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Only 14% of small businesses use social media: Report

Wednesday, 25 May 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
Nearly two thirds of Australian internet users participate on social networking sites yet only 14% of small businesses have a social media presence, according to a new survey.


Australian search engine Sensis, along with the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association, recently surveyed 803 Australian consumers and almost 2,000 businesses about their use of social media.


According to the Sensis Social Media Report, 62% of Australian internet users now have a presence on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn.


The report reveals that Facebook remains the most popular social networking site in Australia, used by 97% of social media users and 60% of all Australian internet users.


However, only 14% of small businesses have a social media presence, with social media typically attracting less than 5% of a company’s total marketing budget.


According to the report, 12% of social networking users use these sites to research products. Clothes and fashion items are the most commonly researched, at 42%, followed closely by electrical goods at 39% and furniture at 28%.


The survey states that social media users are most interested in what businesses can give them in the form of discounts, giveaways, invitations to events, and product information.


The report also found that most social media users pay no attention to advertising on social networking sites, but blogs and reviews can have a big impact on buying decisions.


Some 63% of social network users read online reviews before they make buying decisions, reading an average of six reviews each time.


Nikki Parkinson, founder of home-based business Styling You, says she has developed a strong social media presence with regular posts on Facebook, Twitter and a blog.


However, another report highlights the perils of posting too frequently on Facebook, claiming it can prompt users to “Unlike” their brand.


ExactTarget, a US-based company focused on social media and email marketing software and services, recently released the findings of The Social Break-up report.


The study is based on the responses of 1,500 US consumers and offers an insight into how users interact with brands online, particularly via social networking.


According to the survey, 44% of consumers say they unlike a Facebook page if the company posts too frequently.


The study also found that 38% of consumers would unlike a brand if the content grew repetitive or boring, while 26% only “Like” a company if it allows them to take advantage of a one-time offer.


A total of 24% unlike a brand if it doesn’t offer enough deals, yet another 24% will unlike a brand if the posts are too promotional.


Simon Betschel, group manager of emerging business and innovation at Sensis, says while there are huge opportunities for brands to connect with customers, businesses need to be careful in how they interact with people via these sites.


Lee Hawksley, senior director of ExactTarget Australia, says:  “While a Facebook campaign may not abolish your sales, it can potentially do serious damage to a consumer’s opinions of a brand.”


“There is an expectation from Facebook users that marketers keep their Facebook pages fresh, interesting and to keep posts and updates to a minimum. If these posts become spam, Facebook users will speak out about it and unlike the company,” he says.