After a year of lockdown in the UK and Ireland, social media use has exploded for businesses and consumers alike. Consumers are turning to social at every stage of the buyer journey, and businesses are working overdrive trying to keep up.

But are these efforts translating to business goals?

To find out, we surveyed 500 British and Irish marketers to understand their goals, what they consider best-in-class and how they leverage social data for their campaigns and initiatives. We also surveyed 500 British and Irish consumers to find out how aligned businesses’ social strategies are to what they want and expect.

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The pressure is on for British & Irish businesses

This first-of-its-kind report revealed that social media is the place for businesses to connect with customers. It also revealed that marketers are putting themselves under way too much pressure to make these connections. With the exception of TripAdvisor and WhatsApp, business use of social media platforms is higher than the proportional consumer use. This could indicate that businesses have flocked to social media to stay connected with their customers, without actually making sure their platform priorities correlate with where their customers are.

As British and Irish marketers spend more time getting on to multiple platforms, connecting efforts to business value becomes more difficult. One-fifth of marketers say their biggest challenge is linking social media to business goals. Yet, only 3% of marketers find identifying meaningful data to be a pressing concern.

This disconnect is most evident when determining the resources and tools needed to achieve business goals for social. Over a third of marketers (35%) cite market research as what they need most to succeed on social, closely followed by audience research (33%). In total, five out of the top eleven answers pertained to data in some form.

This lack of research and analysis makes it difficult for marketers to succeed across the many platforms they manage. On top of that, business expectations of what it means to be a market leader are far more advanced than customer expectations. While marketers consider trends, pop culture and memes as important, each of these categories is ranked significantly lower in importance by consumers. Where marketers are looking for innovative social content and cultural relevance, consumers are looking for superior customer service.

Pushing social past the awareness stage

Consumers in the UK and Ireland list timely responses to customer service enquiries as their top concern when making purchase decisions on social. Yet for businesses, social media is still predominantly a marketing function, with 71% of social marketers either working in silos or maintaining only occasional communications about social with other business departments.

Overall, the majority of businesses see social as a top of funnel game, with 65% of marketers citing increasing brand awareness as their top business goal. Though less than 20% of businesses prioritize social to drive revenue, social is increasingly becoming a point of sale. Sixty-three percent of consumers say they have purchased a product from social media, with Gen Z being most likely to do so. Businesses that prioritise social commerce today may secure this heft of purchasing power tomorrow.

While social’s power in attraction and branding is impressive, many overlook its power as a direct contributor to revenue and lasting customer relationships. Businesses will reap the full benefits of a strategic social presence once they break free from silos and narrow their focus to what matters to their target audience.

In the UK & Ireland edition of the 2021 Sprout Social Index™, we explore how marketers can find the audiences they want while identifying what consumers really expect from businesses on social. We’ll dig into how businesses can use data to be proactive leaders in both the European and global marketing space, with tips and insights that empower smarter social media decisions.

Ready to harness social data to bridge the gap between your brand and its consumers? Check out the Sprout Social Index™ 2021: UK & Ireland Edition.

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