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Aussie businesses need to be more social savvy

Andrew Colley
Smarter Writer

Andrew Colley has written about technology, business and media for over a decade - nine years on a national newspaper

Andrew Colley
Smarter Writer

Andrew Colley has written about technology, business and media for over a decade - nine years on a national newspaper

Global companies are moving beyond seeing ‘social’ as media and are engaging social tools into everyday marketing messages. Where does Australia rate with this trend?

Business consulting giant Deloitte has warned that Australian companies are lagging behind the world in adopting social media tools to drive prosperity.

Deloitte’s Australian Business Trends 2014 report found that while social media strategies developed by companies in overseas markets had matured Australian firms were still struggling with what Deloitte calls “social business”.

Magnet connections cartoon

Social media should be your business

According to Deloitte, despite the fact that 48 per cent of Australian consumers update their social network every day or at least five to seven days a week, and that social media is the world’s fourth most influential form of advertising, a large percentage of domestic companies still don’t know how to use it effectively.

The report’s authors wrote that this was “due to a lack of awareness and understanding of social tools, concern about perceived security risks, unresolved concerns over employee productivity and uncertainty over how to apply appropriate social tools to different business practices”.

Deloitte consulting partner, Nicola Alcorn said that Australia had the fifth largest concentration of smartphones in the world and that they would dramatically increase the frequency with which businesses communicate with customers via blogs, social networks and online communities.

A proactive social success strategy

“More companies will need to proactively respond to what they hear and learn from customers via social sources. Right now the emphasis is still on brand management and the use of social tools by business to help market or sell products. Businesses are learning that to successfully use social in business, they need to tap into the burgeoning number of social communities. Brands that recognise this will continue to have the advantage,” says Nicola.

Adding weight to the company’s findings, Deloitte’s 2013 Globalisation Survey polled 423 executives worldwide found that 61 per cent expected social media to become “much more or somewhat more important to their company over the next three years”.

Deloitte warned Australian companies to expect radical organisational changes to flow from adopting social businesses including some that may change their essential nature.

However, the rewards expected could be just as radical, especially for companies eyeing Asia’s high growth developing economies where the ranks of the middle class are expanding rapidly.

“Companies now recognise that social business offers the potential for progress across many dimensions. As corporate ambitions grow, so will the use of social tools as they allow organisations to ‘be global’ while removing many of the hurdles associated with ‘going global’,” says Nicola.

More companies will need to proactively respond to what they hear and learn from customers via social sources.

- Nicola Alcorn, Deloitte Australia

Customer interaction drives business

There are some examples of local companies adopting social business.

For instance, Ben Burge chief executive of online energy retail challenger Powershop said that social media had started to blur the distinction between the company’s customers and staff.

Powershop offers consumers the ability to monitor their energy consumption via smartphones and the ability to buy from clean energy suppliers through a novel online consumption model.

Ben said that Powershop regularly invited its customers to participate in activities like visiting its wind farm and that had helped transform its Facebook presence into a hybrid self-sustaining customer support service and celebrity fan page.

“The reality is that our customer service is transparently there for the entire world to see. When it goes well often a customer will answer another customer’s query,” says Ben.

Deloitte's tips for becoing a social business

  1. Adjust your operating models to take advantage of data derived from social media. Investigate what sort of software tools and data channels could be useful for your business.
  2. Instead of going through your conventional advertising channels, investigate the possibility of growing awareness of your brand through social media campaigns.
  3. There’s more than one or two social media platforms out there. Investigate to find out which might be resonating more with your customer base. For example, a well-established blog may be better for reaching cycling or knitting enthusiasts than trying to cut through the noise of millions of micro-blogs on Twitter.

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