Small businesses have an edge as larger rivals piece together the social media puzzle

Big businesses are taking an increasingly tactical approach to social media use, despite 41% of them believing it is unimportant to their sector, new research shows.

A survey conducted by BRR Media into the social media habits of ASX200 businesses revealed that 61% had increased social media activity in the past year. It found 22% of the ASX200 companies did not use any form of social media, and 7% believed it was not important at all for any sector of business.

BRR Media executive director James Marlay told SmartCompany this morning the survey, now in its second year, demonstrated that some sectors are struggling with the best way to engage with customers.

“What stood out was that businesses in resources and materials are not engaged in social media,” he says. “It’s obvious that a business like Woolworths needs it, as it has customers on the ground every day, but in resources it is harder to make a connection with clients and stakeholders.”

Marlay says that many ASX200 companies are hiring social media experts and are getting very targeted with their use of each platform, rather than taking a blanket approach.

The survey found 71% of ASX200 companies used YouTube for sharing company videos, up 7% on the previous year. Professional networking site LinkedIn was used by 58% of respondents, predominantly for recruitment. Twitter was used by 47% of companies surveyed, with multiple purposes cited including marketing, advertising, investor relations and recruitment.

Social media consultant Catriona Pollard told SmartCompany the respondents that did not see the relevance of social media need to think again.

“They are communicating on so many levels, they have shareholders, board members, thousands of employees and customers,” she says.

“If they are an ASX-listed company, they are being talked about on social media whether they are on there or not, so they are missing out on managing the communications by not being there.”

Pollard says that social media is an area where small to mid-level businesses can take a lead over the corporations.

“They can play on a level field with the large organisations, as the platforms are free, they don’t need a massive budget, but they have to be clever, strategic and frequent in their communications.

A key advantage for SMEs, Pollard says, is that they can implement new social media campaigns with speed.

“The mid-sized companies I work with (on social media) don’t have so many approval layers to go through. The big corporations have so many layers of approval.”

However, associate professor of marketing at Melbourne Business School, Mark Ritson, told SmartCompany he can understand why the 41% of ASX200 companies are uncertain about the relevance of social media to their business.

“They are not missing the point,” he says. “It is a wonderful tool to communicate from consumer to consumer…or in genuine social discourse between individuals, but from an organisation to consumer point of view, for some brands it is just not relevant.

“The 41% are probably correct; it’s probably not meaningful for their business.”

He says it may be that social media does not fit their image, such as a private bank, or that it doesn’t fit their current strategic challenges.

Ritson says if a business can’t demonstrate the value of social media, they may get a better return from investing in radio or other media avenues.

Marlay predicts companies will be scrutinising the benefit of each social media channel for effectiveness over the next 12 months.

“People want to know more about how they can measure the results of social media and what is working,” he says.

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