There is no denying the power of brand social media. From raising a brand’s global profile to supplementing research and development efforts, social media can help grow multiple aspects of any organization.

But with more than half of Irish and UK consumers saying they’ve increased their social usage in the past six months, the widespread popularity of social creates a unique challenge for brands. The over-saturated social landscape makes it difficult for brands to capture their audience’s attention, stand out from their competitors and grow their share of voice.

For Ireland and UK-based marketers trying to engage with their target audience, an effective social strategy calls for putting customer preferences at the center of their social strategy. In our first Sprout Social UK & Ireland report, we uncover how marketers can grow their audience on social and build stronger connections with their customers. As you dive into all of the data across our UK and Ireland report, here are the five essential stats you need to keep top of mind to elevate your social strategy.

Finding your audience

1. Give customers what they want, not what you think they want

With millions of posts going out on social media every day, marketers need to prioritize the quality of their content over quantity if you want to stand out above the crowd. For brands to successfully attract and retain their social audience, you should be delivering content that aligns with what customers actually want to see from brands.

Our research shows 60% of consumers follow brands on social to learn about new products and services, so marketers should consider developing content that reflects this interest. UBS, for example, used Twitter to announce the launch of its new online hub, UNLIMITED, and generated 2.14 million impressions in just one week.

2. Customers are looking for entertainment on social

Growing your audience, while important, means little if customers don’t actively interact with your brand’s social page. To encourage engagement, marketers should consider creating posts and media that inspire an emotional response out of their audience. Of all the social content available, 59% of consumers say they are most likely to engage with posts that are entertaining.

Tayto Ireland, a crisps and popcorn manufacturer, used a mixture of hashtags, keyword targeting and promoted video on Twitter to extend the longevity of their TV advertising campaign. With promoted video, Tayto promoted and targeted its humorous video content to anyone interested in comedy, and also ran true-or-false games to drive further engagement. As a result, the Tayto Ireland Twitter account garnered over one million impressions, nearly 60,000 total engagements and 15,000 video views.

Conversations can spark connection

3. Brands need to talk to their audience

The beauty of social media is customers are given a direct line of communication with their favorite brands. Our own research shows 60% of Irish and British consumers want brands to use social to communicate with their audience. But instead of only reacting to customers’ questions and concerns, brands should be seeking out opportunities to proactively engage with consumers.

To ensure no conversation goes unnoticed, brands can employ social media monitoring to uncover posts around their business, industry, relevant subjects and even competitors. With monitoring, marketers can keep an eye on brand mentions and quickly respond to customer feedback and reviews. Monitoring also gives marketers an opportunity to engage with customers who are talking about the brand, even if they don’t tag the brand or geotag its location in their social posts.

4. Employee advocacy goes a long way in building trust

While a large social following is nice to have, it’s far from the end goal for any social media manager. After securing your customers’ attention, prioritize connecting with your audience and building relationships that last beyond a simple Like or follow. According to our data, 60% of UK and Irish consumers say connection starts when they feel they can trust a brand or business.

One way brands can build trust among customers is to use employee advocacy to share news about products and company updates. Unlike paid brand ads, advocacy relies on a brand’s employees to share content to their own social networks. Vodafone UK, for example, encourages its employees to share Vodafone-related news through their personal profiles and to connect with their peers. The telecommunications service provider ultimately drove 20 million impressions since starting their employee advocacy program.

5. Be open to two-way dialogue

Marketers know a relationship is a two-way street, and when customers talk to brands on social they expect a response back. From responding to user-generated content to answering questions in DM’s, there are a number of opportunities for marketers to further engage with your customers and strengthen those relationships.

In particular, 39% of consumers would like to see brands use more ask-me-anything sessions on social platforms like Reddit. With an AMA, brands can communicate directly with their followers, answering any questions customers have and proactively seeking feedback that could inform new products and services. Dublin Airport, for example, uses its profiles on Twitter and Instagram to share news and answer passenger questions, and has won multiple awards for their strong presence on social.

These five stats are just a few of our findings in the Sprout Social: UK & Ireland report—explore the full report for further insights on how you can attract and engage your audience on social.