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Social engagements with brands continue to grow in volume, sophistication: Forrester

In 2016, 76 percent of online adults in the United States engage with companies on social media, up from 68 percent a year, while consumers? social savviness is also on the rise, according to new research from Forrester Research. 

Forrester?s updated Social Technographics report found that the average score rating consumers? social savviness rose to 40 in 2016, up from 37 a year ago. A key takeaway is that with the continuing growth of social means marketers need to integrate social media tactics and technologies more deeply into their overall marketing strategy.

?The explosive popularity of social media over the last decade led many B2C marketers to launch social programs, often without any strategy or even an understanding of what they hoped to accomplish,? said Melissa Parrish, an analyst at Forrester Research, in a new blog post about the research. 

Social Stars
Key findings from the Forrester research include that 31 percent of consumers are constantly using social media to connect with companies, brands and products in 2016, up from 27 percent a year ago. Forrester calls these consumers Social Stars. Sixty-nine percent of these consumers buy online and on mobile. 

Consumers who frequently use social media to connect with companies ? or Social Savvies ? make up 27 percent of the U.S. online adult population, up from 25 percent. Forty-one percent of this group buys online and on mobile. 

Social Snackers occasionally use social media to connect with companies, a group that remains steady at 20 percent of the population. 

The number of Social Skippers ? those who rarely use social media - is dwindling, with this group accounting for 22 percent of the population, down from 28 percent.   

Customer journey
Brands should focus their social strategies on that portion of the customer journey when their audience is most likely to be active on social. 

For many, this is the product research phase. 

Forrester found that consumers are more actively using social throughout the purchasing journey, with the exception of transacting. Consumers are more actively learning about brands on social media; consuming social content when considering products and making purchase decisions; using social tools to enhance the experience of using a product; turning to social media for help using products they buy and staying in touch with favorite companies through social channels. 

One of the only scores to drop was for how actively consumers are buying on social. This suggests that North American consumers are minimally transacting on social media. 

Once companies have a sense of how much social media matters to their customers and where social media fits into their customer life cycle, they should narrow in on the strategies that will best enhance their overall strategy. 

An important takeaway from the report is that marketers should shy away from treating social media as it were a single channel. Instead, it is a collection of technologies that cannot be simply turned on or off. This means social media tactics and technologies need to be leveraged as part of an overall strategy to help marketers achieve their goals. 

"While you can and should still use social throughout the customer lifecycle, and you must measure each of those programs accordingly, social?s real value to your company lies in the way it puts the customer front and center,? Ms. Parrish said.