While nearly everything came to a halt in early 2020, social media never slowed down. In fact, roughly half of consumers report using social more since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Sprout’s Agency Partner Program was built to help our agency customers expand their client networks, connect with other agencies around the globe and use Sprout’s best-in-class tools to serve their clients more effectively. Agency Partners have always recognized the power and value social, but a common challenge agencies face is demonstrating that value to clients. The events of 2020, however, created a tipping point.

Read on to learn about how eight agency experts turned tumultuous times into an opportunity for their clients to level up on social.

1. Social is an essential tool for essential businesses

Ingredient is a food marketing agency and several of their clients are grocery stores, which were deemed essential businesses during COVID-19 and were one of the few places consumers still regularly visited during the pandemic.

“Social media has been critical when it comes to grocery stores keeping customers informed of store hours, mask guidelines, and what precautions they are taking to keep their employees and customers as safe as possible. We’re seeing customers connecting with their local stores at more of an emotional level instead of just a functional level as customers openly express their support of and appreciation for the store employees.

Through Sprout Premium Analytics, we’ve been able to monitor the impact of this on impressions, reach and engagement. More specifically, we saw organic impressions double from February to March as customers looked for and shared this information on both Facebook and Instagram.”

– Emily Tritabaugh, VP Content Strategy, Ingredient

2. Stay connected despite the (social) distance

When the world feels unstable, people search for answers and a port in the storm. Throughout the pandemic, the 123 Internet Group’s top priority was ensuring that their clients are staying connected with their customers and communities on social.

“No matter what industry you’re in, you need to keep in touch and be transparent with your customers. We worked closely with all our clients to help them understand the needs of their customers while providing answers and advice related to the pandemic.

We use Sprout Social to schedule and post regular Q&As so our customers can drum up conversations and take direction as to how they could improve their business straight from their customers. Then we use Sprout Analytics to understand which posts and topics had the most engagement and which stories resonated. As we continue to grow their following we can ensure we continue to highlight these topics to increase engagement”

– Scott Jones, CEO, 123 Internet Group

3. Personal connections > constant sales messaging

Retail is an industry that has faced major disruptions during 2020 like store closures, production plant shutdowns and drops in sales. Connec+, a full-service digital marketing and retail consultancy business, recognized that social media would be instrumental in filling communication gaps.

Thanks to social media we were able to continue to provide the connection that customers were craving throughout this time. We moved our focus from marketing and ads to more direct engagement—one-on-one interaction with other people—and our followers responded.

As we added in marketing messages we were able to convert more customers through social media to sales, and the loyalty we created during lockdown has continued as the stores have reopened. It’s been an important lesson for our clients that personal connections on social media are more valuable than constant sales messaging and we hope that they will continue to see the importance in the months to come.”

– Aimee Stewart, Managing Director, Connec+

4. Give the people what they want and need

 Connection is the new currency. At Aroluxe Marketing, an integrated marketing agency in Nashville, TN, the team takes an empathetic approach to creating deep, authentic connections between clients and their audiences.

“Social media is now more important than ever. It enables your brand to stay connected despite our current environment. The key is finding what your audience needs during this time both emotionally and physically. Do they want to be sold to right now? Would your product or service be valuable to them right now? Maybe your ideal customer just needs some feel good stories or wants to know how your brand is supporting its community. Sprout’s Social Listening tool allows us to dive deeper into whatever those needs may be and build content around those insights.”

– Sara Staats, Social Lead, Aroluxe Marketing

5. Teach clients where they fit into the new landscape

 Emely Roman and her team of “marketing mixologists” at The Foundry Collective ensure that their clients’ social presence is anything but generic. Unfortunately though, social was the first thing to go for some of her clients as the pandemic disrupted business. They quickly realized their mistake.

“In the beginning of the pandemic, we lost a couple of clients because social media had sat on the back burner of their company budgets. However, as social distancing and isolation became a new norm, those same clients and new ones quickly realized how important it was to use social to connect with their audience online.

A restaurant, a public speaker and even a ministry reached out to us to help them enhance their social media presences. All of them were now faced with the challenge of developing new product offerings and reaching out to an evolving consumer base. Thankfully because we had Sprout Social on our side we were able to send proposals with live competitor analysis from their Listening Tool, which showed how much more efforts the brands that are currently being successful were putting on social media.”

– Emely Roman, CEO, The Foundry Collective

6. The only doors that have stayed 100% open during hard times are on social media

 At See.Spark.Go., social media is a pillar of the content marketing they provide for their clients. As their name suggests, they balance long-term thinking and learning with quick reflexes and real-time data.

“As Sprout’s CMO Jamie Gilpin said during Sprout Sessions, ‘the only doors that have stayed 100% open are on social media.’ Whether it was daily changes in store hours or a CEO opening a dialogue about racial injustice, we were able to show our clients data from examples—both good and bad—and connect it to their long-term strategic business objectives.

Reporting weekly, being transparent and adjusting our strategies based on new learnings regularly allowed us to continue to show the value of social media, so much so, that clients who were forced to furlough internal team members saw that the one thing they couldn’t press pause on was social.”

– Jennifer Garrett, VP of Content and Creative, See.Spark.Go.

7. Social is the where customers go for quick, reliable customer support

 According to the 2021 Sprout Social Index™: Edition XVII, 44% of consumers will unfollow a brand on social due to poor customer service. In times of crisis, the need for reliable customer service and support only becomes greater, which Happy Hour Media Group recognized and championed during the pandemic.

“Our agency has shown our clients how powerful social media can be for providing customer support and helping to ease tensions and concerns their customers have during tumultuous times. Businesses that stay silent leave their customers more confused, so we advised them to continue sharing any and all relevant updates on social media to keep customers updated and informed.

Thanks to the help of Sprout, our agency is able to stay on top of incoming messages and relevant mentions that come in through the Smart Inbox. This ability helps our agency and our client be responsive enough to turn a frustrated customer into a satisfied one.”

– Amanda Mueller-Hickler, Social Media Manager, Happy Hour Media Group

We're bringing you a 4-part series on lessons learned from a global crisis full of insights from social media marketers…

Posted by Happy Hour Media Group on Monday, July 20, 2020

8. Convince non-believers with social data

CREW Marketing Partners, a full-service agency that prides itself on growing their clients into leading brands in their industries, proved it’s not just paid media that supports marketing goals. An engaged audience and organic content can go a long way. They’ve got the data to prove it.

“I talk with clients about companies that invest in content and audience building year after year, and explain that those are the brands that are finding themselves in a better place today than their competitors who didn’t make that investment. That’s in part because those businesses that build engaged audiences don’t have to rely entirely on paid media for their traffic when times get tough.

When we halted nearly all paid activity, we pitched a social contest to a client as a way to continue building brand awareness. We were able to use Sprout Social data to clearly illustrate how the contest helped give the brand extensive organic reach and impressions, engagement and new followers. Making the investment in building audiences has recently paid dividends, and will again in the next downturn.”

Brad Marshall, Director of Digital Marketing, CREW Marketing Partners

Grow with us

Being able to help our Agency Partners excel during challenging times is what Sprout’s Agency Partner Program is all about. The program includes access to co-marketing resources, sales support to grow your network and a community of support and unmatched social expertise. Come grow with us! Learn more here.