As social networks reaffirm their commitment to keeping their platforms truly social, brands need to evaluate their social media marketing strategies and ensure that they align with what users want to see.

This year, we’ve seen social networks attempt to take back the “social” element of their platforms by decreasing the reach of brands and businesses (think Facebook News Feed changes). We’ve thus seen a decline across the board in social media reach.

The 2018 Sprout Social Index shows that people are still using social media primarily for connecting with friends and family. As brands put together campaigns and messaging, they must remember that they are “guests at dinner, not members of the nuclear family: their role in user feeds is delicate, valuable, and to be treated with great care.”

The task for brands is to carry out the necessary disruption of the user experience in the most relevant, and least disruptive way. Click To Tweet

The task for brands is to carry out the necessary disruption of the user experience in the most relevant, and least disruptive way. Sprout Social’s data gives a clear answer: awareness and consideration stage content. This means thinking long-term and prioritizing relationships, not quick fixes and attribution.

Give the people what they want

As part of its 2018 Index, Sprout Social researched the types of content that users prefer to see from brands on social media. 30% of users expressed a preference for links to more information, while 18% prefer graphics/images, 17% want produced video, 11% value text/conversations, and 7% said produced/edited photos.

The obvious answer for brands is to cater to the expressed wishes of the public. Building lasting relationships with prospects on social media means presenting your brand in a visually engaging way while linking them to useful and relevant information. Furthermore, it means placing focus and resources on authentic engagement. “This is the content that consumers, who use social primarily to interact with friends and family, are most interested in from brands,” reports Sprout Social.

Redefining success

Marketers naturally place a premium on ROI, though measuring social media ROI remains difficult. In fact, 55% of social marketers reported it as their biggest challenge. Conventional wisdom when it comes to ROI for social media has focused on direct attribution to sales. But according to Sprout Social, “that model doesn’t actually reflect where social marketers are focused.” In fact, 80% report increasing brand awareness as their primary social media goal, and just as many point to increasing engagement across their social channels.

A meager 14% of marketers report being able to quantify the revenue from social media. This is a problem — one that’s caused by looking at social media primarily as it relates to sales. According to Sprout Social, this “breeds an overly microscopic perspective.”

It’s time for social marketers to redefine ROI, and put an end to wasted time and resources on content and campaigns that don’t resonate. Realigning priorities from sales to what users actually want to see on social media is key to cultivating strong, lasting relationships with prospects, and being a helpful rather than invasive presence online.

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