Eighty-nine percent of consumers say they will buy from a brand they follow on social media and 84 percent will choose that brand over a competitor, according to the 2020 Sprout Social Index: Above and Beyond, based on surveys fielded to social marketers and consumers between February 28 and March 4.

Though Social Index conducted its research before the pandemic, its main finding still holds true: social media drives bottom-line growth. Retailers and restaurants remain shuttered as a result of the virus, leaving consumers no choice but to shop brands online and through their social media channels.


Social media directly impacts consumer purchase behavior as 75 percent of respondents say they will increase their spending on a brand they follow on social media, a figure that has seen 12 percent year over year growth.

Fifty percent of consumers have increased their social media usage in the last six months alone. With this in mind, marketers should carefully consider the type of content they deliver, as 45 percent of consumers say they will unfollow brands that publish irrelevant content on social media.

As for when users are most likely to be on social media: half (50 percent) say during a major personal milestone, followed by 45 percent during a sporting event, 42 percent during a natural disaster and 42 percent during the holiday.

Over half (54 percent) of consumers welcome brand posts during sporting events whereas only 14 percent are interested in the same during a natural disaster.

When asked what makes a brand’s social presence superior, consumers rank engagement with their audience (61 percent) as the top factor, followed by transparency (45 percent) and strong customer service (44 percent).

Consumers also value swift communication from brands as 40 percent of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media. A larger amount of consumers (79 percent) expect a response in the first 24 hours.

Younger consumers gravitate toward social platforms focused on photos and videos, like YouTube and Instagram. When asked which platforms they plan to use more of, 73 percent of GenZ respondents said Instagram followed, by 65 percent who chose YouTube. Among millennials, 68 percent say they plan to use Facebook more in the coming year.

When asked how they find new social media accounts to like and follow, 45 percent say by suggestions in their feed or discovery tools and 40 percent say recommendations from family/friends.

Social Marketers

While social media is a valuable growth engine for brands, Sprout Social’s data indicates marketers will struggle to measure the return on investment (ROI) as respondents ranked ROI and supporting overall business goals among their top three challenges. 

Over half (56 percent) of respondents say they use social data to better understand their target audience, 23 percent say they use the data to measure ROI and 16 percent use it for competitive insights. The takeaway here: social data has not reached its full potential.

Additionally, for social marketers, brand awareness is the primary goal for social media (69 percent), followed by increasing web traffic  (52 percent) and growing their audience (46 percent).

Looking ahead, consumers want marketers to use more stories (43 percent) and live video (40 percent). Marketers’ responses align with these preferences as 56 percent say they plan on trying live video and 48 percent say they plan on trying stories.

Lucid distributed the Sprout Social survey to 1,003 social marketers and 1,028 consumers.