The State of Social 2021: The latest social insight from Sprout Social Index

It’s that time of year again! The annual Sprout Social Index hit our inboxes and for us social media marketers, it’s kinda like Christmas.

We love digging into the data to understand more about user behaviour across platforms, and what it means for our clients, the content we create and what we should be focusing on to grow online communities.

Each year, Sprout Social surveys more than 1000 social marketers to get insight into their goals for social, the metrics they use to measure performance, and how they put that data to use. They also canvas 1000 consumers to get an understanding of how they behave online and their expectations of brands when it comes to content. When this data is cross referenced, we’re able to get a clear picture on how brands can best meet the ever-evolving wants and needs of their audience.
If you want to check out the full report, download it here. Otherwise we’ve pulled together some of the most significant stats below.

We all still love social

Not surprisingly, consumers are spending more time on social media than ever before. And while we know the past 18 months or so has been a little out-of-the-ordinary for most, 71% of consumers, across generations, said they found themselves using social media more. 

Of the major platform players, Facebook still reigns supreme, with YouTube and Instagram close behind as the platforms consumers are choosing to use, and where they prefer to follow brands.

Get the industry edge

Social serves up plenty of data that reveals the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ offerings - you just have to know where to look. By paying attention, you’ll get insight that will give your brand the edge on your competition. 

  • 90% of marketers agree data from social enables them to stay ahead of competition
  • 88% of marketers believe their social media strategy positively influences their bottom line
  • 86% of marketers say they use competitor insights from social to identify new business opportunities

Social data can help inform your brand on the strength of customers’ loyalty, how it needs to differentiate from competitors, share of voice within the industry and insights into competitors’ next moves.

Social data can also tell you where you stand with your customers. Knowing how your audience feels about your brand and why they follow you can help shape your social strategy for more impactful content. Here’s how social marketers are using data about their customers to their advantage:

Visual content holds its top spot

With the rising popularity of platforms like TikTok and Instagram for sharing video content, brands have focused on investing more and more in visual content, with 54% of marketers saying video is more valuable for their social goals (followed closely by images at 53%).

But it’s not all about entertainment

Pay attention to what really matters to your audience. Because, according to 47% of consumers, strong customer service remains the hallmark of an exceptional brand on social media, and yet comparatively only 35% of marketers think that’s what would set them apart.

And, a word of warning for marketers and business owners: ignoring this insight could be stunting your growth goals: 44% of consumers say they will unfollow a brand on social media because of poor service.

As a brand touchpoint, social isn’t one to overlook. Seventy-eight percent of consumers agree that social media is the fastest and most direct way to connect with a brand. So, if you don’t have good processes in place for responding to queries or feedback, that’s an area where you’ll want to step up your game - especially because 47% of consumers say that responsive customer service on social media would encourage them to buy from a brand over a competitor.

Be all-in on social

The importance of getting more business buy-in on social is a conversation we raise often here at The Social Shop, but unfortunately, it seems there is still more noise to be made about leveraging the true potential of social. Eighty-eight percent of marketers agree their social strategy positively influences their bottom line. But still, social is largely viewed as a marketing-specific resource, whose true value remains unrealised.

How do we change that? Well, it’s over to social marketers to understand how to use metrics to their advantage, demonstrating that social is not just about influencing marketing strategies, but has the potential to provide insight for every department within a business. According to these stats, however, there’s still work to be done.

Our biggest takeaways

Social isn’t slowing down, and what we’re still seeing is a bias towards visual content. As brands, investing what you can in creating video or visual content will help get you noticed. 

Gaining an edge also comes down to understanding both your competitors and the preferences of your audience - and customer service is playing a huge part in winning the hearts of socially savvy consumers. Social is where they like to engage with brands, so is it time to consider how well yours is doing at managing customer queries and feedback across your platforms? 

And lastly, knowing how to dig into data and leverage insights is going to be the way to gain greater influence with social across your entire business, not just the marketing department. Put your efforts into understanding what metrics matter, and how you can use them to gain buy-in (and investment) from your leadership team.

If you need a hand getting your head around making social media marketing work for your business, that’s what we’re here for. Get in touch!