While Facebook is still busy making yet more chances to how it works, the big story for the team today is the release of the Sprout Social Index 2018, Edition XV: Empower and Elevate.

At 21 Handshake, we’re huge fans of Sprout Social, and use many of their tools to help implement top-tier marketing campaigns (and no, they didn’t pay us to say that). However, Sprout also has an excellent research team that gathers together incredibly valuable survey data about the state of social media marketing.

The report is chock-full of interesting information, common vulnerabilities, and data on where the market is heading. And while we can’t talk about everything, we are going to go over a few of the most important points that we came across.

Marketers Still Have a LONG Way to Go with Social Strategy

One of the most interesting parts of the Index was the information on just how many marketers continue to struggle with basic issues, especially when it comes to social strategies. For example, general “Brand Awareness” remains the number one priority for those on social media, and an amazing 59% of marketers say they don’t have enough to time in the day to build out their social strategy. These are bad numbers: They indicate that a majority of companies still struggle to understand what social media is and how it fits into marketing, and that many marketers may not understand the right tools and platforms to use to get results.

Ultimately, this means that “proof” and ROI analytics are more important than ever for the companies that still struggle with sparing time for social media. It also means that companies already adept at social marketing and how it works in their particular industry have a significant advantage over many competitors.

Audience Analysis Remains Key

The Index also notes that 45% of social marketers say that their top challenge is to identify and understand their audience. This is somewhat surprising to us, because marketers have so many tools to do exactly this! Customer personas, customer data collected, surveys, CTAs, traffic analysis…there are so many ways to collect data about your audience, and create meaningful information out of that data. Perhaps marketers struggle with this because they just haven’t really tried yet, or because their CRM platform isn’t set up to gather the right kinds of audience metrics. Either way, there’s plenty of room to stand out from competitors here, too!

Facebook Still Dominates…Within Limits

Facebook remains immensely popular, with 89% of marketers using Facebook and 66% of consumer following their preferred brands on Facebook. However, Sprout Social cautions that just because Facebook is popular doesn’t mean it’s always the right choice. In a generational breakdown, for example, Gen Z vastly preferred using Instagram to Facebook. Your audience may also prefer a different platform, such as LinkedIn, based on their professional contacts. It’s always a good idea to do a little research!

Social Media Tools Are More Diverse Than Ever

One thing that’s clear is that social media is more useful than its ever been. It’s a great place for “social listening” to collect information and feedback for the brand that’s instantly actionable – provided that marketing teams learn how to listen for it! Social media is also one the rise as a great communication tool (via direct chatting and chatbots), and even as a sales tool. Plus, more and more people are visiting social business pages just to look at reviews and get an idea about what the community thinks about the brand.

How Consumers Make Decisions About Brands

The report also revealed some interesting information about consumer decisions about interacting with social media. For example, consumers remain most likely to respond to “entertaining” and “inspiring” posts, indicating that despite the growing important of social media, most people still respond to it in a visceral, emotional way (teaching posts, however, came in as the third most likely to encourage action). Consumers also showed that they were significantly more likely to investigate a product when an employee posted about the product, so employee viewpoints and interactions are important!

The Need to Adopt Social Marketing Company-Wide

The Index also revealed the continued struggle to make social media an important part of the company….instead of just part of the marketing team. Around 59% of social marketers wish they could influence their sales team more, with half of C-level markets saying that proving the value of social media outside of the marketing departments remains a key challenge. Additionally, marketing teams are still struggling to properly share useful social data with other departments! Basically, there’s a lot of work left to be done to integrate social media into companies, and it’s never too early to start.

Obviously, we suggest you take a look at the full report yourself! It’s filled with a lot of data that may help you with your own marketing analysis and decisions about what to change. And if there’s any part of the report that particularly resonated with you, we’d love to hear about it! Let us know on social media @21handshake. If you loved this episode, please take a moment to rate us and recommend the podcast to someone else who might enjoy it. Thanks!