Growing Divide Between Businesses and Consumers on Social Media

The number of businesses with a social media presence has fallen in every category this year, down one point to 47% for small businesses and down five points to 49% for medium businesses, according to the 2017 Social Media Report.

When combined, 47% of small and medium businesses (SMBs) are on social media compared to 60% of large businesses and 79% of consumers. While all business sizes saw a decline in their social media presence this year, there was a 10 point jump in the number of consumers now on social media.

The study, from digital expert Sensis, surveyed 800 Australian consumers and 1,100 Australian businesses and found the gap between the proportion of SMBs and consumers on social media has widened to 32 points.

Sensis digital spokesperson, Rob Tolliday said upon delving further, the reasons cited by businesses ditching their social media presence was that it took too much time to manage, or they struggled to come up with new content on a regular basis.

“We know that time is an important commodity, with many small business owners managing their own social media pages. For many the time taken to look after their accounts has proven too much to handle,” he said.

“With 24% of consumers using social media to follow brands or businesses – up to 41% in the 30 to 39 age group – and with 79% of all consumers now on social media, rather than giving up, frustrated business owners should look at a more tailored strategy that utilises management tools to help them save precious time and target their customers.

“The good news is that among those businesses who do have a social media presence we have seen a more positive level of engagement, with an increasing number of businesses now guided by their own social strategy.”

The survey found that 90% of large businesses, 43% of medium size businesses and 40% of small businesses on social media now have a social strategy.

Advertising on social media is one element of a social strategy, and this year it has become more popular among SMBs – up from 20% to 26% for small businesses and from 27% to 35% for medium sized businesses, closing the gap on large businesses (42%).

“There is a real opportunity for businesses to capture their customer’s attention on social, as we have seen the consumer response become more receptive towards engaging with advertising. The survey found 56% of consumers now pay attention to ads on social media,” said Mr Tolliday.

“Building a strategy needs to be multi-faceted, and so a business should consider how it will engage with its audience, which platforms to use and what content it will share, plus determine what success looks like.

“Too many businesses fail to put in place a ROI measure, which can be as simple as setting goals around engagement and sales.”

Other key findings from the 2017 Sensis Social Media report include:

  • Consumers are more likely to trust a brand if it interacts in a positive way on social media (64%), they find the content posted engaging and relevant (63%) and content is regularly updated (59%)
  • Facebook dominates as the most likely location for businesses to advertise – with nine out of 10 small businesses and 100% of large businesses choosing to spend their advertising dollars there. Instagram is more popular among medium sized businesses (23%) than the other categories
  • The hospitality sector is most likely to be on social media (70%), with transport and storage the least likely (27%)
  • The most popular site where businesses maintain a presence is Facebook, followed by LinkedIn. Twitter is 3rd most popular for small and large businesses, while Instagram is 3rd most popular for medium businesses. Compare this to consumers, who prefer Instagram and Snapchat as their 2nd and 3rd favourite platforms
  • Managing social media internally is now the norm over outsourcing – 82% of small, 89% of medium and 98% of large businesses manage and moderate their own accounts

“Utilising tools to assist with scheduling your posts is important, especially when you consider the most popular times of day to access social media are in the evening and early in the morning – well outside the nine to five work day,” said Mr Tolliday.

“Think visual content – a photograph, drawing or short video – that reflects your personality. And you don’t need to post specifically about your business either. Consumers love to respond to posts that celebrate significant anniversaries, international days or key events.”

The report is available here: 

About Prof Janek Ratnatunga 1129 Articles
Professor Janek Ratnatunga is CEO of the Institute of Certified Management Accountants. He has held appointments at the University of Melbourne, Monash University and the Australian National University in Australia; and the Universities of Washington, Richmond and Rhode Island in the USA. Prior to his academic career he worked with KPMG.
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