There’s some really scary statistics in the Yellow Social Media Report, produced earlier this year by Sensis. It says that 69 percent of Australians now use social media, that 95 percent of those use Facebook and that the average Facebook user spends 8.5 hours per week on the site, a figure that has increased by 1.5 hours in just a year.
If you discount many nominal Facebook users that have a page but rarely go there, the real figure for average usage by, say, half the population is much higher. And if businesses want to reach these people they sure better be on social media, especially Facebook.
What Yellow found was that big business has ‘got’ this, but small business hasn’t. “Only 36 percent of small businesses and 48 percent of medium-sized businesses have a social media presence, potentially missing a significant opportunity for their businesses to connect with customers and build relationships with their existing customers,” the report said.
It added that less than a quarter of small businesses that used social media had a strategic plan in their business for it, compared to just under half of medium businesses and just under three-quarters of large businesses. “Despite the investment in social media, almost three in ten small businesses have no strategy to drive traffic to their sites, reflecting a lack of strategic approach for social media in small businesses generally.”
Does this matter? Do small businesses need a social media strategy? What are the real benefits of having one? And what are the penalties for shunning social media? The Yellow Survey sought to answer these questions, comparing how SMEs with social media performed on a range of indicators compared to businesses without a social media presence.
“Business performance for a broad range of economic indicators was higher for those SMEs with a social media presence,” the survey found. “Some 38 percent of SMEs that used social media reported increased sales, compared to 28 percent of those that didn’t.”
SMEs with social media were also more likely to report increases in profitability (35 percent compared to 22 percent) and increasing employment (13 percent compared to seven percent). SMEs that used social media were also more likely to be actively seeking to grow their businesses (64 percent compared to 39 percent).
This of course does not mean that social media is easy. What is easy is getting consumers offside by inappropriate or excessive communication.
As the report concludes: “Social media continues to present a significant opportunity for businesses to connect with people, but businesses and marketers need to understand and respect consumers’ preferences on how they do this if they are to establish an effective social media conversation.”
In short, be social, but be cautious.
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