85% of social media marketers anticipate incorporating new technologies like Virtual Reality, the Metaverse, Cryptocurrencies, and NFTs into their social media strategy within the next year, according to Sprout Social’s UK & Ireland Index 2022 released today.

Two in five brands are planning to invest up to half of their budget into metaverse, VR or AR social strategy in the next two years. What’s more, brands are confident in their implementation strategies, with 30% of marketers believing their brands are ahead of the curve in incorporating new technologies.

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However, consumers are ambivalent about the use of new technologies, even as social media usage and expectations ramp up. 34% of consumers don’t expect this new technology to affect how they engage with brands on social media.

Sprout Social’s latest findings reveal key learnings for marketers on the need to demonstrate the value of new technologies to their audience. The data also makes clear that brands still have work to do on raising brand awareness and user engagement. The top ask for brands from social media users is to be easily identifiable (48%) and respond quickly to customer service requests. 34% of users expected a brand to respond to them within 2 hours, and 35% stated that if a brand took too long to respond, they would choose a competitor instead.

The report has also found that consumers expect brands to take a stand on social issues. 81% of British and Irish consumers say that they either agree (45%) or strongly agree (36%) that it’s important for brands to raise awareness and take a stand on sensitive topics. This demand is even more pronounced amongst younger generations, Gen Z (60%) and Millennials (50%). In response to this, half (51%) of marketers think it’s important to speak out on social issues to be culturally relevant on social media.

Other key findings:

  • 61% of consumers spend over 60 minutes on social media every day, more than their US counterparts, where 51% spend the same amount of time on social media.
  • 41% of UK & Irish consumers anticipate using WhatsApp to connect with brands, in stark contrast to only 7% of Marketers who plan to use it to connect with consumers within the next 12 months.
  • 47% of social media professionals cite their biggest challenge as hiring experienced talent, as nearly 80% of social media managers anticipate hiring at least two additional social team members in the next two years.
  • Social media teams are struggling to get the rest of the business behind them, with 44% of professionals saying their biggest challenge is proving the revenue-generating potential of social

Gerard Murnaghan, General Manager & Vice President, Sprout Social, said: “Marketers are getting ahead of the curve, incorporating new technologies into their social strategies, in an increasingly competitive landscape. But the data makes a clear case: marketers should stay laser-focused on their audience, who look to social for engagement and connection. Ultimately, this is what social is all about. Organisations must prioritise brand building, customer service, and alignment on values above all else. New technology should simply be the tool that helps them achieve this best.”