The State of Social Media in Australia

 

The recently released Yellow Social Media Report, looking at the state of social media in Australia, is a fascinating read. The report is the result of feedback from 800 consumers, 1,800 SME proprietors and 150 marketing decision makers in large businesses from across Australia, giving the Yellow Pages team a wide range of insights from which to build an informed analysis of where social is at in the Australian market. And those results highlight some major opportunities for those involved in social media business.

The State of Social Business in Australia

The report shows that 36% of small businesses, 48% of mediums in Australia have a social media presence. That means that more than 50% of SMEs have no social media presence at all. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that there are over 2 million businesses operating in Australia, with a staggering 95% of them being small businesses (those with fewer than 20 employees). Consider that for a moment – of the two million businesses in the nation, 950,000 of them have no social media presence of any kind. Of course, many of these would be local businesses like milk bars and newsagents, businesses who’ve had little need for a significant social footprint, but that’s such a huge number, so many businesses with no presence – as studies continue to highlight the benefits of social media for SMBs, that figure is inevitably going to change. It simply won’t be sustainable to ignore social for many, given the rising trend of consumer-based activity online. It’s not going to hit a tipping point overnight, but the majority of businesses will need to establish a social media presence, at some stage, in order to meet the evolving behaviours of their customer base.

The report also shows that of the SMEs that don’t have a social media presence, 19% of them plan to establish one within the next year. Based on the ABS numbers, that equates to more than 170,000 businesses that’ll be looking to build a social presence in the near future. Obviously, this is extrapolated data – the survey group of 1,800 SMEs is only a fraction of the overall market – but as an indicative measure, these numbers do point to significant growth in social business, and with the average small business expenditure on their social media presence being $4,560 p.a. (also listed in the Yellow Report), that’s a large pool of potential investment projected for social business within the next twelve months.

These increases will provide more opportunity for local social media professionals and businesses, but if those projections are fully realised, it may also see an increasing number of big players looking to build more local product offerings, tailored specifically to the Australian market. It’s frustrating at times to find granular AUS market data is not included in some of the major platforms’ targeting and data options. An expanded local industry would mean more regional attention from platforms and providers, giving AUS users access to new and improved features at a faster rate.

Why Aren’t More Businesses Social?

While the Yellow report doesn’t provide specific data on why businesses have opted not to establish a social media presence, the business summary section does note that the two main reasons brands chose not to invest in social were that it’s ‘not suited to their industry’ and that they ‘had no need’ for social. The latter view is supported by data in the ‘General Public’ section, which shows that ‘Not interested/doesn’t appeal’ is the main reason people avoid social media – at a whopping 61% of total responses. There’s still some way to go before social is fully integrated into the wider Australian communications culture, particularly among older generations – Yellow Report stats show that users aged 65+ have the lowest average number of friends, contacts or followers at 88, compared to 511 for those aged 14-19, indicative of the generational gap on engagement levels. While this gap exists, it’s likely to also remain in businesses circles too – though interestingly, the 30-39 year old age group lead the way in terms of brands followed on social at 41%, with ‘Work/Profession Related’ among the top reasons why brands and businesses are followed on both Twitter and Facebook.

In terms of reviews, 77% of users in the 30-39 age group read online reviews or blogs, underlining the importance of your web presence as a key data source in the purchase cycle, and the importance of building community around your brand. Even if you don’t think social media’s relevant to your business, you should take the time to know what’s being said about you and your industry, and what people are finding when they search for your products and services.

The reliance on online reviews underlines why social listening should be a major focus. With so many people listing ‘uninterested’ as the main reason they’re not looking to invest further in social media, it’s important to highlight just how much information and data is being shared online. There’s little doubt that at least some of the 58 million tweets sent per day will be of relevance to your brand – but many won’t realise this unless they see it for themselves. Social listening is a key gateway for brands considering further investment in social. In many cases, once a business becomes aware of the data available, they’ll start to expand their thinking on what’s possible in the social arena.

Notes on How Businesses Are Using Social

  • The report shows the majority of small businesses update their social media profiles only once per week, while most medium and large businesses post daily. This is another indicator of the opportunities that exist for further expansion in the local social media marketplace – only 18% of the small business active on social media post every day. As anyone in the industry would know, the key to succeeding in social media is being active and consistent. While posting once a week could, theoretically, cover the latter, most would agree that one post (or even worse, one tweet) per week is just not going to get it done. This highlights that even those who are active on social are not yet using the medium to full potential, meaning there are major opportunities for increased education and adoption among a large percentage of the market.
  • Facebook is the clear leader, in terms of platforms used by AUS businesses, leading Twitter and LinkedIn in all categories, but Twitter also ranks high in the big business sector, with 61% maintaining an active Twitter presence (comparatively 25% of small and 37% of mediums). Big business is likely leading the way here – as Facebook continues to alter their algorithms and become more ‘pay to play’, Twitter is rising in importance, and it’s likely more SMEs will adopt Twitter into their marketing mix within the coming year. Interestingly, blogs are also well down the list, with less than 7% of brands actively blogging. With all the focus on content marketing, this too is likely to increase.
  • Only a small number of SMEs have paid to advertise on social media, with 15% of small businesses, 24% of mediums paying to get their message through, primarily on Facebook. With the reduction in print publications – particularly the demise of many smaller, suburban publications, more SMEs will look to invest more in social as a means for getting their message to their target audience. This will no doubt see an increase in paid social campaigns, alongside increased investment in building a stronger social presence.

Overall, the Yellow Report covers a wide range of data points and insights, too much to take in all at once. Each section opens up a range of tangents and possibilities that highlight the many opportunities that are available in the Australian marketplace. While ROI remains a significant concern amongst business groups (both in Australia and globally) the numbers show the trend is shifting and more businesses are recognising the change in consumer behaviour. This is especially relevant among younger demographics, as social media is engrained into the lives of the next generation. As these younger audiences move into more lucrative demographic markets and become target consumers, the need for social media interaction is going to increase more and more. Big business knows this, the numbers show that they’re aware of the rising trend and are already preparing for it, and it’s only a matter of time before SMEs follow suit. And while time remains a constraint for many, that’s likely to change as rewards for those efforts become clearer.

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