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Only 50% of Australia's biggest companies use social media to talk to their customers and it seems many would prefer their customers didn’t talk back, according to findings from a new report

Econsultancy has often written about how complex social media is in Australia, with many organisations appearing to struggle with the various platforms and strategies found within the landscape. 

Online marketing company Web Profits has now analysed how the companies on the ASX100 list, who are the top 100 largest companies in Australia by market capitalisation, use social media to interact with their customers.

The findings shed some interesting light on differing social policies. Here are five key takeaways:

1. Australian banks are very active on social media.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia was the top social media user on the ASX100 list and at the time of the survey the bank had almost 400,000 Facebook fans; 20,000 Twitter followers and tweeted two to five times a day.

Three other banks also made it into the top ten social media users list, including NAB, Westpac and ANZ.

2. Only 27% of the ASX100 companies use both Twitter and Facebook - and 46% don’t use any form of social media.

The survey found that while 53% of companies were using Twitter, only 27% used Facebook and only 2 out of 10 were using both platforms.

Given that 11.5 million Australian’s use Facebook, and only 2.2 million are active on Twitter, this is a somewhat surprising result.

However, it does correlate with an earlier report by Fifth Quadrant that discussed the disconnect between the platforms used by consumers and businesses

Paul Sprokkreef, MD of Web Profits, says one of the reasons businesses choose Twitter might be because they are trying to hide from negative feedback:

The results indicate that companies that feel pressured by their boards to embrace social media are choosing Twitter because it feels safer.

Comments on Twitter fly by so quickly, while a faux pas on Facebook often sticks there for everyone to see. Rather than formulate a strategy to turn this to their advantage, many companies are continuing their engagement strategies to tweeting the odd media release or re-spun factoid to a handful of followers. 

But Sprokkreef warns that as Twitter grows in popularity in Australia, companies will no longer be able to hide:

If you want to retweet, it’s just a touch of a button away. It’s quite easy for things to go viral.

3. Online responses to consumers is slow.

Telstra, Coca Cola and Woolworths each had more than 340,000 fans at the time of the survey but when Web Profits examined their social activity it became apparent that interaction with consumers was low.

In fact, none of the three companies had responded to any of the last 10 posts on their timeline.

Sprokkreef warns against slow responses, especially if the comment is critical of the company or brand:

If they [the consumer] read about negative experiences, that cements their cynical viewpoint of the brand. But if they see the company engaging, perhaps not leaving a happy customer, but at least showing they care, that shows the company in a much better light. 

4. Not all companies allow consumers to interact with them.

Retailers Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi had disabled comments on their Facebook page at the time of the survey, stopping customers from interacting with them.

AGL Energy and Suncorp didn’t even have Facebook pages for their brands, instead only having pages for recruitment purposes. 

Sprokkreef says that this one-way communication is not positive and points out that if the public wants to be heard then they will find a way to do so. 

5. Having C-level management behind any social media policy is vital.

Sprokkreef points to the Commonwealth bank when he talks of the importance of having support from management and says that this is one of the reasons they hold the number one spot on the list:

If you look at CBA, they have an outstanding chief marketing and online officer, Andrew Lark, who is leading the charge at C-level. He put his weight behind social media as a top priority for the bank. 

[Image credit: mkhmarketing]

Claire Brinkley

Published 9 May, 2013 by Claire Brinkley

Claire Brinkley is Econsultancy Australia's news and insight reporter. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ or connect with her on LinkedIn

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