Throughout the year I am consistently asked for the state of the social nation. Business leaders and Boards ask about strategy and the shifting digital trends. Executives ask about statistics, business models and ROI, and community managers and social media strategists get into the social media plumbing – what’s hot, how can you prove it and where should we spend our limited time and resources (ie budget). And where that conversation involves a small or mid-sized business, the conversation may range across all those areas.

In almost every one of these kinds of conversations that I have had over the last 2-3 years, I invariably fall back on the Sensis Social Media Report. More than any other report from consulting company or rating agency, the Sensis Report has established itself as the most authoritative overview of the Australian digital landscape. And because it has a grounding in small business, it feels gritty and real, as if the data and analysis could actually be applied in the real world.

So what does the 2016 report have in store for us?

Insights for leaders and Boards

As the social media early adopters have been saying for close to a decade, the shift to digital and the rising tide of social is more than a passing fad. Organisations that have failed to tackle digital transformation in this time, will now be feeling the pinch across a range of business indicators, from innovation and customer service, to talent acquisition and retention, sales and marketing.

And they will be feeling this pressure because their audiences – that is, their customers, employees, suppliers and partners – have already switched from the one-way direction of broadcast communication and engagement to a more nuanced, targeted and multi-directional format offered by the digital and social web.

As the Sensis Report shows, Australians are:

  • Spending more than 12.5 hours per week on Facebook alone (this is a 50% increase over 2015)
  • More actively using ratings and reviews with 60% relying on blog posts and reviews ahead of buying decisions
  • Loving Facebook with a relatively steady number of regular logings (32 per week) but an increased length of engagement (up from 17 to 24 minutes since 2015)
  • Still finding value in Twitter – with a 2% growth year-on-year (up to 19%).

Activation: This is a wakeup call for those leaders and Boards who have yet to commence or accelerate digital transformation efforts. This needs to be a PEOPLE DRIVEN program and should focus on the process and cultural change required to deliver value AHEAD of the technology. For those organisations that are on the transformation path, there is more work ahead. In fact, transformation is the new BAU. Assess your organisational digital transformation maturity according to this model.

Insights for executives

For those responsible for delivering business outcomes, the focus needs to shift from an ROI model to a business impact model. The ROI model works where there are fixed budgets and program lengths. But as we shift away from business as campaign driven to business as “always on”, so too do our budgets, structures, processes and KPIs.

The Sensis Report shows, Australians are:

  • Deeply connected, using an average of 3 internet-enabled devices
  • Reaching saturation of smartphone adoption, up 6 points to 76% and overtaking laptops as the dominant device
  • Demanding mobility – with desktop and tablet ownership stable over the last two years.

Activation: The responsive web is the place to be. It’s no longer enough to have a brochure site full of corporate information. The web is now a service channel and your digital strategy needs to take this into account. This means staffing, technology, processes and training need to be mobilised within your business to serve your audiences.

Insights for businesses (all of you, yes, even small businesses)

Last year’s Sensis Small Business Report indicated that small businesses invested less than $2000 in technology each year. For a small business to exist online, that kind of expenditure is insufficient. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this level of expenditure just gets a business a seat at the customer table. Small businesses need to start thinking about business plans that include digital as a longer term investment, rather than a simple expense.

Rachel Beaney has provided some great insight into the business opportunities arising from the Sensis Report – take a look at her recommendations in full here. Some of Rachel’s key takeaways include:

  • Keep an eye on emerging platforms as the demographics shift from 20s to 30s
  • Understand where and when your audiences use social media
  • Frame offers via social media
  • Build trust through content
  • Use ratings and reviews to build credibility.

Holly Galbraith provides a focused analysis of the Sensis Report for the tourism industry. Holly’s analysis can be read in full here.