment happens halfway through the chart. The results for “Posts that tell a story,” were a real kick in the pants for marketers. This tells us we need to reevaluate our infatuation with storytelling. It’s not that people don’t like compelling stories, but social media isn’t exactly the place people are looking to cozy up with a good tome. Storytelling has to fit the medium, as well as the audience. People don’t want to hear stories about your brand; they want your brand to fit into their story. And better yet, they what whatever it is you are selling to make their personal story better. Inclusion is the name of the game on social media, fueled by personal amplification of the audience member not the brand.
The Social Competition
Deeper in the report on page 18, there is an interesting comment that sparked a new perspective for me. It states:
This is a powerful sentiment that I think we should take even further. Brand marketing will never win the battle against friends and family marketing. Friends and family marketing is called “life.” And we shouldn’t try to compete against our audience’s lives. We need to become part of those lives - specifically because friends and families are the biggest part of our social strategy. Social content is engaged with most when it helps someone better connect with their friends, family and colleagues. Similarly, engagement goes up when content is shared by a friend of family member rather than directly from a brand. Social endorsement is the key to virality.
This brings us back to the storytelling element. Good stories are fine, but stories that make the consumer center stage are how we get the most value out of our digital marketing efforts.
These are just two points in the report that I thought could use some additional commentary. Overall, the report shares findings that continue to push the industry to do its best work and keep the customer first.