Based on the latest annual Sensis Social Media Report, business appears to be reassessing the value of social media as an effective platform for marketing communications, with some businesses actually abandoning their social media activities through 2015.
The number of SMEs with social media accounts dropped from 37 percent to 31 percent from 2014 to 2015 according to the survey of 1000 small and medium businesses, and 100 large businesses, including 149 retailers.
– This could be a logical business decision. (It’s called ‘social’ media rather than ‘business’ media for a reason!) The hype and panic about social media as an essential part of the marketing communications mix is being replaced by an understanding of its actual impact on individual businesses, and an awareness of the mixed responses of consumers to Facebook-type advertising and sponsored posts.
For instance, only one third of the 68 percent of internet users with a social media account – or roughly about 20 percent of internet users – actually follow any brands and businesses on social media.
(- It’s worth noting that only four out of the phone-surveyed group of 800 consumers stated they didn’t use the internet, so ‘internet users’ and ‘the Australian population’ are almost interchangeable descriptions here.)
Only one-fifth of that 68 percent of internet users who use social media – or around 14 percent of the population – ever access offers and promotions, or conduct research about products and services they want to buy.
Then only half of that 14 percent – around 7 percent of the population – actually made a purchase based on that research. And two-thirds of that 7 percent – say 5 percent- of the population – made a purchase online.
‘Attitudes towards businesses advertising on social media remain mixed,’ concedes the report, while attempting to apply lipstick to the pig. (It is a Sensis report after all, and Sensis is in the business of search engine marketing and optimisation and digital advertising.)
Of those surveyed who follow businesses on social media – and remember that’s only 20 percent of internet users/the population – only around one third actually like sponsored posts from businesses they follow. More don’t. And 72 percent ignore sponsored posts from businesses they don’t follow.
Fifty-five percent of social network users say they take no notice of ads, while 25 percent do take notice, and the rest aren’t sure.
– All in all, it appears you are likely to alienate as many social media users as you attract by advertising or sponsoring posts on social media. It’s results like these which perhaps have caused small businesses to reconsider social media as a marketing communications platform.
There’s also a massive disconnect between what consumers want from businesses on Facebook, etc, and what businesses want to use Facebook for.
For the punters, it’s largely about free stuff. Discounts (45 percent), giveaways (35 percent) and coupons (30 percent) were the top three things consumers were looking for from businesses on social media (even though only 20 percent ever take advantage of special offers), while ‘two-way communications with customers’ was the top reason businesses nominated for having a social media presence. Only 25 percent of SMEs offered discounts, etc.
Only 20 percent of consumers rated feedback forums as something they looked for from business, down from 34 percent the previous year. Product information was also less important for consumers – down from 49 percent to 27 percent.
Moving away from social media users to internet users as a whole, product and service promotion via user reviews is also dropping. In 2013, 73 percent ‘ever read online reviews or blogs to find out what other people think about products or services.’ This year that had fallen to 55 percent.
Facebook rules the social media scene, with 93 percent of those surveyed using FB, followed by LinkedIn (19 percent) and Twitter (17 percent). Twitter is being abandoned by more social network users than other sites (38 percent in one year!), although even Facebook has experienced a decline (down 19 percent).
To access the Sensis Social Media Report, click here.