Many social media marketers today find themselves at a challenging crossroads–social platforms are growing increasingly complex, with more features, formats and content types, and audiences’ expectations for social content are developing alongside these platforms. On top of these growing demands, many social teams are increasingly pressed for time to dig through the wealth of data available to them and develop all-encompassing social strategies.

Social marketers who are on the frontlines of their feeds day in and day out have the data to understand better than anyone what content is resonating most powerfully with audiences and exactly who makes up those audiences. This leads to important insights about how social can fuel bottomline growth and organizational development. Social teams are also the first to note trends and gather stats that shape the future of social, as well as customer insights that can shift an entire brand strategy.

Despite these valuable insights, social marketers are often overwhelmed between the demands of relatively small team sizes and the variety of daily tasks and ongoing tactical execution. This limits the full potential that social media marketers have to tell data-driven stories, collaborate with other teams, influence strategy and be crucial drivers of real business growth.

In the Sprout Social Index™: Empower & Elevate, we uncover how marketers can take social strategies to the next level and how social teams can demonstrate impact across their organizations with the right support. While you dig into all of the data in this latest Index report, here are nine key stats you can bring to your boss right away to demonstrate why social media marketers are a business’s most valuable resource.

Social media marketing challenges

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 this all down into a story that can shape brand strategy across your organization is a much bigger challenge, especially with the demands social marketers face to keep regular tactics running and implement new campaigns.

1. 47% of social media marketers say developing social strategies to support overall business goals remains their number one challenge.

You’re not alone if your social team is feeling crunched for bandwidth and behind the curve in incorporating all of that valuable social data into a coherent strategy. Social marketers are consistently struggling to build holistic strategies that support overall business goals. Not only are social marketing teams failing to reach their full potential, their organizations are also missing out on added value. When social teams lack the time to share out data-driven analyses and develop strategy, they miss out on the chance to communicate findings that have impact across their organizations.

What to tell your boss: Social marketers need additional time and bandwidth to create impactful goals that utilize their full potential–read on to our next stat to find out why this matters to more than just the social team.

2. This is in spite of the 71% of social media marketers who say they are able to provide insights from social to other departments.

Social marketers know that the data they get from regular conversations and interactions with audiences is a powerful measure of what customers want from brands and where they expect them to be headed. Social data is about more than Likes and follower counts–it also reveals sentiment and industry insight that can be transformative for all areas of an organization. Even though 71% of marketers say they have these insights, 39% of marketers say they struggle to demonstrate the value of social across their organizations.

When social media marketers are given the resources and support they need, they can in turn support other teams with these valuable consumer insights. These insights are more important than ever as consumers continue to raise their expectations for what they want from brands on social.

What to tell your boss: Your social team is in touch with customers’ needs and concerns every day, and should be empowered to tell these stories and shape strategies across your business.

Consumer behavior on social media

Social media marketers know that authentic engagement is more important than ever as network algorithm changes reward relationship building over clickbait strategies. With many social teams feeling like they just don’t have the time or resources to fully dive into all of the possibilities of social, every data point on what audiences want from brands and marketing strategies can help make a difference. These are just a few of the key consumer insights we uncovered in the Index.

3. When consumers follow brands on social, 67% say they are more likely to increase their spending with that brand.

The social media team’s role is about more than just increasing likes. Authentic connection drives actual revenue for brands. The right social strategy helps build relationships that keep brands top-of-mind when consumers are ready to spend. It also keeps them coming back–an additional 78% of consumers say they’ll recommend that brand to a family or friend and 77% will buy from that brand over another when they follow on social.

What to tell your boss: Follower counts are more than a vanity metric–building relationships on social with customers leads to revenue and repeat conversions.

4. 53% of consumers follow brands on social that they don’t shop with, representing a missed opportunity to grow revenue.

Just getting eyes on your posts isn’t enough to ensure you’ll be audiences’ first stop for shopping, however. 46% of consumers follow brands just for their inspirational content. While a beautifully curated feed helps draw eyes, social media marketers also need to engage with their followers to form relationships that convert. To do this, you’ll want to find out what your audiences’ needs are and be ready to engage and respond when they reach out–whether they tag or mention you or not.

What to tell your boss: Social teams can’t just blindly follow trends when posting social content–you also need the tools to dig into what leads your specific audience to convert.

5. 50% of consumers follow brands on social to learn about new products or services.

Entertaining and inspirational content is great for building your brand voice and demonstrating your personality, but valuable relationships with consumers come from understanding why they’re taking the time to follow brands in the first place. A majority of consumers want to learn about new products and services, while 48% follow brands on social to be entertained.

These stats are not only insights into what consumers want, they also show the multiple directions social media marketers and teams are pulled in to ensure they meet all of these needs. Your social media content strategy needs to pull together both informative and entertaining posts. Tapping into your brand’s unique audience profile is key to maximizing your strategy by learning exactly when and how your audience is engaging with the content you post.

What to tell your boss: You need a highly developed content plan to reach potential buyers throughout their customer journey–and your team needs the resources to create and execute it.

6. 45% of consumers are more likely to research a product or service when a brand’s employees post about that product or service.

Even with these consumer behaviors in mind, your social strategy doesn’t exist in a vacuum exclusive to the social team. Employee advocacy is a key piece of a complete, holistic social strategy. Employee-generated content helps build trust and reinforce the messaging about your culture and brand voice, all of which play a role in developing relationships that lead to conversion with customers. As customers explore posts around a product or service, employee advocacy helps move consumers through the funnel by building on your brand narrative with individual employees’ unique and trustworthy voices.

What to tell your boss: Your social team has the power to activate an employee advocacy strategy that tells your brand story and builds trust with audiences.

2019’s key social marketing trends

In addition to reviewing the current state of social media consumer behavior, the Sprout Social Index also identified key trends on the horizon. Here are three top trends you’ll want to arm yourself–and your boss–with right away. If you want to be ready for your social team to meet your followers where they are, be ready to factor these trends into your strategic planning.

Download the latest Sprout Social Index™

7. 45% of consumers say they would like to see more live video from brands on social.

It’s clear that live video will become a must-have for social media marketing, and with live streaming options available across all the major social networks, there’s no easy way for brands to overlook this feature going forward. While live video has unique advantages like the ability to be more spontaneous and less produced, there can still be a disconnect for many social teams between the importance of adding it to their strategy and the bandwidth to actually implement it. 63% of social media marketers believe live video will become more important in the upcoming year, yet only 24% intend to create a strategy for YouTube Live. Audience insights specific to your brand are critical to determine what platforms your social team should focus their efforts on.

What to tell your boss: Your social marketing team needs the resources to identify where and how they can make the biggest impact with live video, and then create that content.

8. 40% of social media marketers believe private community groups, like Facebook and LinkedIn Groups, will become more important.

Private groups represent a unique opportunity where people self-identify as highly interested in not only a topic, but also your brand–46% of consumers join private groups specifically to communicate directly with a brand or business. Private communities like Linkedin or Facebook Groups also allow social marketers to get in-depth insights from the most passionate audiences–two-thirds of consumers join a private group because they want to connect with people who are similar to them. Private groups shouldn’t be overlooked just because they don’t have wide organic reach–for the 48% of social marketers whose goals for social in the upcoming year include increasing community engagement, they’re they perfect space to cultivate a highly invested and motivated community with the potential to become brand advocates.

What to tell your boss: Initiatives to increase community engagement lead to more than just more Likes–they can also put you in touch with your most dedicated and outspoken customer base.

9. 63% of social media marketers believe listening will become more important over the upcoming year.

One recurring theme running through all of these stats is the need to know your brand’s specific audience in-depth. Consumers’ expectations out of social are growing more sophisticated, demanding a mix of content types and formats across many networks. Plus, social media marketers know their potential customers are often discussing them, their products and their competitors without any direct tags or mentions. Social listening lets marketers drive customer research at scale by providing the ability to filter relevant information out of the large datasets that social messages represent. By distilling these recurring themes into actionable insights that can impact a variety of teams, social media marketers bring value back to the rest of their organization. As social media marketers increasingly engage with data analysis to prove the ROI of their efforts, advanced tools like listening become must-haves in their toolkit.

What to tell your boss: Social listening can be a source of opportunity across your entire marketing structure, offering insights into your audience, industry and competitors.

These nine stats are just a few of our findings in the Sprout Social Index™–download the latest report to read our full insights on how you can empower your social team and elevate your social strategy