State of the (social) nation: Part 1 – Social media in Australia

I love social media bubble

Australian businesses are still ‘dragging the chain’ when it comes to social media.

According to the just-released Sensis Social Media Report 2015, the uptake of social media by Australian businesses is still not as pronounced as for consumers, with just 33 per cent of businesses having a social media presence compared to 68 per cent of consumers.  Interestingly, the survey indicates no growth in the proportion of businesses who use social media relative to last year.

When I say ‘interestingly’, maybe I should replace that word with ‘scarily’.

It appears the digital divide between businesses in Australia and the public is ever-widening. This, of course, spells opportunity for digitally savvy businesses, but should be ringing alarm bells for those that are falling behind in the social technology stakes.

The Sensis report, which is based on a survey of 800 Australian consumers and 1100 Australian businesses, is a worthy document that provides an annual barometer to how Australian business is adapting to the new social media landscape. 

It appears a good number of companies using social media are still coming to grips as to how best utilise the various technologies for their business, with the report highlighting these statistics:

  • 49 per cent of SMEs and 45 per cent of large businesses say they have invested money in social media but don’t know how much.
  • Just 16 per cent of SMEs and 29 per cent of large businesses measure their return on investment in social media.
  • 80 per cent of SMEs and 37 per cent of large businesses have not developed a strategic plan for their social media.

Australians and social media

Here are some key social media usage statistics from the report that jumped out for me:

  • Nearly 60 per cent of Australians aged 65+ access the internet every day (the average across all age groups is 79 per cent).
  • Half of Australian internet users (49 per cent) visit social networking sites at least once a day (and half of those more than five times a day) – this is up from 30 per cent in 2011.

social media usage in australia

  • While social media is used throughout the day, its practice is most prevalent first thing in the morning (45 per cent) followed by “last thing before going to bed” (41 per cent) and after work/in the evening (40 per cent).
  • Facebook continues to dominate the social networking landscape, with 93 per cent of social media enthusiasts maintaining a profile on the platform; LinkedIn comes in second at 28 per cent (this is massive, by the way, given the platform is skewed business and professional people); Instagram at 26 per cent is higher than what I would have thought, while Twitter at 17 per cent (the same as Pinterest) indicates it’s not as mainstream as many people think, but given the public nature of the network and the fact it’s actively used by influencers such as bloggers, celebrities, thought leaders and journalists means the platform well and truly punches above its weight, indeed, its not unusual for Twitter to set the news agenda of the day).
  • Google+ (at 23 per cent, the 4th most used social network) is a surprising statistic, and flies in the face of common thinking that the social network is a ‘ghost town’ and on the way out – I’d probably like more definition around what constitutes ‘use’ of the network (the question asked by Sensis was: “Which of these social networking sites do you use?“) – remember this is public usage of G+, not business. So it begs the question: Are we, the social media ‘industry’ (for want of a better term) under-estimating Google+?
  • Across all social networking users, the average number of friends, contacts or followers in 2015 was 297. This is lower than last year but higher than prior years.
  • The proportion of people checking on social media while ‘watching TV’ has dropped for all age groups except 40-49-year-olds; this practice, ranging from 39 to 45 per cent, is particularly prevalent with 18-49 year olds, however, the figures don’t show general internet (i.e. non-social media) usage while watching television, so you could safely boost these numbers significantly across the board – this practice, plus our habit of recording TV shows and watching them back later – skipping the ads – remains a mountainous challenge for the advertising industry.

popularity of facebook in australia

  • At 92 per cent, catching up with friends and family is the main reason people use social networking sites (Note to brands: This is your main competition for people’s attention, not just other brands); a quarter use social media to follow or find out about particular brands or businesses in general, while a fifth use social to research products and services.
  • A third of social media users aren’t looking for anything from business via social media and this proportion has increased over the past year.
  • A quarter of people who follow brands on social media want ‘information about the company’, the same as those who seek tips and advice (both of these figures are down on previous years).
  • On Twitter, there was a big jump in the number of people following brands that were ‘work or profession related’ (37 per cent in 2015 compared to 24 per cent in 2014).
  • 38 per cent of people are ‘quite happy to see ads on social networks’, although virtually the same figure (39 per cent) don’t want to see ads.
  • 55 per cent of people claim to take no notice of ads on social networks.
  • The majority of Australian internet users (55%) read online reviews or blogs – this figure, however, is significantly down on 2013’s 74 per cent – although I will say many people read online publications unaware they are in fact blogs.

MY TAKE OVERALL? Our use of social media appears to be maturing, and having experimented with various technologies, we’re now using social media in ways that suit our particular lifestyles; there doesn’t appear to be any significant breakthrough trends compared to previous years other than a continuation of the increase in frequency in accessing social networking sites, while the penetration of mobile devices continues to consolidate. 

Australian businesses and social media 

Okay, so we have a solid overview of where the Australian public sits when it comes to social media, but what about businesses? How do they fare?

The proportion of businesses that have a social media presence has dropped across the board:

  • Small business – 30 per cent (down from 37 per cent last year).
  • Medium business – 32 per cent (down from 48 per cent in 2014).
  • Large business – 56 per cent (down from 77 per cent).

So while social media usage among the public continues at significant levels, the use of social media by business drops? Okay, that’s a pretty big disconnect right there. Could it be because there are so many new businesses being established that are not on social media? It certainly sounds like the case because Sensis reports that only two per cent of small businesses and five per cent of medium businesses – and zero large businesses – claimed to have removed their social media presence.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 6.42.54 pm

But all is not lost. The proportion of businesses that intend to get a social media presence in the next year are 13 per cent (small business), 15 per cent (medium) and two per cent (large).

Interesting is the use of social media channels by business.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook tops the charts with 90 per cent of businesses on the platform (averaged out across small/medium/large categories);  surprisingly, however, Twitter comes in second with 33 per cent on average on the platform (large businesses dominate Twitter at 46 per cent, while just 17 per cent of small businesses use the platform). Remember, Twitter is the fifth most used social media by the Australian public.

social media in australia

According to the Sensis report, social media presence amongst SMEs is above average in New South Wales (38 per cent) and about average in Queensland (32 per cent) but below average elsewhere (25 per cent on average); there is little difference between metropolitan and regional SMEs but social media presence appears to have dropped in all state locations except New South Wales.

Uses of social media

The most common use of social media for businesses is for two-way communication with the public (a majority of businesses use it for this purpose, a solid across-the-board increase from previous years).

Interestingly, however, small and medium-sized businesses are shying away from inviting online comments, ratings and reviews on their social media sites – at 43 per cent and 45 per cent respectively, these figures are the lowest since statistics were taken in 2012. Meanwhile, big business (at 68 per cent) is increasing its appetite for such engagement after a low of 53 per cent last year (see figures below).

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 12.06.58 pm

The big trend

The big trend is the solid growth of advertising on social media, especially with large businesses. As you would expect, Facebook gets the lion’s share of social media advertising dollars, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter.

Of note, 88 per cent of large businesses found Facebook effective as an advertising medium, compared to 46 and 67 per cent of medium-sized and small businesses respectively. This could come down to the larger enterprises being in a position to pay experts to experiment and test advertising executions on Facebook in order to generate results, whereas smaller businesses may well be doing a lot of the work themselves and struggling accordingly.

advertising on social media in australia

Who manages the social media function?

When it comes to managing social media for business, 89 per cent of large businesses manage the function in-house (as they should), while 11 per cent have a mix of in-house and external; meanwhile, small and medium-sized businesses are also big on retaining social media management in-house, with 91 and 85 per cent managing the function internally.

Just two per cent of small businesses engage an external firm to handle their social media, compared to three per cent (medium) and zero per cent (large) – does this spell the ‘death knell’ for external social media management services?

Budgets allocated to social media are also up right across the board, with businesses assigning an increased proportion of their marketing budgets to social media activity at record highs (see below):

social media budgets

And finally …

According to the Sensis report, nearly all SMEs (92 per cent) and large businesses (82 per cent) with a social media presence have a strategy to drive people to their sites.

Some have an advertising presence, which is more common for larger businesses, or use directories. Also, a majority of businesses have buttons on their website allowing people to share information about the business through their social media profiles which facilitates efforts to increase their brand presence.


NOTE: All graphs sourced from the Sensis report

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3 thoughts on “State of the (social) nation: Part 1 – Social media in Australia”

  1. Hey Trevor, epic summary thanks. Anecdotally I’d say:
    Few businesses are using social but fewer businesses know how
    Even fewer know why
    Even fewer are doing it well…and that goes for brands too!

    The note on Google+ is definitely surprising too. Looking forward to part two.

    1. Thanks Scott, yes the G+ statistic took me a little by surprise too. It’s a bit of an unknown as far as Google is concerned too, if what I’m reading is correct!

  2. Pingback: State of the (social) nation: Part 2 – How marketers from around the world are using social media to grow their business

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