Five lessons for Australian small businesses from the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report.

Just over a year ago, I brought you five lessons from the 2016 Sensis Social Media Report. Reading this year’s report, I was struck again by the crazy pace of change. Facebook is leading the way with a constant stream of updates. Their commitment to evolving Instagram has also been consistent. While they have received a lot of criticism for this, it hasn't hurt them; the take up of Instagram has been phenomenal.

This year, Sensis split their social media report into two parts. Next week they will release part two, a more business-focused report. I can’t wait to see that one. In the meantime, I have pored over part one (focused on consumer behaviour) and found lots of treasure. So here, for 2017, are five more practical lessons drawn from the Sensis Social Media Report. Think about how you can use this information to strengthen your own online presence.

One: Instagram and Snapchat have made amazing gains, but Facebook reigns supreme

Instagram and Snapchat have enjoyed a meteoric rise in usage in Australia. Consider this: in this year’s report 40% of people said they used Snapchat. In the 2015 report - just two years ago - Snapchat wasn’t even mentioned. Similarly, 46% of people surveyed said they used Instagram. That’s a staggering 20% increase from last year.

Despite that growth, all Australian eyes remain on (or in) Facebook, with 93% of people surveyed saying they use the platform. And they use it a lot - on average, respondents who use Facebook checked the site 25 times per week.

Choosing the right channel for you and for your target audiences is vital. If your resources are limited, consider sticking to Facebook and / or Instagram. But if you have your eyes on a younger demographic then consider Snapchat and definitely look at using Instagram Stories (more about that below). It’s hard to say where Snapchat will be this time next year. They have certainly struggled against Facebook, but despite that they do have an active audience in Australia (for now).

Two: Facebook Messenger is a golden opportunity to speak to potential customers

More than 80% of respondents to the 2017 Sensis Report said Facebook Messenger was their preferred messaging platform.

The lesson? There is an enormous opportunity to connect with potential customers via your Facebook page. Specifically invite people to message your business through your Facebook page. And when they do, make sure you respond quickly and thoroughly. It builds trust in your business, and trust that your page is a reliable channel to do business with you.

There are many ways to automate your Messenger conversations and if you are not able to respond immediately, I recommend you use these options as the expectations from this service are very high.

Three: If you run a hospitality business, you’re on notice

I have several clients who run restaurants. I watch them pour their heart and soul into providing beautiful food and a warm atmosphere, so it’s tough to also see them struggle with some reviews.

The Sensis report found that 33% of all respondents use social media at restaurants, bars and parties. More than in any other business, people have their phones out at restaurants and cafes. From that point, your fortunes as a restaurant owner turn largely on the quality of your service. If people are having a great experience, they are Instagramming your food. If your service is bad, they may be complaining in real time.

The lesson here is that whatever your business, if you want social media to work for you, make sure your ‘real-world’ product or service is fantastic. It’s no good to just have a beautiful social media presence - if there is any gap between the expectation and the reality, this is where disappointment occurs and Australians are more than happy to voice those concerns.

“If a business responds to a negative review, an increasing number of people believe this will have a positive influence on their opinion of the business, up from 19% to 27% this year. Females and the 65 plus age groups are less likely to change their view than males and the younger age groups.”

Four: If your target market is under the age of thirty, pay attention to Stories

For the first time, this year Sensis surveyed how Australians are using the Stories functions of Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.

Unbelievably - as in I literally don’t believe the report’s finding - Sensis found people had used Facebook stories (44% of respondents) more than Snapchat (36%) and Instagram (36%).

More believable is the finding that there is also a strong inverse relationship between use of ‘Stories’ and age. Almost nine in 10 of the under 30s have used the Stories functions but the numbers drop along the age spectrum to only 16% of over 65s.

The take away here is that if you're a business whose target market is people under the age of 30, Instagram and Snapchat stories are well worth exploring.

Stories are a great way to show your customers more about your business. They are short term posts that allow you to connect personally, to show some behind the scenes or to announce exciting news and special offers.

Five: People love free stuff

24% of respondents reported following businesses or brands via social media. Around half of respondents said they wanted discounts (54%) and giveaways (48%) from businesses they followed on social media. This is particularly true if you are in fashion, clothing or sporting brands, which are most likely to be followed on Facebook.

Build the costs of discounts and giveaways into your social media marketing. There are lots of fun and creative ways to run competitions (check out my step-by-step guide here). You don’t always want to be on sale but there are always creative ways to encourage loyalty.

Be positive, provide great service, and reap the rewards

Unsurprisingly, people surveyed for the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report like brands that go ‘above and beyond’ on social media.

More than 60% of people said they were more likely to trust brands if they interact positively with customers on social media. They also appreciated regularly updated content (59%) and relevant and engaging content (63%). It was a similar story with reviews. More than 60% of respondents said they would consider changing their opinion of a business if it responded to a negative review.

Every business in Australia would like to crack the code for social media success (and I can help you with that!), but I know this for sure; you can’t have success on social media if you don’t have your ‘real world’ house in order. Having great customer service and attention to detail will provide strong foundations as you move your business into the world of social media.

Want to know more? I’d love to hear from you.