It wasn’t that long ago when organizations struggled to understand why they should invest in social media. What was once thought of as an intern’s responsibility is now considered table stakes for any data-driven business. In fact, The 2023 State of Social Media report reveals 80% of business leaders expect their social media budgets to increase over the next three years.

But as funding for social media increases, so do the expectations to see immediate results. Business leaders have already proven social data is an invaluable asset—now they have to demonstrate the returns on that investment. If executives want to capitalize on all that social data has to offer, they need to reevaluate how social data is internally shared and acted on across their teams.

Organizations have yet to unlock social’s true potential

As integral as social is to business success, there’s a disconnect between how executives perceive social data and how it’s actually leveraged. The reality is teams struggle to get the most out of their social investment, with 69% of business leaders agreeing that social data is currently underutilized in their organization.

Circle chart showing that 69% of surveyed business leaders agree social data is underutilized in their organizations.

Part of that is due to lack of access. Historically, access to social data was limited to platforms and tools that were technically complex to implement and required third-party interpretation. Relying on an analyst or software vendor to compile these insights often meant that information wasn’t coming in in real-time, slowing down teams whose decisions were dependent on that data.

Similarly, there are issues with how social data is shared and utilized throughout all parts of the organization, not just within the team responsible for owning social. Data reveals 56% of business leaders say they need greater collaboration between departments when it comes to using social data.

Because when social data is democratically leveraged, it can inform everything from sales strategy to product development to market research. In order to truly capture social’s value, business leaders need to reimagine how teams collaborate with each other and the tools needed to manipulate social insights at scale.

Social data is meant to be shared, not siloed

Back when organizations were wrapping their heads around the value of social media, it was standard practice to see social owned by one team like marketing or communications. Naturally, this limited who could access social data, a challenge that 35% of leaders say prevents their business from using social data to inform business decisions. But the solution isn’t as simple as handing teams like sales or finance raw, unstructured social data. There also needs to be an educational and enablement component to make social media intelligence actionable for everyone.

That means helping teams that historically didn’t use social data understand what insights they can glean from Reddit communities, Twitter DMs, LinkedIn mentions or even TikTok comments. Consider relying on your internal social experts to teach other departments what information lies beyond the likes, shares and video views on a specific platform. Don’t just say your organization is data-driven; teach your teams how to improve their data literacy. Creating a shared dashboard, for example, where you can pair social media intelligence with other data sources can help contextualize social data and provide teams a more holistic view of all business insights.

It also means executives need to lead by example and incorporate social data when making business decisions. The Atlanta Hawks, for example, use social listening insights to influence content strategies across several brand partnerships and anticipate what fans want to see from the team next. Similarly, Trek Bicycles used listening to capitalize on the sudden bike boom during the pandemic and forecast how long this trend might last. When business leaders treat social data as essential to their decision making, it can lead to tangible bottomline results and help brands build stronger relationships with their target audience.

Embrace AI or watch your competitors race ahead

When companies first started using big data, it wasn’t just their people, culture and workflows that had to change—their tech stack underwent a makeover too. Organizations had to invest in more robust tools that could store, process and analyze large data sets in a scalable and cost-effective way.

Similarly, an increase in funding for social media must be matched by an investment in more efficient, sophisticated tools. As companies reign in spending due to economic uncertainties like fear of a recession, the mantra “do more with less” is more relevant than ever before. Teams don’t have the time or headcount to manually analyze and interpret social data, especially when their competition is actively investing in those same data sources. Speed is the name of the game, and the organizations that embrace artificial intelligence in their social tools will be the ones that pull ahead from the pack.

Graphic outlining the three steps business leaders must take to maximize their social investments, including educating their teams, leading by example and embracing AI.

Consider how AI can empower organizations to move faster from data analysis to action. One of the challenges we hear from customers is knowing how to extract relevant insights from social listening. With an AI-powered query builder, business leaders can get pointed topic suggestions to build better reports and waste less time tweaking their search criteria. AI can also empower organizations to move quickly by distilling unstructured social data into a handful of key headlines. Time otherwise spent summarizing raw data can be spent taking actions that have a measurable impact on your business or getting back to solving your customers’ pain points.

Of course, talks of AI adoption are always accompanied by concerns that AI will replace humans in the workforce. And yes, while it’s true that technological advancements like AI will disrupt nearly a quarter of all jobs, there’s also a net benefit we gain by eliminating redundancies or time wasted on mundane activities. Instead of looking at AI as a way to replace data analysts on your team, we need to reframe AI as a tool that can bring employees across your organization together to use social data more effectively. When teams spend less time accessing and getting to the most salient insights from data, they have more time to collaborate on opportunities that produce real results.

Don’t pigeon-hole your social media investments

These days, executives no longer need to be convinced of social’s impact on a business’ bottom line. Companies of all industries and sizes are spending more money than before on social media to gain a competitive edge that comes from the real-time insights only social media can provide.

At the same time, an increase in social funding can’t be the only variable changing at the organizational level. There needs to be a fundamental shift in how teams collaborate with one another and what tools they use to analyze social data—or businesses risk letting their social media investments fall by the wayside.

For more findings on how business leaders are adapting their workflows to further integrate social data throughout their organizations, download The 2023 State of Social Media Report today.