We may be a bit biased when it comes to talking up the benefits of social media, but fortunately, you don’t just have to take our word for it.

Food for thought: 59% of marketers are actively using social to support their lead generation and business goals. Meanwhile, it’s hard to find a brand that isn’t active on social media in some way, shape or form.

However, there are still plenty of critics who don’t see the benefits of social media from a business perspective.

To the general public, social media often gets a bad rap for being a time-sink. More importantly, measuring your ROI from social media can be difficult versus more straightforward marketing channels (think: PPC, email marketing, etc).

So you may be asking yourself “What are the benefits of social media?”

Well, we have an answer. Actually, we have nine of ’em.

The 9 most overlooked benefits of social media

Social media deserves your attention now more than ever.

Although it may not immediately result in a flood of cash or that “viral” moment you are hoping for, there’s so much that social can do for your brand both short and long term.

Here’s our breakdown of the social media benefits that often fly under the radar for modern businesses.

1. The ability to uncover industry trends in real-time

Simply put, social media is a potential goldmine of business intelligence.

How so? For starters, think about the transparent nature of social media. We’re able to see unfiltered, real-time conversations between consumers and brands alike.

If you want to know what a brand is doing well or likewise what customers are complaining about, it’s all out there in the open.

And of course, your target audience’s social activity and shared content can clue you in on industry trends. For example, Instagram hashtags such as #summerootd or #festivalfashion can highlight everything from relevant influencers to fashion trends that are currently all-the-rage.

And if you want to tap into those trends via social conversations, look no further than social listening to do the trick. For example, features such as trend reporting in Sprout Social help hone in on what customers discuss when they talk about your brand. This includes key terms and hashtags associated with your business.

However, these mentions represent more than just chatter.

For example, social conversions can clue you in on everything from which products your customers love to areas where your company might be falling short. A flurry of praise or customer complaints can spur you to take action based on follower feedback. In turn, brands can come up with real-time solutions and products that their customers will buzz about.

Perhaps one of the biggest social media marketing benefits is the ability to spy on your competition.

What are they currently promoting? What sort of ads are they running? How is your content strategy different from theirs?

These answers don’t have to be question marks. By conducting social competitive analysis, you can uncover opportunities to step into a new lane in terms of content or advertising.

For example, maybe you realize that your competitors are crushing it with Facebook ads but their Instagram presence is totally lacking. In turn, you might explore influencer marketing or user-generated content campaigns for the sake of standing out from the crowd.

Looking at your competitors’ social performance is a cinch with tools like Sprout. Our competitor and sentiment analysis reports allow you to look head-to-head to monitor growth and engagement to ensure that you aren’t falling behind.

Through this analysis, you can also discover which pieces of your own content are scoring the most engagement. Understanding your top-performing content is likewise key to understanding how to break through the noise in your industry.

3. Provide better customer service

According to the 2018 Sprout Social Index, nearly half of all consumers have already taken to social media to ask questions and raise concerns.

Unlike awkward phone calls or lengthy emails, social customer service is quick and to-the-point. Providing social customer service means having meaningful, back-and-forth conversations with your customers that are oftentimes forward-facing.

In other words, prospects, customers and competitors alike can see how you interact with your buyers. Putting positive interactions front-and-center is a huge plus for any business.

Whether it’s listening to feedback or addressing specific concerns, an ongoing advantage of social media is that it’s the perfect place to provide speedy service and let customers know that you’re there to lend a helping hand.

And of course, social media also represents a prime channel to gather customer feedback. Responding to questions and concerns signals that you’re invested in serving your audience.

Want to know if you’re providing stellar customer service? Sprout can help with that. Sprout’s suite of social listening tools includes sentiment which tracks your brand health, ensuring that your social mentions remain on the positive side. An influx of complaints or questions could signal big-picture problems with your customer success strategy.

4. Curate customer content and stories in a snap

Customer photos and success stories go hand in hand with higher engagement and conversion rates.

And there’s no better place to gather both than social media.

For example, monitoring your mentions and tags can help you uncover positive customer interactions that you can share with the rest of your followers. Many major brands and retailers regularly curate customer photos to use throughout their marketing campaigns.

This is exactly why having a branded hashtag is so important. By encouraging your customers to tag their content, you can uncover shareable posts that your followers will love while also making a connection with your customers.

So many brands have their social presence centered around customer experiences and it’s no surprise why. Social proof in the form of customer content not only shows that you have satisfied customers but also provides your brand with a much-needed sense of authenticity.

5. Positioning power over your competition

This might seem like a no-brainer but it’s worth mentioning.

Simply having an active presence on a social channel represents positioning power for your business.

Think about it. Let’s say your closest competitor has an Instagram account that’s booming with customer photos, Stories and sleek snapshots showing off their product.

On the flip side, you have an Instagram profile that’s gathering cobwebs.

Not a good look, right? Consistently publishing on channels relevant to your business signals that you’re active and open to new customers.

Oh, and don’t forget the literal positioning power of social media in search engines when someone looks up your brand. Your Facebook or Instagram could very well be your business’ first impression on a customer versus your website. This again speaks to the importance of maintaining an active presence.

6. Build backlinks and a better search engine presence

The SEO impact of social media has been hotly debated for years.

That said, the relatively recent concept of linkless backlinks signals that there is a correlation between social media and search performance.

In short, shares and click-throughs via social represent positive search signals to Google. If nothing else, social can represent a sizable traffic source (granted you’re tracking your social traffic via Google Analytics).

Don’t neglect social media as a content distribution channel. A popular piece of content that scores hundreds of likes and shares can drive serious referral traffic to your site, especially when you optimize your social scheduling with something like Sprout’s patented ViralPost technology that ensures you’re utilizing optimal send times.

7. Appeal to younger, social-savvy customers

To say that social media has transformed the traditional advertising landscape would be the ultimate understatement.

Thinking of social media as a sort of hip, “young” advertising channel might seem a bit cliche, especially since it’s capable of reaching customers of all ages.

That said, research reinforces that Gen Z is shaking up marketing by responding less and less to traditional advertising. Given that younger customers are growing up alongside social media, brands will need to adapt beyond in-your-face commercials and ads.

And right now Instagram is the place to be to reach those younger customers. According to recent social media demographics, the vast majority of users on Instagram are under the age of 30.

As younger consumers hop from platform to platform, brands should likewise expect to experiment with new ad channels. The popularity of user-generated content, Stories and influencers highlights the sort of authentic, experience-focused advertising that continues to appeal to the younger crowd.

8. Humanize your brand

Businesses today rightfully want to show off their human side.

And so many brands have benefited from dropping the “suit and tie” vibe in lieu of getting personal with customers on social media.

MoonPie is one of the most popular examples, adopting a snarky, meme-heavy social presence that feels like it’s run by a teenager. Although this sort of approach to social isn’t for every brand, it’s definitely not what most customers would expect and therefore drives engagement.

Some brands manage to humanize themselves through philanthropy and activism. In a day and age where half of consumers want to see brands take a stand on social and political issues, brands like Ben & Jerry’s do a brilliant job of highlighting their human side.

Simply showing off your colleagues and coworkers is an easy way to put a face to your brand, much like Sprout does with our #TeamSprout series.

Lastly, one of the key benefits from social media marketing is more leads, plain and simple.

Given that there are billions of people already active on social media, there’s a non-zero chance that your audience is already there. Whether through paid ads or content promotion, you can reel in more top-of-the-funnel leads by raising awareness for your brand.

In fact, 77% of Pinterest users discover new brands and make purchases based on what they see on the platform. Having a social presence which introduces people to what you’re selling represents yet another way to score more sales. Even if these leads don’t make purchases directly through social, raising awareness could lead them on the path to becoming full-fledged buyers down the line.

And with that, we wrap up our list!

What are the biggest benefits of social media for your business?

A social media presence has become an expectation for brands rather than an exception to the rule.

And we totally agree that businesses shouldn’t latch onto social media “just because.”

Instead, businesses should assess the potential benefits of social media themselves based on specific, actionable goals. Although the impact of the benefits above varies from brand to brand, there’s no denying the business implications of having a social presence.

Of course, we still want to hear from you! What do you see as the benefits of social media for business? Let us know in the comments below!

This post The 9 most overlooked benefits of social media originally appeared on Sprout Social.

This content was originally published here.

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