Posting images to Facebook, answering customer queries on Twitter and blogging industry articles has become a regular part of life for many Australian businesses and it looks like this year will see the time spent on social media grow even further.

Bibby Financial Services Australia conducted their bi-annual study of over 200 small businesses in February 2013 and found that a huge 78% are planning to up their time spent on social media in the coming 12 months, highlighting just how important the channel has become. 

The study also found that those most likely to use social media are entrepreneurs aged between 18 – 39, with a 66% take up, while just 39% of leaders aged 40 – 64 use the medium. 

The use of social media in Australia is something that’s reasonably well-documented, however, this study cements the indisputable fact that this particular area of digital is relentlessly developing importance for marketers and organisations. 

Helping to grow businesses

54% of respondents said they use social media in their business and of those that do, 65% said it has helped their business grow in the past year.

Almost half said they use social media to source new customers and raise brand awareness.

44% use it for networking opportunities, 40% use it to generate new sales, 35% to improve customers service and 33% to stay ahead of their competition. 

Gary Green, Bibby Financial Services Australia’s national sales director, said that social media is increasingly being used as an extra communication channel to raise small business’ profiles and reach new and existing clients.

A third of businesses surveyed said that social media has helped them improve customer service and stay ahead of competition and as many as 22% have used social media to recruit new staff.

With optimism on the rise and confidence in sales growth at levels not seen since July 2011, it is not surprising that businesses are using social media to generate new business and raise their profile.

A 2012 American Express Survey also found that social media is playing an important role in driving revenue growth for small businesses, with head of marketing at American Express, Amelia Zaina, saying that Australian business owners cite company websites and Facebook pages as the most effective marketing channels. 

These findings support the notion that small businesses who have gone online and are using social media are seeing comparatively stronger revenue growth.

While different channels work better for different industries, both e-commerce and social media can be innovative and affordable. 

[Image credit: Rosaura Ochoa]