Measuring ROI is a far greater challenge for social media marketers than determining what content to post, according to a study from Sprout Social [download page]. But are marketers in alignment with consumers’ preferences when it comes to post types? To find out, Sprout Social surveyed more than 2,000 social media marketers and more than 1,250 online consumers, finding some alignment between consumers’ preferences and marketers’ activity, with at least one glaring exception.

That exception? Discounts and sales. These types of offers topped the list of what consumers want to see on social (72%), but were second from the bottom on the list of what marketers post (18%).

It’s not too surprising to see promotions appear at the top of the list for consumers, who have long said that discount offers are their most appealing brand post types. After all, Americans still love coupons, and youth in particular gravitate to them on social platforms.

Yet as the Sprout Social analysts note, “social marketers can’t build strategies solely around deals and promotions. This content, while it leads to conversions, does not build long-term relationships with target audiences.”

As such, it’s important to look at other social post types that engage consumers. Interestingly, the next-most sought-after posts are those that showcase new products or services (60%) and posts that teach something (59%). These relate to consumers’ tendency to use social as a vehicle to learn about new brands, and also to their repeated desire for informative content.

As it stands, marketers are in strong alignment with the informative side of things: 61% said they engage in posts that teach something, making these their most common post type. And while they’re less apt to say they showcase new products or services, almost half (46%) do so via social posts.

Meanwhile, marketers and consumers alike see less appeal for posts that showcase a company’s personality, posts that showcase a company’s employees, and posts that are partnerships with influencers.

There’s less agreement regarding posts that tell a story: these are second on the list for marketers, but fall in the bottom half of what consumers want to see.

Which Content Will They Share?

Not surprisingly, there’s a gap between consumers’ willingness to engage with content on social media and their propensity to share such content.

That gap is widest for employee advocacy posts, which respondents are 150% more likely to engage with than share. Likewise, consumers are almost twice as likely to engage with posts that showcase company personality than they are to share them.

This relative unwillingness to share may be due to these types of posts being towards the bottom of the list of those that consumers want to see.

By contrast, consumers are equally likely to share inspirational content as they are to engage with it. And they’re only 13% more likely to engage with entertaining brand content as they are to share it. Given that marketers are primarily concerned with improving brand awareness on social media, this suggests that they should pepper in entertaining and inspiring content along with their informative posts.

Videos would make good candidates for these types of sharable posts. Separately, the top emotional reasons consumers gave for watching videos on social media were: to laugh; to see a good story; and to feel inspired.

Other Study Highlights

  • 71% of social media marketers report having an influencer marketing budget, and 69% use or plan to use employees as advocates.
  • 88% of social media marketers say customer service on social media is important to their brands. Indeed, the leading reason why consumers reach out to brands on social media is with a question (57%) or due to an issue with a product or service (45%).
  • The primary goal for marketers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is to increase brand awareness. But while increasing community engagement is the second-leading goal on Facebook and Twitter, marketers on Instagram are more interested in telling their story in a visual way.
  • Facebook is by far the most used channel for ads by social media marketers, with Instagram distantly trailing, a result that aligns with separate recent research into this topic.
  • More consumers are spending less (25%) than more (17%) time on Facebook, something also true of Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat. But respondents are more apt to be increasing than decreasing their time on Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
  • Social analytics emerges as social marketers’ most used feature, and social data is most used to assess campaign performance and understand target audiences.

The full report is available to download here.

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