Forget business accountability – let’s just go social!

The newly released 2013 Yellow Social Media Report, launched by AIMIA/Yellow Pages, endorses so many positive aspects of changing communications to have arisen from social media and digital interfaces. I am hoping, at last, business WAKES UP and gets on with it now!

The report, like many before it, clearly shows again that Australian consumers are all over digital channels, digital widgets, digital gadgets and social media, and they love it.

But, right in the first paragraph of the report, there’s this: “While business use of social media continues to grow, there still remains a sizeable gap between the social media strategies of Australian businesses.”

This is where I groan and my frustration catches up with me.

I was recently having coffee with Pete Williams, well-respected digital chap from Deloitte Digital. He painted the picture: “It’s like there is a sea of people and companies/brands are just blocks of concrete in the middle of that sea of enthusiasm.”

It certainly is.

Since starting my career in Europe in the late 80s in the boom of consumer electronics and then into the digital landscape, Australians have always appeared at the top of “early adopters” lists.

Maybe because we are so far away from everyone, it makes perfect sense to reach out; or maybe because Australian’s naturally love technology advancement and we have observed some amazing innovations coming from Australia. Australians love technology, digital channels and social media. It is a fact.

It is also a fact that the digital economy has completely changed the way we want to transact and interact with brands, products and services. As a result, many businesses and brands have rushed to social media, to mobile and to digital mediums.

What are lacking are sound strategic frameworks and commercial business strategies in their endeavours. The report says, “A sizeable proportion of businesses investing in social media are unaware of the actual amount they have invested and don’t measure the return on their investment.”

It says 46% of large business reported they did not know how much they spend on social media, while 18% of small businesses and 24% of medium businesses are unaware of what they invest in social media.

WHAT? Where is the commercial sense in that?

According to the report, three out of ten small businesses have invested in social media but have no strategy. How can this be? Small business owners have to have detailed accountability, their cashflow relies on it.

We have just set up a new start-up in the aged care sector, every piece of marketing (on and offline) that we have embarked upon and will be rolling out is being measured against acquisition targets dollar for dollar. Each channel can then be optimised or dropped, against cost per acquisition and performance targets. It is perfectly sensible business practice that has been around for decades.

We might be in the realm of the digital economy, where marketing has become a level playing field and fat cat brand marketing cash often doesn’t work against a nimble, agile smart operator for the consumers’ mindset and purchase; but that doesn’t mean standard, old-fashioned business accountability should not be applied.

The report states, from small to large businesses, the success of social media is based on likes, followers and subscribers. Errr…guys, what about actions, sales, you know, some good old-fashioned accounting?

I hope in the coming 12 months we see businesses and their social media and digital media endeavours grow up. It is time to use this psychological shift in human behaviour in succinct strategies for business success.

Your customers are there, why don’t you listen to them and start doing business with them in their context, in the way they want to do business with you: 68% to 73% of businesses state they will do just that and cut traditional advertising and invest in social media for sales growth strategy in the coming year.

Key insights to take out of the report:

1. People use social media before and after work most often.

2. Facebook still dominates, with only 18% drop off rate over the last year, LinkedIn is an emerging social network in Australia at number two, with Twitter’s usage in major decline over the last 12 months. The Instagram app is still popular despite the privacy row.

3. 45% of people surveyed use social media daily.

4. It is not only the realm of the young, 66% of those aged 30 to 39 and 42% of 40-to-49-year-olds use social media at least once a day.

5. State-by-state usage and followers is pretty even per capita head.

6. Smartphone apps to access social media is the most popular.

7. 96% of people use social media at home, in the lounge and in the bedroom!

8. 42% watch TV and are on social media at the same time.

9. Reasons for using social media: friends and sharing dominates, with researching products and services featuring well…ironically celebrities don’t rank that well here!

10. 58% of social search leads to a purchase, with 50% of resulting purchases made online.

11. Consumers still want discounts and free stuff from brands online, followed by information on products.

12. Most social ads and unsolicited sponsored posts are ignored.

13. 32% of 30-to-39-year-olds and 39% of 40-to-49-year-olds are most likely to post a review or rating (who said this stuff was just for young people!)

14. 74% of people take notice and read online ratings and reviews, with people on average reading four before making a purchase decision.

15. Business confidence has risen in social media, with 36% of SMEs using social media reporting an increase in sales.

Fi Bendall is the managing director of Bendalls Group, a team of highly trained digital specialists, i-media subject matter experts and developers.


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