With nearly two-thirds of American adults (65%) using social networking sites on a daily basis, the quantity of comments online is increasing at an exponential pace. Usually, customers head to social media sites as a first stop on the road to evaluating a purchase of any kind; and 66% of people trust opinions posted online—even by total strangers— according to Nielsen.

Social media's importance in the sales/marketing funnel is by now undisputed, but visibility into the insights each platform can provide is often clouded by meaningless metrics. With data pouring in from dashboards, are you sure members of your marketing team are taking the time to determine the importance of those insights, and do they even know where to look?

Here are three ways your team should be using social insights to guide major marketing decisions.

1. To Understand Your Audience

Gaining 1,000 new followers on Twitter looks great on paper, but it doesn't necessarily move the needle for your brand. But creating positive, organic conversation can. Understanding your online audience means looking beyond the surface layers of retweets and shares.

Instead of focusing on what is being said about your brand, focus on who is saying it. How does your engaged audience compare with that of your competitors, and how do they self-describe? These audiences tend to write their own personas (literally); often, their Twitter bios contain their defining characteristics in 140 characters or less.

For example, Dollar Shave Club, the popular male-focused razor delivery service, realized 26% of social conversation related to it was stemming from a female audience in 2016. Stats like that should spark a conversation about target audiences, and using social media can give you a picture in real-time of the audiences you are reaching, as well as what is important to them.

2. To Spot Trends Within Target Segments

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image of Jen Handley

Jen Handley is co-president and co-founder of Fizziology, where she works with film, TV, talent, and brand clients to help them understand audience reactions to marketing and products, and devise research-based strategies.

LinkedIn: Jen Handley

Twitter: @JenSVH