New Research Shows Social Media Data Is The Driving Force For Business Intelligence Among Most Organizations – Forbes

New Research Shows Social Media Data Is The Driving Force For Business Intelligence Among Most Organizations – Forbes

Social media usage has increased to all-time highs and more interactions are happening on social media than ever before. Business executives now understand the value it brings to their organizations and its ability to achieve long-term success.

I recently reconnected with Jamie Gilpin, chief marketing officer of Sprout Social, a leading provider of social media management software, to explore this topic and the expanding role of social media. She also shared new research on the opportunities facing brands today as social’s value in business intelligence grows.

Gary Drenik: Sprout Social recently issued a report on the role of social media in helping businesses achieve their bottom lines. Knowing this is especially important in the midst of continued economic uncertainty, can you share some of the key findings and what they mean for businesses?

Jamie Gilpin: I’m encouraged by the findings from our recent report with the Harris Poll. The data paints a clear and promising picture: business leaders understand social’s role and ability to influence every aspect of their organization. In fact, 86% of business leaders say that social media informs their overall business strategies and nearly all executives (93%) agree that social media data and insights will be a primary source of business intelligence in the future.

I’ve always valued the unique position marketers hold in their organization and their ability to use social media to drive business growth and contribute to the bottom line, and our latest research further supports that notion. Marketers are unique in that they have frontline access to all the impactful data and insights social media provides on their customers, market, performance, and emerging trends. And now, they’re using this intelligence to inform business strategies outside of the marketing department — whether using social data and insights for customer service, brand awareness, or even market and industry insights. Beyond this cross-department impact, most business leaders (70%) say they find it easy to demonstrate social media’s impact on their company’s bottom line.

Given macroeconomic trends and organization-wide budget pressures, understanding the value of social data and its ability to drive bottom-line growth will be key for businesses to succeed and gain a competitive advantage.

Drenik: You alluded to the increased pressure businesses are faced with to not only do more with less but demonstrate success. How are organizations making sure they’re getting the most out of social data?

Gilpin: One of the most important takeaways from our research with the Harris Poll is that 90% of business leaders believe their company’s success will depend on how effectively they can use social media data and insights to inform business strategies. In response to this, we’re seeing many executives turn to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to help.

Not only do they agree that AI and ML will enable more efficient analysis of social media data, they’re also investing in these tools as a result. So much so that 87% of business leaders expect to increase their company’s investments in AI/ML over the next three years.

Similarly, according to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics Survey, nearly a quarter of business purchasers (23%) are already using ChatGPT, and another 26% are excited to begin using it soon. The anticipated use and increased investment in ChatGPT and other emerging technologies further demonstrate the promise the industry sees in AI and its potential for future business impact.

Drenik: It’s interesting to hear how AI’s potential in marketing and business is becoming more clear. What else can you tell me about this trend?

Gilpin: I mentioned the value of social data in informing business strategy and AI’s role in analyzing this data more efficiently. This shows that business leaders have gotten comfortable with the idea of AI, but now face the challenge of implementation. Fortunately, we are seeing organizations face this challenge through increased budgets and being thoughtful about where AI will have the most impact. In terms of impact, they see the potential of AI/ML in behavioral segmentation, which was cited as the most useful marketing-specific application among half of business leaders, followed by predictive analytics (45%), dynamic pricing (45%) and sentiment analysis (44%).

I also see great potential for AI to enhance marketers’ jobs, not replace them. I believe AI will be instrumental in enabling marketers to better target customers at scale, predict their behavior and engage in real-time. AI also frees up marketers’ time so they can tap into their true creativity and make a real impact across their organizations.

Drenik: I chatted with you in 2021 when Sprout Social conducted a similar study with the Harris Poll. At that time, the research found that businesses were increasing their investments in social media as consumers used social media more than ever before. Do you find that that’s still the case?

Gilpin: Similar to our 2021 report, we’re seeing businesses increase their investments in social media as social becomes more central to consumers’ daily lives. Because of the role social plays in the customer journey, it’s where trends are born, important conversations take place and sentiments are revealed.

But today, the role of social media within a business is even more valuable than before. It’s integrated into every corner of an organization, with an innate ability to influence across roles and departments, beyond marketing into customer care, employee engagement and recruiting, product development and even finance and investor relations. Business leaders see this opportunity and plan to increase their social media budgets between now and 2026. The overwhelming majority (88%) also view social media management (SMM) software as a critical tool in their company’s technology stack and are leveraging the software for uses outside of marketing, including social commerce, employee advocacy, and even customer care.

And these investments that organizations are making in social, and their tech stacks are paying off. A recently commissioned study by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Sprout Social found customers using social media management software realized a 233% return on investment (ROI) in three years, resulting in up to $1.3 million in savings. These findings are proof of social’s impact on business and its growing importance, especially in the current business landscape.

Drenik: What other advice do you have for brands who want to take advantage of the wealth of opportunity social media provides?

Gilpin: Today’s environment is complex for brands to navigate. Consumers want to connect with brands, and they value authentic communication that builds trust. They expect accessibility, responsiveness, and personalization, too. Yet many brands grapple with how to understand customers, tailor responses accordingly and do so in an efficient manner.

Because of this desire for authentic and human connection, it’s not surprising that a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey found that the overwhelming majority of adults still prefer to communicate with a live person rather than an AI chat program when they need assistance, with this desire being highest when communicating with healthcare (86%), banking/financial services (85%) and travel (80%) brands.

Social media has become the top channel to balance all of these needs. Through social, brands can deliver personalized responses that customers crave, while implementing AI in a way that supports rather than hinders these meaningful and authentic connections. Social is not only critical for delivering exceptional customer care and customer retention but for capturing customer sentiment and feedback. Brands will realize a wealth of opportunities when social media is at the heart of their customer-centric and business-wide strategies.

Drenik: Thank you again, Jamie, for taking the time to connect. We appreciate your insights on the opportunity social media presents to business leaders as its role in driving business value continues to grow.

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