New Research Finds Marketers Are Bullish on the Metaverse as Nearly All Plan to Invest in Preparation for the Next Evolution of Social

Sprout Social’s 2022 Index finds that despite marketers’ interest in the metaverse, consumers are still slow to adopt as just one in four consumers anticipate using it in the next 12 months

The past few years have proven that the only constant is change, and this is increasingly true for social media as new trends, platforms, algorithms and use cases emerge. Research from the 2022 Sprout Social Index, Edition XVIII: US Forecast, released today, indicates that marketers are not only open to change, but are embracing it as 67% plan to invest at least a quarter of their budget into metaverse tactics over the next 12 months. The survey findings underscore the significant role the metaverse and AR/VR technologies will play in social media’s future, along with brands’ confidence in using them—33% of marketers believe their brands are ahead of the curve for implementing AR/VR into their social strategy and 28% for integrating metaverse efforts.

Sprout Social, an industry-leading provider of cloud-based social media management software, surveyed 500 U.S. marketers about their biggest social media questions, challenges and priorities, and cross-referenced their responses with more than 1,000 U.S. consumers to understand shifts in consumer expectations and the bets marketers must take now to align with what consumers want in the future.

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Despite marketer confidence in emerging technologies, interest among consumers is still in the beginning stages with just 24% predicting they will use the metaverse in the year ahead—17% for NFTs and 39% for AR/VR. However, consumers are increasingly showing interest in short-form video and the platforms that support it. Thirty-eight percent of consumers plan on using TikTok, up from 17% in 2020, and two-thirds of consumers prefer short-form content, up from 50% in 2020. Unexpectedly for marketers, consumers continue to invest their time in YouTube with more than half (51%) expecting to spend more time on the platform in the next 12 months. However, only 35% of marketers plan on using it in their strategies, down from 52% in 2020, suggesting that brands should look for more opportunities to not only meet consumers where they are, but with the content and formats they prefer to engage with, as they plan for the future.

“While our latest data shows the majority of consumers don’t expect the metaverse to play a significant role in the way they interact with brands just yet, marketers are preparing their teams and strategies to accommodate for the surge in interest we expect to see in the years ahead,” said Jamie Gilpin, CMO at Sprout Social. “Similar to the adoption of social media in the early 2000s, brands need to plan and prepare regardless of consumers’ readiness now, or they’ll miss out on future opportunities. As brands identify more ways for social to inform entire business functions, those who use this time to test and learn will ultimately gain a competitive advantage in this next evolution of social.”

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Additional key findings from the 2022 Index include:

  • As social teams pioneer new strategies and technologies, the need for top talent is on the rise: More than half (52%) of marketers say finding experienced talent is the #1 challenge they face this year. And as team expansion takes priority for businesses of all sizes, 88% of marketers plan to hire another team member in the next two years and nearly two-thirds (62%) anticipate hiring between 2-6 new positions in order to create the outcomes businesses have come to expect from social.
  • Consumers are more likely to make purchases from companies that align with their values: Seventy-one percent of consumers think it’s important for brands to raise awareness and take a stand on sensitive issues, something that is even more important among Gen Z (73%) and Millennials (77%). Additionally, company alignment with personal values is 74% more important to consumers than it was in 2020. In response to this, half (48%) of marketers think it’s important to speak out on social issues or to stay culturally relevant on social media, but the majority (66%) still face challenges with pushing their companies and leadership to take a stand.
  • Failing to prioritize customer care will cost brands in the long run as consumers continue to expect great customer service on social: When brands take too long to respond on social, 36% of consumers will share their negative experience with friends and family, 31% won’t complete a purchase and 30% will buy from a competitor. Fortunately, consumers and marketers are in sync on preferred channels for customer care, with consumers turning to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and brands to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • Creator partnerships are effective, but only when done correctly: As consumers increasingly care about creators’ qualifications, choosing the right creator to partner with is key. But the implications when not executed well extend to creators themselves, as 81% of consumers will unfollow creators who post sponsored content more than a few times a week.
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