Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

New report indicates marketers should prioritise customer service and social commerce over creative content

The pandemic has seen unprecedented levels of change across businesses and consumers, with a rise in social media use on both sides.  It has resulted in increased workloads and huge pressures on marketers – but new consumer insights have revealed campaigns could be a lot quicker and easier to deliver than they imagined.

The 2021 Sprout Social Index™: UK & Ireland Edition shows how effectively businesses have been connecting, engaging and selling to potential customers on social media. It indicates how aligned businesses’ social strategies are with customer expectations – and the results might surprise many overworked marketers. The survey reveals how marketers could relieve the pressure on themselves and derive more success, not by trying to be all things to all people, but by focussing on what consumers want—customer service and social commerce.

The Index shows that marketers and consumers are misaligned about what makes a business best-in-class on social.  Marketers are putting undue pressure on themselves to deliver innovative social content while, in contrast, consumers care most about brands putting the customer first and delivering first-class customer service.  There are a few categories where both marketers and consumers align, such as being culturally relevant with inclusive and current content, but in a number of categories marketers have miscalculated what a consumer considers important.

Sprout Social surveyed 500 UK and Irish marketers and 500 consumers.  It comes after businesses flocked to social media in droves to stay connected with consumers during lockdown – a good move considering the report found 76% of consumers have used social media more in the past year and 63% have bought from it. 

Key findings:

●        Marketers’ expectations of what it means to be best-in-class differ from customer expectations. For many, it appears that marketers are putting themselves under more pressure by trying to be all things to all people.  Delivering innovative social content and being culturally relevant are the top two qualities marketers list as what makes a brand best-in-class, while in contrast, consumers rank brands putting the customer first as their top attribute.

●        Marketers are missing potentially huge social commerce opportunities. Over the past year 63% of people  bought something via social media, demonstrating a growing confidence in shopping on a social platform. However, only 17% of marketers listed driving revenue as a business goal on social media.

●        Customer service on social matters most to consumers. Marketers ranked brand awareness as the main social media goal of 65% of British and Irish businesses, but only 30% of them thought social media was to contribute to their goal of providing customer service and support. And yet, when consumers were asked what businesses could do on social media to keep them from buying from them over their competitors, they said customer service is what matters – timely response to service enquiries and demonstrating and understanding of their needs.  It is clear they care more about service and their needs go beyond just consuming content.

●        With customer service in mind, cross-team collaboration is essential.  For the majority of businesses, social media is still considered primarily a marketing function, yet many teams are still working in silos. Cross-team collaboration is essential, but few organisations are committed to an integrated social programme across departments and 71% of respondents said this was either only occasional or non-existent.

●        Businesses understand the why of social, but not the howMarketers are aware of the importance of social media and have invested more time into getting onto multiple and new platforms. However, most businesses are still figuring out how to get the most out of these platforms and successfully build communities there.

Jamie Gilpin, CMO at Sprout Social expands on this, saying: “When social marketers have a deeper understanding of their audience’s needs and expectations, they can focus their efforts on what will have the most impact. Prioritise the social channels that your audience interacts with the most and use data-informed decisions to adjust your strategy or pivot where needed. A better understanding of audience needs leads to much less complicated and pressurised work, which is key to differentiating your brand and driving business growth.”