Social media trends uncovered

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A new report into how businesses and consumers are using social media offers key lessons for SMEs.

The Sensis Social Media Report gauged the views of 1100 businesses and 800 consumers to uncover key social media trends and insights.

The report reveals a large increase in the number of small businesses that have a social media presence, up from 31% last year to 48% this year. More than half (54%) of medium businesses.

Despite the majority of small businesses not having a social media presence, this appears to be changing.

“Many hesitant SMBs are now embracing social media, with even more intending to add a presence in the year ahead. Businesses are increasingly convinced that social media investment will help increase sales – 62% of SMBs and 68% of large businesses,” the report notes.

Facebook is the most popular medium, with more than three quarters of small and medium businesses having a Facebook profile.

For medium sized businesses, more than 50% use LinkedIn, 43% use Twitter, and 28% use Instagram (which drops to 12% in the small business segment).

The report found social media is mostly managed internally, however, outsourcing this responsibility is gaining traction among medium businesses. 

In small businesses, the business owner is still the most likely manager of social media but the report notes the growing role of the marketing function within the organisation.

As for the frequency of updates, larger businesses are more prolific on social media, on average making daily updates compared to SMEs which spread this task out over a week.

Interestingly, there has been a decline in the in the number of businesses that use social media as a two-way communication channel, which is more common in larger businesses (76%) compared to SMEs (46%). The number of SMEs seeking feedback or comments in order to engage with customers has grown over the past 12 months.

Tellingly, the report points to a lack of knowledge and direction about how to use social media effectively in the SME sector: just over a quarter conceded they have invested money in social media but don’t know how much, while only 21% of small businesses and 27% of medium sized businesses measure their return on investment (ROI) in social media compared to 61% of large businesses.

And the majority of SMEs do not have a social media strategic plan – just 31% of small businesses and 36% of medium sized businesses have this compared to 76% of large businesses.

The report found there is more trust towards brands that interact with customers in a positive way on social media, as well as making their content engaging, relevant and keep it regularly updated.

“One risk is excessive content, which was identified as one of the more influential factors by those who stopped following any company or brand,” the report says.

“It therefore appears to be more a question of how, rather than if, businesses and marketers should use social media to connect and engage with consumers meaningfully and effectively.”

A snapshot of additional key findings from the report include:

  • Approximately 69% of internet users have a social media profile – 50% use it as a connection tool daily, just over a quarter check in five times of more a day, while 49% say social networking is one of the first things they do each day.
  • Overall Facebook is the most popular social networking site (95%), followed by Instagram (31%), LinkedIn (24%), Snapchat (22%), Twitter (19%), Pinterest (11%) and Google+ (10%).
  • The average number of times people accessed Facebook remained steady at 32 times per week, while the amount of time spent on each occasion has jumped from 17 to 24 minutes.
  • Instagram (31%) is on a growth trajectory, having almost doubled its reach since 2013. It is most popular among younger demographics, used by 58% of 18-29-year-olds.
  • As for online advertising, 27% of social media users have no problem with sponsored ads from businesses they follow, 34% are happy to see ads and 43% will click on them occasionally to find out more.
  • Forty one per cent agree they will inspect a brand’s social media presence before making an online purchase if they had not purchased from their website before.
  • Twenty per cent of small businesses with a social media presence paid to advertise, which rose to 27% of medium businesses and 61% of large business.

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