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Edition XVII: Accelerate

Edition XVII: Accelerate


The future is bright for social media, with 71% of consumers finding themselves using social more in the last year than ever before. And it’s not just consumers upping their time online—brands are doubling down on social, too.

Consumers’ social media usage is on the rise

Increase in social media use over the past year, by generation

Social brings consumers close and your competitors closer, with 93% of marketers agreeing social accelerated competition in their industries. Jockeying for customers’ attention and establishing oneself as a market leader is that much harder among an exponentially growing audience.

When brands dig into the conversations and interactions available on social, they’ll uncover the data needed to stay ahead of the competition while simultaneously meeting tomorrow’s consumer expectations. In this year’s Sprout Social Index™, we examine what separates brands from their competitors and why brands must seize the social moment to become a market leader.

Section 1

Stand out from the crowd

In any competitive environment, but especially on social, winners are determined by their ability to differentiate.

That intense competition might seem intimidating, but the powerful insights gleaned from social data can keep smart marketers one step ahead of the competition. In fact, 90% of marketers say data from social is what enables them to differentiate their brands in the market and stand out from their peers.

Ninety-three percent of marketers agree that social media accelerated competition within their industry

Sprout Social Index

How social data informs marketers’ understanding of their competitors by rank

Tells them the strength of a customer’s loyalty
Reveals strengths and weaknesses of a competitor’s products or services
1 1
Highlights where their brand can differentiate from competitors
Informs their understanding of competitors’ customer service efforts
Reveals competitors’ share of voice
Provides insight into competitors’ next moves

With insights from social, brands can distance themselves from their competitors and be even more relevant to their target consumer.

How social data informs marketers’ understanding of their customers by rank

Shows them how customers use their products or services
Shows what customers dislike about their brand
Tells them what customers like about their brand
Provides insight into what customers expect from brands in the future
Shows what trends customers are interested in
Enables them to get to know their customers on a personal level
Tells them what kind of social content resonates with customers

Part of connecting with one’s target audience, however, includes understanding which social platforms consumers expect to see brands on.

Social platforms: What brands use vs. what consumers want brands to use more of

83% Brands 60% Consumers
77% Brands 48% Consumers
57% Brands 41% Consumers
52% Brands 30% Consumers
38% Brands 17% Consumers
36% Brands 21% Consumers
34% Brands 21% Consumers
28% Brands 17% Consumers
21% Brands 19% Consumers
Google Reviews
21% Brands 10% Consumers
16% Brands 11% Consumers

When asked about their goals for social, marketers listed increasing brand awareness (58%), community engagement (41%) and growing their audiences (35%) as their priorities.

Types of content most valuable for achieving social goals

Strong customer service defines a best-in-class brand on social, and the collaboration between marketers and customer support teams can ensure a consistent experience both on and offline.

What makes a brand best in class on social

They offer strong customer service
They engage their audience
They are transparent
They create memorable content
They have a distinct personality
They tell a compelling story
They are the first to join a new social network
They set trends
They leverage pop culture

Stand out with content

Learn what types of content marketers find most valuable for achieving their brand goals on social.

Download the Content Benchmarks Report
Section 2

Stay ahead of the social consumer

A defining trait of many exceptional brands on social is strong customer service, where responsiveness is key.

By benchmarking against average industry response times, marketers gain a clear understanding of how they measure up against their peers.

Average inbound messages and response rates by industry

Total inbound messages received per day

Advertising & Marketing
68 messages per day
25 messages per day
59 messages per day
Consumer Goods
38 messages per day
15 messages per day
Financial Services
43 messages per day
Food & Beverage
19 messages per day
Health, Wellness & Fitness
33 messages per day
31 messages per day
Media & Entertainment
139 messages per day
135 messages per day
Real Estate
7 messages per day
Recruiting & Staffing
36 messages per day
62 messages per day
Internet & Tech
36 messages per day
Sports, Leisure & Recreation
31 messages per day
Travel & Tourism
43 messages per day
0 35 70 105 139

Daily response rate to messages

Advertising & Marketing
47% engagement per post
30% engagement per post
28% engagement per post
Consumer Goods
75% engagement per post
37% engagement per post
Financial Services
26% engagement per post
Food & Beverage
74% engagement per post
Health, Wellness & Fitness
71% engagement per post
24% engagement per post
Media & Entertainment
36% engagement per post
37% engagement per post
Real Estate
58% engagement per post
Recruiting & Staffing
35% engagement per post
72% engagement per post
Internet & Tech
48% engagement per post
Sports, Leisure & Recreation
41% engagement per post
Travel & Tourism
56% engagement per post
0% 25% 50% 75% 100%

Data from social is a dynamic supply of market and consumer research. Feedback and reviews left on social empower marketers to better connect with their target audience and identify areas for growth.

Eighty-eight percent of consumers are likely to purchase from a brand after reading reviews from other customers on social media

Sprout Social Index

How consumers prefer to leave feedback about a product or service

31% Social media
18% Email
16% Review site
12% Company site
11% Customer service number
8% Brand survey
3% In-store
1% Other

When marketers meet consumers’ expectations on social, the brand benefits extend to every area of the organization.

Actions consumers take when they follow brands on social

Visit the brand’s website or app
Buy from the brand
Choose that brand over a competitor
Visit the brand’s physical retail store
Buy from that brand more often
Recommend that brand to friends/family
Leave a review for that brand
Reach out for customer service/support
Read that brand’s blog or site content
Engage with that brand on social

By prioritizing responsiveness and relevance on social, marketers can positively influence consumer behavior to benefit the entire organization.

Consumers want to be seen and understood by the brands they buy from, and they expect those interactions to play out on social.

Actions brands can take to get consumers to buy from them over a competitor

Respond to customer service questions in a timely manner
47% of all ages
Demonstrate an understanding of what Iwant and need
43% of all ages
Create more culturally relevant content
39% of all ages
Create educational content about their product or service
31% of all ages
Engage with me on social
27% of all ages

Reach the digital natives

Explore the difference in behaviors and preferences between Generation Z and Millennials to better engage these digital natives.

Download the Digital Natives Report
Section 3

Break through the social ceiling

While 88% of marketers agree their social strategy positively influences their bottom line, only 15% of marketers use social data to measure ROI.

How social data is viewed within an organization

47% Multi-team strategy resource
8% Org-wide business intelligence resource
46% Strictly a marketing resource

How marketers use social data

Although marketers agree their social strategy positively influences their bottom line, only 15% of marketers use social data to measure ROI and social is still treated as a marketing only resource.

Marketers have an opportunity to educate the rest of their organizations on the power of social and where the future of business intelligence lies. When the entire organization learns to embrace social data, they’ll discover the path forward to rapid growth—and marketers will be the ones to show them the way.

Forty-six percent of social marketers say social data is primarily viewed within their organization as a marketing resource

Sprout Social Index

Grow faster with social

Social will only continue to accelerate competition in nearly every industry, leaving brands with two options: embrace social and thrive, or do nothing and fall behind.

Every conversation and interaction on social provides another data point brands can tap to strengthen their customer relationships, inform their product development and pursue new business opportunities. With social, brands can exceed the expectations of their customers today and innovate for the customers of tomorrow.

Download the complete data report to accelerate your social strategy and drive your organization forward today.

Get the PDF

Explore more data from the Index

Ready to take your social strategy one step further? Check out the full series of data and insights from the Index™ below.


The Sprout Social Index™ is a report compiled and released by Sprout Social. All referenced data is based on 1,002 US consumer respondents and 1,001 US marketer respondents. Both the consumer and marketer surveys were conducted online by Lucid between March 30 and April 6, 2021.

The report also analyzed more than 782 million messages from 534,000 public social profiles that were active between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. Data includes posts from Facebook, Google My Business, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TripAdvisor and Twitter. The top 0.5% of data was winsorized to limit the impact of extreme outliers.

Graphics are rounded to the nearest whole percentage and may not add up to exactly 100%.

For questions about the data, please contact