Consumers Expect a Lot More Out of Brands on Social Media Than You Might Think

A Sprout Social survey found that people believe businesses can help unify them

53 percent of respondents said they feel connected when a brand’s values align with their own
Eva-Katalin/iStock

Can brands do what government and political leaders apparently cannot and use social media to help foster connections between people and bring them together?

A recent report by Sprout Social, “Creating Connection: What Consumer Want From Brands in a Divided Society,” found that people are expecting a lot of social media in general and brands in particular.

Sprout Social surveyed over 1,000 consumers in a bid to understand their desires for greater connections with brands and each other, as well as how brands can benefit from doing their part to make those connections.

The social media management solutions provider found that four out of five consumers believe society is more divided now than ever before, with 68 percent pinning the blame on government and political leaders and 55 percent fingering social media.

However, 91 percent of respondents believe social media can successfully connect people, with 78 percent saying that they want brands to do their part and make this happen.

Sprout Social chief marketing officer Jamie Gilpin said of the results, “This is not that surprising if you think about where we are. It’s the classic rhetoric of all marketers today: The power has shifted to consumers. We can no longer just push out a message and expect them to believe it—they truly are in control. It’s our role as a business to not only understand but meet and exceed the needs of our customers. Consumers place more responsibility on brands to be transparent, particularly on social, than they do on politicians.”

Sprout found that 62 percent of respondents believe social media can unify people of different backgrounds and beliefs, while 52 percent want to connect with individuals different from them.

And they expect brands to help them make those connections: 64 percent want brands to connect with them, while 49 percent expect brands to help people together toward a common goal.

Why brands? Sprout said 81 percent of consumers believe brands can be good connectors because their products and services appeal to a diverse range of customers, while 58 percent said the significant media coverage and attention received by brands can help them be unifiers.

This sentiment is bipartisan, as Sprout found that 72 percent of respondents who identified as conservatives and 85 percent who identify as liberals want brands to use social with these goals in mind.

Sprout Social

What exactly should these brands be posting about? According to Sprout, 44 percent of respondents feel more connected to brands when they discuss relevant industry trends, pop culture events or timely news, with 40 percent citing industry trends.

Gilpin said, “I don’t believe you should just make statements to get into the media and have that clickbait. What’s core to all of this is understanding values and beliefs, listening to your audience and understanding where your own corporate beliefs align with your audience.”

She continued, “A lot of organizations and companies don’t have really strong beliefs politically and socially. I think that’s OK, too. We’re at the beginning of this trend. The big ones are taking the risks. You see that more prominently. I think we’re going to start seeing more of it.”

As for other types of content:

  • 46 percent of consumers are interested in brands’ social good initiatives.
  • 39 percent want to see features on employees.
  • 46 percent want brands to create interactive social content.
  • 37 percent believe brands should share user-generated content.
  • 41 percent feel that brands should create private groups, such as what Peloton has done on Facebook.

“Small businesses can take advantage because social has democratized the market,” Gilpin said. “Previously, only larger brands could spend millions of dollars on campaigns.”

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