By now you know that social media is a marketing powerhouse. However, its value is still downplayed because of the historical disconnect between social and bottom-line business metrics. While it’s tempting for businesses to simply “follow the money,” not everything you do on social media translates directly into dollars and cents. Social ROI often comes down to the data you collect and how you use it.

Customers, competitors, campaigns, cultural events—today’s marketers have real-time data on it all and still, 39% say they struggle to demonstrate the value of social across their organizations. Social media is brimming with business, competitive and customer intelligence that’s valuable org-wide, and we’re here to help you prove it. Check out the articles and advice below to harness the power of social data and put it into action.

Getting started 

MIT Professor Erik Brynjolfsson found that data-driven organizations have five to six percent higher output and productivity than their less data-driven counterparts. So, ask yourself, what does a data-first mindset look like in your organization? How can you and your organization effectively embrace a data-driven marketing culture? Answering these questions will help create a clearer vision of how to put data in action at your business. Check out this Adapt article to learn more about how to build a culture around data. 

Before moving on, it’s a good idea to do a gut-check and dig into the social data you already have. Use this toolkit packed with templates, cheat sheets and guides to help you cleanse and harness your social data, so you can push your strategy forward.

Harness the Voice of the Customer and community 

According to the Sprout Social 2019 Index, 43% of all social marketers say a major challenge is identifying and understanding their target audience. However, social marketers on the frontlines of social feeds have the data to understand better than anyone what content is resonating most powerfully with audiences and exactly who makes up those audiences. 

Don’t just monitor, react 

Social media monitoring means so much more than just keeping an eye on your brand’s mentions. It’s an immediately reactive strategy and enables you to hear all kinds of talk about your brand: reviews, product questions and even service complaints. Effective monitoring can power connections with your audience, uncover trends and lead to stronger brand loyalty.

While the data that comes from monitoring might not translate to raw numbers, the qualitative data that comes from honest conversations on social can be extremely valuable when refining your strategy.

Learn to listen 

In 2019, 63% of social media marketers predicted that listening would be crucial in 2020. There are good reasons for the rising popularity of social listening. 

Social media listening refers to analyzing the conversations and trends happening not just around your brand, but around your industry as a whole, and using those insights to make better marketing decisions. It helps you understand why, where and how these conversations are happening, and what people think—even when you aren’t tagged. 

Listening isn’t just for marketers and social media managers—it’s a valuable source of business intelligence that your whole organization can leverage. But given the volume of conversations on social, it’s important to have the right social listening tools in place so that your entire business can hone in on the data and insights they need.

Lean into the content your audience wants

Brands often try to tie into what’s trendy for the masses and make it work for their brand, but social trends are not a one size fits all kind of thing. We’ve seen what it’s like when retailers try to cash in on Pride Month or when politicians start to experiment with memes and influencers. 

The good news for brands is that consumers are already vocal about where their interests lie. So, rather than looking for the biggest conversations, look for the right conversations that will contribute to success and sustain your audience longer than any viral meme or trend could.

Build data-backed strategies 

The Sprout Social 2019 Index revealed that developing social strategies to support overall business goals remains the number one challenge for 47% of social media marketers. Here we’ll dig a little deeper into how to build data-backed listening and go-to-market strategies. 

Create a winning listening strategy 

You’ve already learned how social media listening tools can uncover data that contributes to org-wide success. To capitalize on that data and make the most of listening, you’ll need to work with other departments to identify their goals, determine how listening can help and figure out how to tie it all back to your business’s bottom line. 

A major element in your strategy will be the queries and topics you set up in your listening tool. Once you’ve set those up, you’ll need to prove the value of your efforts to other departments and stakeholders. This is where the art of social strategy and the art of data analysis come together. 

Go-to-market with confidence

Social media is no longer just a place to chat with friends, keep up with your family or post photos from your vacations. It is the most prominent stepping stone on the path to purchase in every industry, including the B2B SaaS, internet and technology space. 

For these kinds of companies, their products and services are their bread and butter. When it comes time to go-to-market with a product, a data-first strategy is critical, and social media is a great place to look for that data. 

Building a successful go-to-market strategy with social media insights can ensure that product or service launch really takes off. Even if your brand isn’t B2B, many of the takeaways in this article can be applied to consumer product launches. 

Level up as a social media manager 

Working in social media builds a broad range of transferable skills. Research, analytics, creativity and communication all provide strong foundations for social media managers thinking about their next big career move. Take some of those skills to the next level with these articles and insights from social practitioners.

Bridge the gap between social and bottom-line metrics with stories

As a social media marketer, you know the value of the data and observations about your audience that can be uncovered every day through conversations, mentions and reporting. Boiling all of that down into a story that can shape brand strategy across your organization is a bigger challenge, but an incredible professional growth opportunity.  

Incorporate your storytelling skills into your approach to reporting and analysis. Executives and higher-ups may not be as fluent in social media metrics, so social media professionals need to translate the raw data, which lacks context, to a holistic vision that helps everyone understand the impact social has on an organization.

Take the next step in your career

In our recent customer-exclusive webinar, “5 Skills You Need to Get Promoted in 2020,” Paul Balcerak of Copacino+Fujikado and Skylar Piro, Senior Manager of Enterprise Success here at Sprout Social, broke down their own unique career trajectories and gave social marketers of all sophistication levels tips on career growth and how to tackle hard problems they’ll encounter along the way. 

Learn from your peers

What better way to learn how to excel as a social media marketer than to spend a day with one? In Sprout’s series, Always On, social practitioners from Twitter, Moment and more share their brand stories, the real-world impact of their work, the strategies they follow and how to turn all of that tactical execution know-how into strategic thinking. 

Social media and marketing tactics are continually evolving, just as you and your business should be, but one thing’s for sure. If marketers are committed to delivering consistent results and providing measurable business value, they need to be prepared to put data first.

Need analytics tools to make the most of your social data? If you haven’t taken advantage of a Sprout 30-day free trial yet, start one today.