Today’s business leaders recognize the value of social media marketing as well as the impact social media data and insights have on informing key business decisions, according to new research from social media management and analytics software Sprout Social.

As a result, business leaders are increasing investment in social media and broadening the role it plays in their companies’ overall marketing strategies.

The report, which surveyed marketing, customer service and communications professionals on the role that social media plays in their business strategies, found that executives almost universally agree that social media is vital for their companies’ communications efforts.

Sprout Social: Impact of social media data and insights on business priorities

Nearly all (97 percent) of business leaders surveyed agree that social media data and insights are essential for effective public relations, and 91 percent believe that social media has a positive impact on a business’s public relations efforts. Nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) of business leaders think that social media should be a business’ primary communication tool.

Sprout’s report found that an overwhelming majority (96 percent) of executives polled think companies should continue to invest in social media marketing. And according to the report, that’s exactly what most companies intend to do. 80 percent of the business leaders surveyed said they plan to invest more in social media over the next three years. In fact, nearly half (44 percent) said they’re planning to increase their company’s social media budgets by more than 50 percent over the next three years.

Business leaders also appear to recognize that the data and insights capabilities provided by social media are essential in informing their overall business strategies. A whopping 97 percent believe the practice of using social data to understand market trends will increase over the next three years, and 90 percent said they think their company’s success will depend on how effectively it can use those data and insights. As a result, 93 percent of business leaders said that moving forward, they expect social media data and insights to be a primary source of their future business intelligence.

Business leaders also seem particularly interested in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning and what potential impact these advances can have on improving their decision-making processes and data analysis toolkits. Almost all (98 percent) said they think companies should work to better understand the potential of AI and ML technology, and almost the same number (97 percent) believe AI and ML will enable companies to more efficiently analyze social media data.

Nearly 9 in 10 (86 percent) business leaders think the implementation of AI and ML is critical for their company’s long-term success, and perhaps that’s why 87 percent said they expect to increase their company’s investments in AI and ML technology in the next three years.

Finally, two-thirds of executives (66 percent) said that strengthening brand reputation and loyalty is their top business priority in the current economic environment, higher than any other priority listed in the survey.

Sprout’s “The 2023 State of Social Media: AI & Data Take Center Stage” report surveyed nearly 800 U.S. and U.K.-based executives specializing in social media marketing, customer service and communications fields. The survey was conducted by The Harris Poll. Data was collected in March.