Disconnect between consumers and businesses in social media, new research reveals

Companies may be dedicating big bucks to their social media channels, but new research reveals consumers don’t really care.

The 2013 Optus Future of Business Report released yesterday reveals the current base of consumers who use social media to interact with organisations is low, with only 4% using social media to connect with businesses.

But the vast majority of businesses intend to use social media in the next three to five years.

The study of 550 decision-makers across business with over 100 employees, along with government organisations and 2177 consumers over the age of 18, found 86% of organisations expected to use social media in the next few years, an increase of 24% from last year.

But while businesses are embracing the online realm, it seems consumers are still favouring traditional methods of communication.

Two-thirds of consumers rated talking to a person from a business as important and 44% said they received better customer service via this form of communication.

Social media expert with Dialogue Consulting, Hugh Stephens, told SmartCompany people can get “stuck in the rhetoric” that social media is for everyone.

“These findings aren’t particularly surprising to me because the everyday consumer is in a position where they’re getting hit by more and more marketing channels every day.

Despite this disconnect, both businesses and consumers agreed future transactions will be done online and digital technology is of growing importance.

Within the last three months, 42% of consumers had gone online to interact with businesses, and over the next three to five years, 56% of respondents believed their preference of interaction channel will have shifted to online.

In the coming years social media is still predicted to rank lowly in terms of customers communicating with businesses.

In the next three to five years, only 8% of respondents said they’d communicate with organisations via social media.

Optus Business vice-president of marketing, products and strategy Scott Mason told SmartCompany this disconnect was surprising.

“Consumers may still see social media as a relatively private communication tool for peers, friends, family. Not something they expect to use as an interface to connect with businesses.”

But Stephens says too many companies are using social media as a straight marketing tool, when this isn’t how consumers want to engage.

“People go to these networks to communicate, rather than to be marketed to by brands. In terms of marketing, enterprises need to have highly integrated campaigns, large-scale interactive campaigns which interest consumers,” he says.

Stephens says social media is not the right communication platform for all businesses.

“Businesses need to consider if social media is providing them with an ROI, and if it’s not, then perhaps it’s not the platform for them,” he says.



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