Social Media

SMEs confused on social media: Only four out of 10 have a strategy to capture consumers

Emma Koehn /

Whether they’re at the gym or on the toilet, Aussie social media users are keen to engage with local businesses at all hours of the day at night, but recent stats suggest local SMEs are tired and downright confused about how to come up with a social strategy.

While there’s no shortage of enthusiastic reporting about the value of social to smaller operators, the numbers tell a slightly different story and whether businesses are engaging with these opportunities.

The Sensis Social Media Report, released today, surveyed 1,100 local companies and 800 consumers, finding that while customers are becoming more and more comfortable with businesses engaging with them on social media, budgets for social media are dropping across the board and many small businesses are throwing no money at social strategy at all.

The opportunities to capture a social media audience are growing, with the shift to mobile meaning more consumers log on throughout their days: 12% of users say they’re on social media while on the toilet, 18% during commuting and 21% during work.

However, the average social media spend for small businesses has fallen over the past year, from $3,595 to $2,839, according to the report. One quarter of small businesses allocate no budget at all to their social strategy, while only 23% say they actually measure their return on investment across social platforms.

This is despite 43% of customers saying they follow businesses on social to get access to content that is interesting and relevant to them. A quarter of customers report using social media for the purpose of following and keeping up to date with brands, which Sensis spokesperson Rob Tolliday suggests shows consumers actually want solid engagement with businesses, rather than shying away from messages from them.

“They’re definitely happy to be engaging with brands on social, but content has to be relevant to followers,” he says.

The numbers also show that while nine out of ten large businesses have a social media strategy, only four out of ten small businesses do. Tolliday says while small businesses do seem to be improving on this front, bigger players have extra weapons at their disposal.

What we did see is for the larger businesses, they’re more likely to have external help. They’ve got experts there that they’ve got in for strategy. But for small businesses, they have to get over their initial concerns about social media and start with the basics: Why am I doing this? Is it to generate sales or as a service channel?”

“It’s not that hard”

Social media expert and founder of Zoetic Agency Dionne Lew says the numbers indicate that a great opportunity exists for SMEs who want to tell a story online, but businesses need to take a step back and stop worrying about the time it takes to come up with a strategy.

The thing is that we’re seeing social still growing, and spending more time on social than work and feet, but companies haven’t still found their footing,” she says. 

The one thing that struck me is companies are still struggling to make sense of it all.” 

The key findings from a study like this one are that customers want to engage in a meaningful way with brands they like. For small businesses, this means looking at the big picture, thinking about what questions their users might need answered, and pulling out the calendar to plan some content around that.

It’s not hard, it’s about identifying what channels you want to use. Don’t think about what you want to tell customers about yourself, think about what customers need to know. Think about what’s helpful for them.”

Stop the panic and think about the kinds of things your customers are after, Lew advises: Then start to think about how you can propel your user base into a conversation around your brand.

The most engaging content for people is user-generated content, so actually using and sharing ideas that people are already putting out there.” 

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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  • Michael Farrell

    “customers are becoming more and more comfortable with businesses engaging with them on social media” … ???? obviously a survey conducted by a company selling ‘advertising content’ on these platforms. Labelling the claim as disingenuous would be mild at best. The principles some people will trash in the pursuit of money.

    • Sha Latour

      Hi Michael, 70% of people browse the internet almost exclusively on their smartphones, the majority of people will consult a Facebook page before calling a business, and the majority of people are out there following brands. My mother who is 60 sends me poo emojis and is constantly following brands she likes, my employees are constantly liking and sharing content of businesses and pages they like. This is the reality of the market and if you think that the statement above is not correct – you need to starting understanding marketing in 2017 – not 1999.