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ACMA: Australian SMEs Using Internet – but not Social Media – for Business

November 16, 2011

I saw an interesting piece this morning in iTWire – SMEs missing out on social network marketing opportunities – based on a report just published by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), a statutory authority within the federal government portfolio of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

The ACMA’s report, which is focused on online shopping and draws on data from its own commissioned research as well as third party sources, juxtaposes the finding that 59 per cent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Australia are taking orders online from customers with the statistic that just 18 per cent of SMEs connected to the internet are using online social networking channels for business purposes.

The report did identify an increase in the percentage of SMEs using social media channels from the previous year’s findings – in April 2010, 10 percent were using social networking for business purposes, but I find the figure surprisingly low given the fact that it can be such a low-cost marketing channel for businesses to use, especially those in the SME space (which the ACMA defines as businesses with 1-200 employees).

The ACMA identifies that there are three major channels for a business to sell goods online – its own website, specialised sites providing aggregation and auction services, and social media – but social media “is yet to develop as a mainstream business tool”.

Of those businesses that are using social media, Facebook is the dominant network, with Twitter a distant second.

When you consider the statistic that during June 2011, approximately 8.6 million Australians visited social networking sites, it’s a huge marketing opportunity that SMEs are missing out on by not being engaged on social media.

The other aspect to this is that you don’t have to be engaged in e-commerce to be using social media. Some of the best examples I have seen of small businesses using social media are very much ‘bricks and mortar’ enterprises, and never likely to engage in e-commerce. Living in the Southern Highlands of NSW, two pretty good proponents of social media that I follow are food businesses – Classical Thai Cravings and flour water salt.

I’m not sure if either business has had professional advice or assistance in setting up and using social media, but they do it really well – engaging with their audience at many different levels. Classical Thai Cravings, a restaurant in Mittagong supports an active Twitter account, a Facebook page and a WordPress blog from its chef and owner, Jason Bailey. (The food is great too, by the way.)

The great thing about being an SME and using social media is that you don’t have to generate a massive following on social media to achieve positive business outcomes. It’s all about hitting your niche audience, keeping your content relevant and engaging, and most importantly making sure that you stay visible and front of mind, so that when someone is making a purchasing decision, they think of you first, and not your competitors. And this is true for any online or offline purchasing decision.

The ACMA’s report can be found at http://engage.acma.gov.au/commsreport/e-commerce.

(Pictured: “Social Media Prism – Germany V2.0”, Ethority, available under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence.)

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