A new market study indicates many small businesses are missing out because they have no, or very little, presence on social media, and don’t even have a social media strategy in place.
And, the uptake of social media by Australian businesses is still not as pronounced as for the consumers they need to reach to sell their products and services, with just 33% of businesses having a social media presence compared with 68% of consumers.
In short, twice as many consumers appear to be engaged with social media than businesses, and the survey indicates no growth in the proportion of businesses who use social media relative to last year.
It’s no surprise, of course, that Facebook remains the most commonly used social site, but Twitter has dropped dramatically, almost halving in 2011 from an average use of 23 to 12 times a week, while usage of the professional network LinkedIn - used by many in business - dramatically increased from 16% in 2012 to 28% this year.
According to Sensis, Facebook users now spend the equivalent of a full working day on Facebook each week, averaging 8.5 hours on the site, which Evan Ravensdale, Sensis General Manager Digital says is important for businesses seeking the best return for their online advertising spend.
"As consumers become increasingly fragmented in how they engage with both traditional and social media, it is apparent businesses must quickly adapt their presence online to establish and nurture new communities and connect with them in authentic ways."
“Importantly also, this year’s report continues to show more social media activity away from the home in places such as at work (up from 21% to 32%), in transit and even at restaurants and cafes.
“This highlights the even greater opportunities for businesses to engage through social media at critical buying moments,” Ravensdale says.
Ravensdale also says that ratings and reviews should be a major focus for businesses online, and can play an important role in increasing customer satisfaction and retention, with 62% of people open to changing their opinion of a business if it responds to negative feedback on social media.
“The social media space continues to offer real opportunities for businesses seeking to better engage with customers and potential customers however quite a few are missing out on this opportunity by not having any presence.
According to Risdale, social media is a forum which is generally used for browsing and many consumers check in to keep their “finger on the pulse”, giving them a real time perspective of what is happening around them.
“This provides businesses with huge potential to engage and interact with the public.
“From a commercial perspective, a solid minority of Australians who use this media follow brands and businesses (32%), access offers and promotions (20%) or conduct research about products and services they want to buy (19%) which means they are willing to engage.
“In fact, half of those who are using social media to research products and services said they made a purchase and two thirds of them made that purchase online.
“Therefore, it remains paramount for businesses and marketers to establish a connection by engaging with them in a meaningful way if they want to capitalise on this opportunity. For example, stories about the brand or its product and services, shared in a compelling format (i.e. video or imagery) help to establish a positive connection and this is one of the major advantages of social media.”
Risdale recommends that businesses using social media should have a strategy and invest the necessary time, money and resources implementing it and “measuring its effectiveness to maximise the benefits for them and their stakeholders”.
But, according to the Sensis report, while almost 50% of consumers now access social media every day (and up to 79% for the 18-29 age group), only 31% of SME businesses actively operate a social media engagement strategy.
On general consumers use of social media and the different devices we use to access it, Sensis says we Aussies continue to embrace technology through use of multiple internet enabled devices.
The average Australian, in fact, owns three such devices with laptops (75%), smartphones (70%) and tablets (55%) most prevalent.
And, Risdale says that the way we connect continues to evolve with social media still playing a significant role in many people’s lives.
“Sixty-eight (68%) of internet users have a social media profile and they mainly use it to catch up with friends and family.
“It’s becoming more prevalent in our daily lives as a majority (70%) are using their smartphone to access it (mainly through an app). Hence it is not surprising that the frequency of use is increasing - 24% check in more than 5 times a day which is up from 19% - but overall use appears to have plateaued as there has been no growth in social media use relative to last year when 69% had a social media profile.”