Entrepreneur Edition with Sprout Social’s Collin Johnson
June 28, 2021
Are you tapping into the full value that social media can provide your business? As the largest focus group, social media allows brands to get a pulse on how their product or service is doing and what audiences are saying about it. Used by over 25,000+ brands globally to improve engagement, increase customer satisfaction and optimize content strategies, Sprout Social is at the forefront of all things social media and we have an exclusive interview with their Solutions Engineer Collin Johnson! In the latest episode of The 19: Entrepreneur Edition podcast, Collin discusses the most important social data to capture, the power of connecting with audiences across platforms and more in under 20 minutes.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:00:05] This is The 19! In 19 minutes or less, game-changing insights from Orange Label, the leading response marketing agency for established brands that are driven by a fearless entrepreneurial mindset.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:00:23] Hello and welcome to The 19: Entrepreneur Edition! I’m Rochelle Reiter, President of Orange Label. In today’s day and age, social media is used for more than just connecting with friends and family. Reports find that at least 25% of individuals use it to discover or learn more about products, services or brands. And 89% of businesses say their company’s success depends on how effectively it can use social data to inform marketing strategy. Ranked as the best social media management platform by Investopedia, Sprout Social helps organizations build connections with their audience through real-time reporting, social listening and more. Here to tell us about how to use social data to enhance your marketing strategy is Sprout’s Social Solutions Engineer Collin Johnson. Collin, welcome to The 19th, it’s great to have you here today!
Collin Johnson: [00:01:12] Thank you so much for having me. Excited to talk about social.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:01:20] So, Collin, tell me about your role at Sprout Social.
Collin Johnson: [00:01:23] Sure, so I’m a Solutions Engineer and I exclusively support our agency sales team. My team, the solutions engineering team. We actually sit between sales and product, which means we have the unique opportunity to get a pulse for what the product is capable of doing, what features are coming down the line. And also we get to work with customers every single day. So learning from agencies, learning from brands, seeing how they’re using Sprout Social and using that learning to help other customers achieve that same level of success.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:02:01] Awesome. So what value does Social bring to brands?
Collin Johnson: [00:02:05] Sure. Yeah. Tough to summarize. It’s such, such a comprehensive answer. Really, at Sprout we think realizing the overall power of social starts with looking beyond the traditional marketing function that social is occupied for the last decade or so. Social is valuable as a communications channel, but there’s so much more than just the conversations brands are having with customers. Sprout’s role is that we unlock that potential and intuitive, elegantly designed social media management platform and in addition, we focus on the success of our customers in terms of providing them whatever’s necessary to help grow their business. And that means thought leadership, training, hands on support to help agencies and brands achieve those goals with our help.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:03:03] Awesome. So you talked about beyond social. What are some of the metrics that are able to be translated from social to general marketing?
Collin Johnson: [00:03:13] Something that we talk to, to brands about every day and really we see social marketers as being on the front lines of social feeds and having the data to understand better than anyone what content is resonating most powerfully with audiences and exactly who makes up those audiences. In my opinion, that’s the answer to the test. In addition to kind of that own reporting element, what are we doing and how is our audience receiving that? There’s the social listening side of things and that social listening data, those public conversations that we can tap into, those are absolutely critical to marketing strategy, being able to ask what are the trending topics in this industry or what are the negative things customers are saying about our brand? And to get an answer to those questions almost immediately is such a dramatic improvement in the amount of insight that marketers have access to in literally real time. Social listening is truly the world’s largest focus group, and the data is endless.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:04:30] I love that the social media is the largest focus group that is truly insightful statement and very, very true from my perspective as well. How has the state of social media, in your opinion, changed in the last year?
Collin Johnson: [00:04:45] It’s changed dramatically for so many reasons. And this question is actually the timing is perfect because we just this week released our Annual State of Social Report, which in my opinion is a must-read for any marketing professional. And we cover a lot of those trends and plenty of them are interesting. But there are a couple that stood out to me are a few that stood out to me. Number one, which is is sort of obvious, but we can put some actual data behind it. 71% of consumers say they found themselves using social more in the past year. Consumers, I mean, especially Gen Z and Millennials, are spending more time on social than ever before. Even Boomers reporting 54% increase in their usage. So, So that’s huge.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:05:44] Wow. Yeah.
Collin Johnson: [00:05:46] Another one that jumps out is the emergence of customer care on social that’s been accelerated by the pandemic and digital transformation overall. That being said, OK, so it’s more important than ever, but marketers are really underestimating the importance of that customer service element on social. When the group that we polled was asked what makes a brand best in class, the number one response from consumers was strong customer service, yet marketers cited audience engagement as that distinguishing factor. Only 35% of those marketers polled thought that customer service was a priority for consumers and it’s up to marketers to bridge that gap. That’s something that’s changing very, very rapidly that the marketers can can tap into right away.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:06:41] What a great insight. What a great insight. Social media is obviously an important tool for businesses beyond clicking and posting. How can brands use social media to its full capacity?
Collin Johnson: [00:06:52] Like I said before, it’s easy to just see social as a communication channel. Customers are talking to brands on social, but they’re also talking to each other and they’re talking about brands. They’re talking about their products, their competitors, their industry and consumers aren’t holding back. They’re not pulling any punches. These are real feelings about all of it. That’s the kind of data that can change not only how brands market themselves, but it can also influence what they make, who they make it for and how they sell it. So brands are realizing that true value of social aren’t looking at it as just a communication channel. They’re starting to see how social can change their business overall. To help our customers realize that potential, we offer, like I said, education, thought, leadership, and of course, our solution itself, we can still help get the most engagement on a Facebook post, but we can also give almost immediate access to that social listening inside access to fully customizable reporting, dashboards and a full suite of community management, customer care publishing capabilities, all in one solution.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:08:18] From your experience, what are the most common metrics or data points that brands use from Sprout Social?
Collin Johnson: [00:08:24] I have conversations with our customers every day. That’s the majority of what I do is I talk to our customers and something that comes up literally every single day is a customer that’s looking for a way to get paid in organic and data in the same place. It’s something that’s lacking via the native networks, but through things like customer reporting and Sprout, we can help bridge that gap and get that data in the same place so you can tell a comprehensive story. And that includes widgets that you can add to those customer reports developed specifically to answer that question. So really that paid versus organic in one view, that’s something that comes up all the time. In addition, we talk to a lot of brands and agencies that are relying on solutions like Sprout to know what that performance picture looks like across all of their profiles and across all of their networks. And they want to see that data in one single report rather than crawling native reports and piecing that info together. They want to see one big number. And there’s a direct correlation between the usage of cross-network reporting and the amount of time saved versus doing it the old-fashioned way. Want to know, like what post performed best in terms of engagement across all networks for a particular campaign? That’s an easy answer now.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:09:55] Yeah. What do you believe the value is in paying attention to social data across all those platforms?
Collin Johnson: [00:10:01] Yeah, I mean, the value is getting the whole story about your customers, about the success of your campaigns, the growth of the accounts that you manage. Part of that’s how content is performing and tracking the success of product-focused creative across those networks. The other part is, is understanding how consumers are talking about your business via social listening. Those conversations are so different, depending on what network is hosting the discussion. And that’s something that that I see with our customers every single day. For example, Twitter is packed with insight about what is the most engaging content, what types of UGC (User-generated content) are driving engagement or conversation? Whereas Reddit is such an intimate look at how consumers really feel and how those feelings and opinions are received by other users, other parts of the audience. The final piece to me is this is something that’s going to expand home and unowned. It’s identifying the networks where your audience is the most engaged and understanding the why behind that using that “why” to influence overall marketing strategy. There’s a lot of power in understanding where your audience prefers to be.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:11:29] Sure. Sure. How can brands use the social data to engage with their customers and amplify their brand?
Collin Johnson: [00:11:36] Again, we see social engagement as the cornerstone of the business-to-consumer relationship, and that cascades through every aspect of our customers’ businesses, whether the consumers asking a question, whether they’re requesting customer support or just sharing an opinion or an experience. Every single interaction represents an opportunity for brands to connect with their audience and influence their perception, frankly. With a unified social platform, brands can start to streamline and scale that engagement and gain a better understanding of that audience, which is where qualitative and quantitative data come into play. That ensures brands never miss a chance to make a connection, never miss a chance to build stronger relationships with their customers. And the ability to centralize all of those messages across social networks and profiles in one place just helps internal teams engage with customers quickly and efficiently, which again, is only becoming more and more important.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:12:45] Yeah, that customer service piece is key. Can you think of any success stories or transformations as a result of accessing Sprout data of your clients?
Collin Johnson: [00:12:56] One really interesting one when it comes to that data piece, both owned and unowned. So, how is our content performing, profiles performing? How are people talking about our brand when we’re not listening? Indiana University, home of the Hoosiers. Storied history, is one of the top universities in the Midwest. And over the last two hundred years, they’ve expanded to nine campuses with a total enrollment of around 88,000 students. Social has become an integral piece of building that brand identity and engaging the community so their team needed a solution to help kind of connect the dots with such an expansive system. So we’re talking about over 600 profiles and reporting on all 600 profiles in one place. That’s an immediate success is being able to roll up all of that performance, all of those metrics and easy to digest dashboards that are also really easy to share with stakeholders, whether that be sharing a CSV or PDF or our live link sharing capability, where even if someone’s not a user in Sprout, you can get that reporting data in front of someone on the customer care team. On the listening side, this is where things get really interesting because their sentiment was stuck around 85% in terms of how positively people were talking about the university on social and kind of no matter what they did, they couldn’t really move that needle. So they started to try to identify why. Why are we stuck at that sentiment rating? And what they actually uncovered was there was this huge conversation, negative conversation happening about on-campus parking, something they didn’t identify anywhere else. But through that social listening data, they were able to see words like parking, on-campus parking, bubbled to the top in terms of volume when it came to negative messages and obviously used that to improve the parking infrastructure on campus and also roll out a campaign to increase awareness about the improvements they’ve made to the parking infrastructure.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:15:20] Wow. Great case study for you.
Collin Johnson: [00:15:22] Yeah, it’s kind of a fun one.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:15:24] So last question. Where do you see the social data industry evolving in the next three to five years?
Collin Johnson: [00:15:31] This is exciting. We did a survey of over a thousand executives of where they see socially evolving over the next three to five years. And of those surveyed, social media was predicted to be the number one most important data source for data and insights to inform business decisions over the next three years.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:15:58] Wow.
Collin Johnson: [00:15:58] And that’s according to more than half of those executives that were surveyed. That in my opinion tells you everything you need to know about the direction of social data influence.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:16:07] Sure.
Collin Johnson: [00:16:09] And not unrelated. 91% of those same executives anticipate that their company’s social media marketing budget is going to increase over the next three years. For social and for social data in general we see that as meaning there’s a permanent seat at the table for social.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:16:33] Absolutely, absolutely. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of Sprout Social and the importance of social data with our listeners today. We loved having you on The 19.
Collin Johnson: [00:16:43] Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on. Really appreciate the opportunity. It was a pleasure talking to you all.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:16:52] Thank you for listening to The 19: Entrepreneur Edition with Collin Johnson.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:16:57] To learn more about how Orange Label utilizes Sprout Social to optimize brand content strategies, visit our website at orangelabelmarketing.com. If you have additional thoughts on this topic, send us an email! You can send questions, comments and more to email@example.com.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:17:21] A special thank you goes out to our contributors, Studio Manager Kelsey Phillips, Micah Panzich, who edits our show, and Ashley Ruiz, Content Writer. Be sure to subscribe to The 19 on iTunes and Google Play and if you like what you heard today, leave us a review.