BUSINESSES in regional Australia are increasingly embracing social media to engage with customers, new research shows.
A report to be released on Tuesday shows 35% of small and medium businesses in regional areas are using social media, up from 25% last year.
Telstra's 2013 Yellow Social Media Report, now in its third year, also shows regional businesses are outperforming their city counterparts when it comes to using social media.
The number of small and medium businesses in metropolitan areas engaging with customers via social media is unchanged at 29%.
Regional businesses are also more likely to check their social media accounts more than five times per day (22%), compared to 16% in the big smoke.
Australian National University marketing expert Andrew Hughes said it made sense for regional businesses to use social media as a promotional tool.
"Social media is ideal for sense of community - in a remote areas where you don't have as much contact as someone in the city centres it's a good way of keeping the sense of community in your local areas but also connecting with people, and companies and brands," Mr Hughes said.
"And you're more likely to personalise the offering to consumers too, if you're a major brand and you have a lot of customers, you'd find it harder to personalise it to local communities.
But if you're a local company you can personalise the message a lot more - which means you can actually have more of a conversation with them, so to speak."
But only a small percentage of the businesses using social media are using it effectively to build relationships with consumers, the study found.
Almost a quarter of medium businesses and 29% of small businesses using social media do not have a strategy to drive traffic to their sites, while only a comparable number in each category actually measures return on investment from their social media spend.
Interestingly, businesses spent significantly less on social media in the past year, even though 65% of online Australians are now using it one form or another.
Small and medium businesses spent on average $1970 and $11,780 on social media, down from $3410 and $16,920 respectively.
And despite discounts and giveaways being the key reasons for consumers to follow brands on social media, only 28% of small and 33% of medium businesses offer such incentives.
The research also revealed the growing influence ratings and reviews have on consumers' decision-making.
Almost three-quarters of social media users have read online reviews before handing over their hard-earned cash (up from 68%), with these same people reading an average of four reviews before making a purchase.
The proportion of social media research that resulted in a purchase increased 18 points to 58%.
SOCIAL MEDIA STATS
- 37% of users check social media first thing in the morning (up from 33%)
- 42% check social media as the last thing they do before going to bed (up from 40%)
- 6% check social media while they're on the toilet (up from 5%)
- 34% now log in to social media at work (up from 30%)
- 95% of social media users are on Facebook (down from 97%)
- Facebook users spend on average seven hours per week on the site (up from six)
- 20% of social media users are on Linkedin
- 16% of social media users are on Instagram
- 15% of social media users are on Twitter
- The average number of friends, contacts or followers people have on social media has increased from 227 to 258
* Taken from 2013 Yellow Social Media Report
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.