It has been nearly a year since we began producing our Australia and New Zealand Internet Statistics Compendium and to date, it’s had some 2,000 downloads.

This indicates an enormous hunger for data and insight among marketers in the region. 

The past few months have seen a number of interesting reports looking at the ANZ digital landscape (including our own State of Digital Marketing in Australia in association with Marketing Magazine), but it is social media data that really seems to be the hot topic.

So, here’s a rundown of the latest social-related insight in Australia and New Zealand.

Overall landscape

Social media is very much at the forefront of the latest report from Boston Consulting Group, The Internet Economy in the G-20: The $4.2 Trillion Growth Opportunity. According to BCG, Australia sits alongside countries such as the US, the UK, France and Germany in a cluster it terms as ‘Social-mainstream and mature.’

Despite Australia’s relatively small population (just short of 23m people), the country boasts an internet penetration of nearly 80% and sees about 90% of those online using social – ahead of similar-sized, Canada. 

Unsurprisingly, much of social’s popularity is due to Facebook, which reaches more than 50% of the overall population: around 11m people (according to Socialbakers). Add in Facebook’s user base in New Zealand and the total for the region is pushed to more than 13m people.

Social business 

Businesses in Australia are becoming increasingly socially-driven. Our State of Digital Marketing in Australia report found that three-quarters of Australian client-side marketers are using off-site social media and that 77% of organisations expect to increase investment in this area over the next 12 months. To complement this, more than half of Australian client-side marketers plan to increase their investment in social media technology during the course of this year. 

The AIMIA / Sensis report from last year also found echoes of this among businesses, where they reported that 25% of medium-sized businesses and 50% of large businesses have an active social media presence. 

They also found a disparity between the use of social media by businesses, with the majority (79%) of large organisations utilising social media for dialogue and communications with customers, whereas a similar proportion (76%) of small businesses use social media in the context of comments, ratings and reviews. 

Finally, on average across all business sizes using social media, an enormous 97% cite that they expect investment in the channel to directly contribute to an increase in sales.

Social media and mobile

Mobile phones and tablets are helping push social media too. According to GSMA’s recent Asia Pacific Mobile Observatory, mobile penetration in Australia is 125% and this abundance of devices is having an impact on how all media is consumed.

In February, mobile ad network InMobi released a series of reports on mobile media use across a number of regions. According to the network, 26% of daily media consumption by mobile web users in Australia takes place on mobile devices.

When this mobile media time is broken down, social media is the favoured activity accounting for 34%, ahead of other pastimes such as games at 26% and entertainment at 9%.

Social commerce

InMobi also hints at the significant convergence between social and e-commerce on mobile devices during the purchase process, with 17% of mobile web users saying they have been provided with a better option when looking to mobile when shopping.

However, it is data from both Nielsen and Experian at the end of 2011 which highlight the best opportunity for those looking to social media to connect with consumers.

According to Nielsen, 24% of Australian consumers say they use social media to make purchase decisions.

Aussie shoppers are keen to engage with brands via social too, though Experian data published by Marketing Mag in December showing that 60% of Australian consumers stop engaging with brands if communications are poorly targeted.

Clearly there is scope for marketers and businesses to connect with a sizeable audience via social in Australia and New Zealand. As mobile becomes more integral to both on and offline purchases, it will make sense to focus on making the relationship between social media and the ecommerce channel as seamless as possible on mobile devices.

Yet, whether on mobile, tablet, laptop or PC, followers and ‘friends’ will be as quick to sever ties if the brand connection isn’t of significant value to them. Those hoping to establish the best connections with consumers need to use the social channel for unique, valuable, worthwhile content that really makes their investment worth it.