Review of 2018 Social Media Study

My favorite social media management tool Sprout Social came out with their 2018 Sprout Social Index last week. Zilker Media is a Sprout Social agency partner so we were some of the first to get the 2018 Index. The findings from this report were generated from surveying over 2,000 social marketers. Sprout Social’s Index reports are created to help marketers revise and update their digital marketing strategies and discover how nurturing audiences can contribute to the bottom line. After reviewing the index, there are many findings that stood out to me and solidified the trends we are currently seeing in the rented media landscape. I wanted to share my thoughts on a few of these findings with you.


Facebook still reigns for consumers and marketers


Despite the ridicule Facebook has been under this year, Facebook continues to be the most used channel by consumers. It is also listed that 97 percent of social marketers view Facebook as their most used and useful network. Facebook continues to be the top channel for social ad spend and where marketers spend most of their time on marketing strategies.


The Facebook advertising findings did not surprise me because Facebook and Instagram – which is owned by Facebook – has the most user-friendly advertising platform and also some of the most sophisticated data. Now that Facebook is cracking down on data misuse, many changes have been made that take away or create barriers to using some of the targeting tools that previously resulted in very successful campaigns. Advertisers are now having to spend more time creating and nurturing their target audience than before. I’m looking forward to seeing how these constant changes to the ad platform impact the success of advertising campaigns.


The Facebook finding that did surprise me was 97 percent of social marketers view Facebook as their most useful network. Unless you are running ads, it is harder and harder to find organic reach and engagement if you are managing a business page. If you are working with no advertising budget, your best strategy for engagement is utilizing Facebook Live, video or Groups.


ROI is still the marketer’s biggest challenge


This was one of my favorite portions of the Index. Sprout Social’s team really hit home the need for marketing professionals to change the definition of ROI. I completely agree that ROI does not have to mean direct sales. If you have the mindset ROI can only be measured in sales for every social media campaign, you are missing the mark. Sprout Social reported only 14 percent of marketers were able to quantify their revenue from social media. Your “return” metric should be strategically determined for each client and campaign you begin. According to the index, most marketers identified increased brand awareness as their primary goals for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


The role of marketing in the social media landscape has changed significantly over the last few years with algorithm and human behavioural changes. Intrusive and traditional advertising copy no longer works in the digital world – users do not want to see this from brands on social media. Brands are now having to become more relationship driven in their storytelling to foster brand loyalty. This shift now has marketers continuously redefining ROI metrics and revising their digital marketing strategy.


What consumers want from brands on social media


The index made clear what consumers want from brands on social media and what most marketers are focused on does not completely align. The common denominator of the consumer versus marketer findings was educational content. Consumers listed “content that teaches them something” as one of the top three posts they are looking for on social media while marketers listed it as the number one type of content they are focused on. Other types of content consumers listed they look for from brands are discounts or new products. As Sprout Social points out in the index, these other two types of posts are hard to build long-term campaigns around.


What came as no surprise was 58 percent of consumers prefer visual-first content with graphics, images and produced videos. A finding that did surprise me was consumers want produced video content over unedited content from brands. This finding debunks what many marketers have been reporting this year. The Sprout Social Index broke down what factors determine if a consumer watches a video – the top three were length of video, caption for video and whether it was an ad. What matters to the consumer is the authenticity of the video versus intrusive advertising.


There are so many other findings that are helpful to marketers in the Sprout Social Index. You can view the full report here. Leave your comment below on what you found most surprising from the study.


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