If we can all agree on one thing, it’s that 2020 was a rollercoaster of a year.  Through all the ups and downs, brands wrestled with how they could—and should—pivot their marketing strategies to stay connected with their customers. What emerged for many was a new appreciation for the power of social media. Social data helps marketers stay on top of cultural trends and gain a deeper understanding of their audiences. Social listening provides real-time insights into consumers’ feelings, wants and needs in a way that no other marketing platform does. And in these “unprecedented times,” these customer insights are critical not only for marketing, but for business strategy across the organization.

As we head into 2021 and prepare for even more change, it’s time for brands to reexamine how they’re leveraging social data to better understand and drive deeper connections with their audience. Here at Sprout Social, that’s exactly what we help our customers do. The Sprout platform provides powerful data along with the flexible tools and intuitive user experience that make it easy to pull actionable insights that drive your business forward. 

In this article, we’ll highlight ways you can leverage Sprout’s platform, including newly released features, to make the most out of your social data. With a clear understanding of the data, you will be able to optimize your marketing strategy and connect with your audience—no matter what’s going on in the world. 

1. Benchmark against competitors

Social is the cornerstone of today’s brand-consumer relationship, and it’s often the first place people turn to find information, ask questions and share their thoughts and feedback. Measuring brand health on social has therefore become an increasingly important task for social media marketers—one with implications and opportunities across the marketing organization. Understanding brand health on social helps you understand:

  • How consumers feel about your brand
  • What consumers think about your products
  • Where your brand comes up in industry or cultural conversations

A complete understanding of your brand health can’t be gained in a silo. You also need to benchmark your performance against your top competitors to see where you stack up. 

Your owned content (that is, the content you publish on your brand’s social profiles) is the first thing you’ll want to benchmark. Sprout’s Competitor Reports, available in Professional and Advanced plans, give you in-depth data around your competitors’ content performance within major social platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This gives you a better sense of how your competitor’s social content is resonating with your shared audience and how strongly they’re performing on individual platforms.

Next, you’ll want to assess the performance of earned content, which refers to organic mentions of your brand in broader social conversations. This is where social listening comes into play. Our Competitive Analysis Topic Template, released for Sprout Listening early last year, enables you to compare share-of-voice data, which is one of the most powerful social metrics to gauge your brand’s competitive position and industry relevance. You can also analyze sentiment scores and trends to see how your audience feels about your competitors (and relevant topics) compared to your own brand. 

Compiling this benchmarking data will give you more meaningful context for your brand health and social content performance, and spark ideas for where you can improve to build better connections with your audience. 

2. Hone your content strategy to match customer preferences

With so much noise on social media these days, consumers are becoming more discerning about which brands they follow (and unfollow). Your content strategy plays a huge role in this. In fact, consumers report that irrelevant content is one of the biggest reasons they choose to unfollow brands.

This is important not only for your social strategy but for business success on the whole, as your social following can have a significant impact on your bottom line. According to our Sprout Social Index™, Edition XVII: Accelerate, 90% of consumers say they will buy from a brand they follow on social, and 85% of consumers will buy more often from a brand they follow on social.

Sprout’s Analytics solution makes it easy to understand your content performance so you can create the right content for your audience. Tagging your content in Sprout is one of the simplest ways to organize your social media content into different categories for easy tracking and analysis. For example, you could use Tags to categorize your content related to an upcoming conference event, campaign or a new product launch. You can then analyze the Tag Report, available for Professional and Advanced plans, to see which content topic and categories are resonating and which are not. Stay tuned for exciting updates coming for the Tag Report in early 2021. 

Analyzing content types is also important, as consumers’ tastes differ across each social network. One of the biggest trends of the past couple of years is the rising consumer preference for visual content on social, including both images and video. Sprout recently launched our new YouTube Videos report, available for all plans, which allows you to track key performance indicators (KPIs) for your video and channel performance so you can better understand what resonates with your audience and adjust your content accordingly. 

3. Analyze conversation trends to stay aligned with your audience 

If there’s one thing social marketers learned in 2020, it was the importance of staying on top of trending conversations on social and pivoting (or pausing) your content accordingly. While the chaos of 2020 is hopefully a thing of the past, the value of using social data to stay connected with the wants, needs and interests of your audience will only continue to grow. 

This is where social listening comes into play. Listening offers a comprehensive understanding of the larger conversations happening around your brand, industry and competitors. It also shows which topics resonate with your audience. Here are a few key ways you can use Sprout’s Listening solution to gather important audience insights that will help you stay connected no matter what’s going on in the world: 

Gain cultural context for your brand performance. 

With Sprout’s unified analytics solution, you can easily compare and contrast your owned content performance data in Reporting against larger conversation trends in Listening to understand the “why” behind your social performance.

Identify new opportunities to connect with your audience

Our conversation analysis tools, such as sentiment rating and the word cloud, make it easy to quickly spot conversation trends and understand how your audience feels about specific topics. You can also leverage the demographic data for a deeper understanding of your audience and the topics that resonate with them.

Gather valuable consumer insights that can be shared across your organization

Our intuitive Listening dashboard makes it easy for anyone to track high-level conversation trends, while also providing the flexibility for more advanced data enthusiasts to find more detailed information and answer specific questions. The consumer insights gleaned through listening data can provide significant value for many other teams across your organization, including product development, sales and customer support. 

Know when to be silent

Another less common but equally important use of social listening data is knowing when your brand should be silent. Strategic social silence is often the best course of action during periods of extreme crisis or social unrest. During such events, brands should pause social content not directly related to the current events or containing critical information. Using listening, you can track the progress of the conversation activity and monitor audience sentiment to determine when it’s appropriate to resume posting your marketing content. 

4. Customize your data for personalized and actionable insights

While social data is incredibly valuable, the sheer volume of data at our disposal can seem overwhelming. The truth is that social data is only valuable when you can actually harness it to identify meaningful insights. That’s why Sprout has invested in building tools that help you customize the data you see for your unique business goals and objectives. 

Social listening is a prime example of this concept. It takes some upfront investment to create and hone strong Listening topics, but this investment significantly improves the value of the data by making it much easier to pull personalized and actionable insights. Here are a few recent feature updates that will make it much easier for you to customize your listening data:

Topic Templates

Topic Templates help you create Listening Topics geared towards specific business insights goals, including brand health, competitive analysis, industry insights, campaign analysis and event monitoring. 

Topic Themes (now self-service)

For even more customization, you can create Themes within your Topics. These are essentially subcategories that allow you to focus your data on the key themes that matter for your business, such as business segments, product lines and influencers. 

Sentiment Analysis customization

Sentiment analysis is a really critical tool to help you stay aligned with your customers. However, measuring it can be a nuanced task that requires your brand’s unique context and perspective. That’s why we’ve released new tools to help you customize your analysis, including Sentiment Reclassification and Sentiment Rulesets, so you can get the most accurate understanding of how your audience really feels.

Customized reports and API integration

Customizing your reporting data for your owned content is also extremely powerful in helping to make insights much easier to gather. Premium Analytics users can use the Report Builder to create Custom Reports, where you can choose to include or exclude metrics depending on the KPIs that matter for your business.

We also recently released a new Analytics API, available for Premium Analytics customers, which allows users to integrate their owned social data with their internal tools, reporting tools and data warehouses outside of Sprout. If you’re interested in learning more about the API and what it can do for your business, please reach out to your Sprout rep. 

5. Share insights with key stakeholders for more business impact

Social data is arguably the most powerful source of business insights that has ever existed. The data and insights available through social media can—and should—change an entire business by giving business leaders the cultural context they need to truly understand what their customers want. From product development to customer support, the social data in Sprout can answer a brand’s most important questions about how to manage, expand and grow their business across every department.

While there’s great value potential here, many marketers today aren’t consistently sharing their data with stakeholders. Our research shows that only 25% of marketers use social data to report results to managers and other team members and only 39% use social data to support other departments within their organization. 

Sprout makes it easy to share this data with our presentation-ready reports, which you can download as PDFs or send directly from the platform in a few quick clicks. For frequent collaborators, you can also set up a Scheduled PDF Delivery to automatically deliver reports to stakeholders on a weekly or monthly basis. 

Our Report Link Sharing feature for Premium Analytics makes it even easier to share reports with external stakeholders by enabling you to create a shareable link. With this link, your stakeholders can access a browser-version of your report that updates in real-time. You can choose specific date ranges as well as “dynamic date ranges” (ie. last 7 days), which essentially provides your collaborators with an evergreen dashboard of your Sprout data. Link sharing is currently available for 11 Premium Analytics reports, including the Custom Report.

The value potential of social data is clear. The only question is whether you’re taking the right steps to harness the data and capture that value. Head to our Learning Portal to learn more about how you can leverage your social data to make a big impact on your business.