Milestones: Untapped social media opportunities

As users continue to share major life events on social media, brands can use these announcements for engagement and reach according to a new study.

If it’s not on social media, did it really happen?

That’s a sentiment with interesting brand implications as online sharing permeates daily life for many Americans. It’s become commonplace to share major life events on social media—graduations, engagement announcements, births, anniversaries and so on.

According to Sprout Social’s recent “Moments & Milestones: UGC, Brands & Emotional Touchpoints on Social” study, 79 percent of consumers have shared a life milestone on a social platform.

Of interest to communicators is how brands, both local and national, are becoming tied to these shared moments.

Users tag brands in their big moments.

There’s the clothing brand you choose for your first homecoming dance, the venue and cadre of vendors chosen for a wedding reception or the brand of watch that’s gifted to a top-performing salesperson. When the people celebrating these milestones post about it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Pinterest, it’s likely that they will mention or even tag the brand.

Just how common is the practice?

Half of the consumers surveyed told Sprout Social that they would include a brand in their milestone post to make a recommendation.

Social media is also a source of inspiration for milestone-related purchases. Forty-eight percent of consumers made a purchase for a milestone after seeing it on their feeds.

When it comes to seeking out recommendations, consumers are most likely to turn to Facebook (51 percent), followed by Pinterest (42 percent), YouTube (34 percent) and then books and magazines (27 percent) to plan these events.

Facebook is also the most likely social platform for sharing a life milestone (94 percent), followed by Instagram (39 percent), Snapchat (27 percent) and Twitter (22 percent).

Most large corporate brands will have a robust Facebook presence, but it’s not always the case with smaller, more local brands. These insights should be a reminder that people want to mention your brand on Facebook—and an investment in Facebook can have big dividends.

Valuable consumer data accompanies milestone posts.

The study also highlights that milestones are ripe opportunities for social listening and user-generated content.

Asked what type of response they prefer after they mention brands in milestone posts, 45 percent of respondents said they want a like or a comment on the post. Another 45 percent said they would like an offer discount or coupon. Meanwhile, 30 percent of consumers want the brand to share their post from the branded channel.

That means nearly a third of consumers who mention a brand in a milestone post want the brand to use their content.

The Sprout Social study provides this valuable insight for brands looking to share user-generated content (UGC) the right way:

“With everything we’ve learned about purchase and recommendation behaviors on social, it’s not a question of whether UGC is right for your brand, it’s how to do it right. UGC fails when it feels forced, and it’s not as simple as just asking your fans to share photos with a branded hashtag. Brands must take great care in ensuring that their UGC campaigns are customer-centric—celebrating people and their content, not just products. Ask consumers for behaviors or actions your audience is already committing on social, and make sure the product or service tie-in so tight it doesn’t need an explanation.”

The industries most often mentioned in milestone posts, according to the study were consumer goods (37 percent), retail (33 percent), travel/hospitality (33 percent) and media/entertainment (31 percent). Communicators in those industries (or any of the others mentioned in the study) should pounce on opportunities associated with milestone posts.

Three questions to guide your efforts are:

  • How can you encourage milestone posts and mentions?
  • How can you ensure that posts are immediately seen by social media managers?
  • What actions best mesh with our brand to share and celebrate these milestones?

How will you use milestones in your social media strategy, PR Daily readers?

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