Why social media is mobile marketing: Control Shift

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This week, Sensis released the results of an annual survey looking at how Australians, and Australian businesses, use social media.

Buried deep in the report is one particularly insightful statistic about social media. According to the figures, back in 2011, just 34% of Australians used a smartphone to access social media services. By contrast, 50% used a laptop computer and 60% used a desktop PC. Only 4% used a tablet.

Social media has gone mobile

Fast forward to this year, and those figures have shifted profoundly.

Today, a little over a quarter of social media users (28%) still use a desktop computer to access their social media accounts. And while the percentage using a laptop has remained roughly steady (52%), 70% use a smartphone and 34% use a tablet.

In the space of just four years, Facebook and Twitter have transformed from services you access on your PC or Mac to something most people overwhelmingly access on their smartphones.

In short, social media has shifted from being a desktop PC marketing channel to a mobile marketing channel.

The degree of this change varies depending on age group. Amongst the over-65 cohort, just 11% use a smartphone. In contrast, a massive 90% of people aged 18-29 use their smartphones to access social media, with other age brackets falling somewhere in between.

Interestingly, 75% of smartphone social media users prefer to use apps and a further 11% use both apps and mobile websites. In contrast, just 11% of users access their social media accounts through their mobile websites alone.

The shift mirrors another significant transformation I discussed previously in Control Shift. Namely, that we have moved from the internet being a computer-first medium to being mobile-first for the overwhelming majority of consumers.

Quite aside from all the regular reasons why businesses should have a social media strategy, the research points to another good reason: you’re reaching your customers on their mobiles.

One smart device to rule them all

Any why does that matter?

Because the smartphone is a super-device for sales – and especially so for younger consumers.

Consider this:

  • What device is often the first to notify consumers of everything from major world events to train delays, and new baby cousins to changes in their stock portfolio? Their smartphone.
  • What device is increasingly also their gateway to smart TV services such as Netflix, through devices such as Google Chromecast? Their smartphone.
  • What device do they rely on to find out about products, follow businesses and research services based on these events? Their smartphone.
  • What device do they reach for first to make an order when they go online shopping? Their smartphone.
  • What device will most consumers use to call you in order to make an appointment, get a quote, do a phone order, book a table, or reach out for customer service? Their smartphone.
  • What device do they want to receive a notification text on to let them know their order is ready? Their smartphone.
  • What device do they use to navigate their way to your store? Their smartphone.
  • What about if they need a taxi, an Uber ride, or a train timetable to reach your store? Their smartphone.
  • What device can automatically connect to your shopping centre or café’s free Wi-Fi the moment the customer walks through the door? Their smartphone.
  • What device can be used to track consumers around your store, and with location-aware apps feed them information based on where they are in your store? Their smartphone.
  • What device will consumers increasingly pay for these purchases with, as a result of services such as Apple Pay? Their smartphone.
  • What device will they use to share photos of their latest purchase with friends, family and colleagues? You get the picture…

Reach out to your customers

In other words, at literally every single step of the purchasing process, smartphones increasingly do, or will soon, have a role to play.

If your business maintains an effective social media strategy, you are reaching your customers on the very same device they make an increasing number of their purchasing decisions with. And in order to do so, your business needs to formulate an effective social media strategy to match.

Make no mistake about it: the days of the spotty-faced nerd accessing her or his MySpace account solely from a desktop PC are over. Social media is now unambiguously a mobile-first service.

Today, your customers are reaching into their bags or pockets and grabbing their smartphones for real-time information that empowers them to make decisions – including purchasing decisions. And your social media and mobile messaging strategy should be designed to be a part of that process.

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Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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