Despite the world largely returning to normal since the height of the pandemic, social media usage has continued to climb. In fact, 53% of consumers report higher social media usage over the last two years than the previous two. As consumer habits around social media change, what consumers expect from brands using the medium has modified as well, based on a recent report from Sprout Social.
Most consumers (68%) report primarily using social media to remain informed about recent services, pointing to the channel’s potential upside for brands. The second biggest reason is a desire to access exclusive promotions or deals.
“This demonstrates why it’s more vital than ever for social media teams to be in lockstep with product, sales, and customer support teams,” said Jamie Gilpin, CMO at Sprout Social in an email to Marketing Dive.
“The Sprout Social Index Edition XIX: Breakthrough” checked out data collected online from 1,817 consumers positioned in the U.S. and the U.K. Each consumer followed at the very least five brands on social media. Additionally, 903 full-time social marketers from businesses in the same regions were also interviewed. Data on each populations was collected from June 12, 2023 to June 23, 2023.
With consumers spending more time online than ever, marketers have recent opportunities to interact with their core demographics. However, marketers shouldn’t assume the consumers of today want the same things as their pre-pandemic counterparts. New engagement means recent relationship dynamics for marketers to navigate.
Social media has put consumers in direct contact with brands and consumers wish to feel connected. While many marketers might imagine that brands achieve this connection through speaking out on issues consumers find vital, this isn’t necessarily the case, based on the report. In fact, only 25% of consumers think brands have to speak out on issues which align to their values to be memorable.
The best way for a brand to have an effect on social media is to easily reply to their customers, based on the report. Fifty-one percent of consumers see this as the best solution to be memorable, far ahead of the second place option, which is the creation of original content as a substitute of simply following trends.
“While this doesn’t take away from the importance of taking authentic stances on vital issues, this does show just how vital it’s for brands to leverage social media’s unique ability to attach with consumers at a person level,” said Gilpin.
The have to make a connection is supported by the undeniable fact that 70% of respondents expect an organization to offer personalized responses to a customer support need. Seventy-six percent of consumers value how quickly a brand can reply to concerns, with the same amount reporting they notice and appreciate when firms make customer support a priority.
When it involves response time, 30% — the largest proportion — expect a response the same day, down from the 42% who expected the same thing last 12 months. Sixteen percent of consumers expect a response inside minutes, up from 13% the 12 months before, based on the report.
Rise of the machines
If marketers wish to maintain up with consumer demands, artificial intelligence (AI) may prove to be the key. Already, 81% of marketers indicate AI has had a positive impact on their work, based on the report. AI’s impact is anticipated to be even greater in 2024, especially in the areas of content creation and data evaluation. Seventy-eight percent of respondents say AI has allowed for more time spent on creativity and 73% report increased efficiency.
Over half of marketers (54%) report planning to make use of AI for customer self-service tools, corresponding to chatbots. Fifty percent plan to make use of AI to streamline social media workflow, while 47% plan on using automation for basic customer support inquiries and tasks. An additional 35% plan on using it for training purposes.
“Marketers are leveraging artificial intelligence to fulfill consumers’ demands for personalized connection and deliver higher customer experiences at scale,” said Gilpin. “Marketers are also seeing the positive impacts of AI taking on time-consuming work like data evaluation, giving them more time to fulfill the demand for authenticity and have those personalized conversations that buyers crave.”
However, the public has remained skeptical of AI, with 42% of consumers indicating they’re barely or very apprehensive about the technology. Only 24% report being barely or very enthusiastic about AI, while 34% remain neutral. This suggests that while AI could also be a robust tool in helping marketers meet consumer demand, the public feelings around AI could hinder its progress. Finding a balance between leveraging the technology and consumer trust shall be key.
“For marketers, living as much as those standards means embracing recent processes and technology as essential components of a contemporary social media strategy,” said Gilpin. “It means we as marketers should see social otherwise. It shall be difficult, but the unknowns ahead for social are also great opportunities for novel pondering.”
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