Sensis report: Social media numbers dip but wider usage apparent

Latest survey of Australian consumers and businesses shows more consumers are accessing social while at work, and one-third of businesses are using paid advertising opportunities to reach customers

The number of Australian businesses and individuals on social media channels slipped over the past year, but paid advertising, mobile and stronger usage trends show a vital communications and engagement channel, the latest Sensis report claims.

According to the fifth annual Sensis Social Media report, the percentage of Australians accessing social media at work has risen 11 per cent to 32 per cent this year. In addition, more consumers are accessing social media at the beginning of the day (from 43 per cent to 45 per cent), making it the most popular time to check in.

The most popular social channel was Facebook, with 93 per cent of respondents averaging 8.5 hours on the site. This was followed by LinkedIn (28 per cent) and Instagram (26 per cent). In contrast, 39 per cent of respondents said they had deleted their Twitter profile over the past year, bringing down usage of Twitter to 17 per cent this year.

Overall, however, the number of consumers on social channels dipped from 69 per cent to 68 per cent over the past year, while the percentage of businesses also fell from 37 per cent to 31 per cent across small and medium-sized businesses, and from 77 per cent to 56 per cent for large businesses.

The Sensis report was based on a survey of 800 Australian consumers and 1100 Australian businesses in March.

Related: Technology, simplicity and culture: Behind the scenes of Sensis’ digital transformation

Unsurprisingly, the report showed the increase in smartphone ownership has triggered an upsurge in heavy usage among social media users, with 70 per cent of consumers now accessing social channels via a mobile device. One quarter of people now checking in more than five times each day, up from 19 per cent last year.

In addition, just over one-third of users check in while watching TV, and news and current affairs are still the most popular programs people watch while social networking, followed by reality TV shows and sport.

Sensis general manager of digital, Evan Ravensdale, said the various social sites were appealing to different groups of people. For example, LinkedIn usage is most popular among high income males, while visual platforms such as Snapchat and Tumblr, are most popular with 20-29 year olds, he said.

“There is a big variation in how age groups are using social media. For one quarter of young people, accessing social media seems to have replaced reading the newspaper on the toilet. Whereas only three per cent of over 65s are using social media in this way,” he continued.

Social’s impact on brands and businesses

On the business front, one-quarter of businesses surveyed are using paid advertising on social channels, including 46 per cent of large businesses surveyed, and 69 per cent claimed these had been effective. This is despite the fact that only 16 per cent of SMEs and 29 per cent of large businesses measure their return on investment in social media.

In addition, 49 per cent of SMEs and 45 per cent of large businesses don’t know how much money they’ve invested in social media, while 80 per cent of SMEs and 37 per cent of large businesses have not developed a strategic plan for their social media activities.

The Sensis report also found ratings and reviews play an important role in increasing customer satisfaction and retention, with 62 per cent of people open to changing their opinion of a business if it responds to negative feedback on social media. Fifty-five per cent said they read up to five reviews before making a purchase.

The report also found attitudes towards brands on social channels was mixed. Just shy of one-third of consumers like sponsored posts from businesses they follow, for example, against 43 per cent who don’t, although 72 per cent ignore sponsored posts from businesses they don’t follow.

Thirty-eight per cent said they don’t mind seeing ads, with 42 per cent clicking on these occasionally to find out more. Overall, 32 per cent said they were following a social networking group associated with a particular brand or business.

Top requests from consumers from businesses or brands are discounts (45 per cent), giveaways (35 per cent), coupons (30 per cent), product information (27 per cent) and invitations to events (26 per cent).

Yet the number of consumers using social media to research products and services to buy dropped from 28 per cent to 19 per cent year-on-year. The most common products researched on social were clothing and fashion, electrical goods, and furniture and items for the household.

Nearly half said the research lead to a purchase, and 63 per cent made the resultant purchase online.

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