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YouGov Peers Inside the Gaps of Social Media Knowledge

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YouGov says social media has the power to bring us together, but there are a few gaps to close first.

“Can social media really offer an opportunity for brands to get closer to their consumers?”

This is the governing question that Amelia Brophy, Head of Data Products at YouGov, aimed to address in her session “Social Media: Bringing People Together?

Delving into the considerable insights from their recently released whitepaper of the same name on consumer habits, the answer seems to be “yes.” But in order to create that closeness, social media marketers will need to bridge a few gaps.

Gaps Between Access and Use

YouGov “holds a constant conversation with consumers,” Brophy said, to inform their insights and reporting on social media patterns. This is an expansive conversation, touching 300,000 UK consumers across over 200,000 opinion variables. One of the earliest questions they’re asked: what platforms do they have access to, and what platforms do they use?

As expected, Facebook tops the heap in both access and use, with numbers exceeding 80% in both areas. Instagram is making a strong play for the top ranking, as 48% of consumers report using it more today than they did a year ago. But the biggest gaps between access and use fall on YouTube, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter. This gap matters for marketers who may be overestimating the power of pushing content to platforms that consumers have access to, but don’t use. This can often be the case with YouTube and Twitter. To traverse this gap, marketers will need to look closely at where people are, and create accordingly.

A beacon of hope lies on Instagram, where a segment of the audience reported wanting to see what their favorite brands are up to. Knowing consumers want to see you there, should serve as an invitation to explore the platform and spend more time using it.

Gaps Between Decision Makers and Audience

After reporting on consumer trends, Brophy then shifted gears to report on the profile of decision makers in the marketing space. YouGov has access to over 500 marketing decision makers, and makes it a priority to learn more about them and their mindset about social media. But as Brophy revealed, leadership in the field isn’t nearly representative of the population they serve.

Among their findings on this segment: it is 71% make, 41% aged 40-54, and 49% have kids. Also of note, 61% can be labeled as high income (income over £50,000). In terms of platform usage, some of it aligns with the general population (Facebook remains highest), but in other ways, it diverges in important ways (vastly overrepresented on LinkedIn, and statistically more likely to have no accounts on any platform). In a number of ways, these key decision makers—whose judgment guides the movement of an entire field—differ from the consumers they serve. And this gap is likely informing the decisions they advocate for.

Gaps Between Advocacy and Prioritization

At this point, there’s little question about if social media will be part of a marketing strategy; only 12% of marketing decision makers deem it “not a priority” as they build their strategy. But even among those that do deem it important, there is a gap between the stated advocacy for it, and the resources they’re allocating to its proper execution.

In total, 52% of these decision-makers deem social media either their top priority or a big priority. But two additional statistics cast doubt on their true commitment to this tactic. First, fully half reported that responsibility for social media is at least one person’s job, but not the exclusive focus of anyone in the office. And second, when asked how much time was spent to execute strategy on these platforms, the most common answer (shared by 32% of respondents) was “up to 30 minutes a week.” To truly treat social media as a priority, it needs more resources—namely, in both time and focus.

Brophy does believe that social media has the power to bring brands closer to their target consumers. However, the full realization of its potential has to start with closing the aforementioned gaps. The final gap, between decision makers and the consumers they represent, is a crucial one to bridge or close. “There’s a really big opportunity to educate marketing directors or decision makers on different social media platforms,” she shared. What will it take? “[They’ll need to] do a lot more to understand how their specific audience relates to different social media platforms, [and] chooses to use different platforms if they really want to fulfill the goal of getting closer to their audience.”

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