By the Numbers: Facebook in Australia

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Screenshot 2015-04-17 09.09.23No doubt you’ve seen them huddling around the bottoms of buildings, near the entrances and exits. On the benches and in the cafes. Their eyes are downcast, their heads bent, shoulders hunched. A decade ago you’d be right to think that these people were spending their morning or afternoon break smoking. These days, the crowds are revolutionaries. But they are not “card carrying” – their weapon of choice is the smartphone – and every status update, share and connection is laying waste to the traditional models of business, networking, socialising and culture. In fact, these changes are impacting almost every aspect of the way we live – in what we call the 5 Cs of Digital Disruption.

The digital revolution is a different style of transformation. It is not a revolution of technology but one of behaviour. Certainly, the technology has had an impact on our lives – and will continue to do so – but the profound changes are in the the WAY that we think, act and behave. And increasingly this includes a technology component.

In Australia – the facts and figures tell the story of pervasive behaviour change. The Australian Social Media Cheat Sheet shows – as at February 2015 – just how much time (and attention) is being spent online. But it’s not just “online” – there are so many ways in which we can consume “online” content and engagement these days – from smartphones and tablets to PCs, smart TVs and Internet of Things devices.

Diving deeper into the statistics, Facebook Australia advise that there is more to the numbers (and that the numbers are larger):

  • 1 out of every 3 minutes on mobile is spent with Facebook properties – messenger, Facebook and Instagram
  • More than 13 million Australians use Facebook every MONTH
  • More than 10 million Australians use Facebook every DAY
  • On average, more than 9 million Australians access Facebook via mobile
  • 32% growth in the last 12 months

Facebook shared some slides you might find useful for your next presentation:

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Australian Social Media Cheat Sheet

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Update: High quality image here. PLUS check out the update to the Facebook stats.

Detailed statistics and information on social media in Australia continues to be a challenge. While there are pockets of data here and there – we rarely see a side-by-side comparison of user data and benchmarking information. So it is great to see this cheat sheet available. Shared by the folks from Reinventure (over on LinkedIn), it compiles (mostly) Australian data from Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter – with Pinterest data pulled from global data.

The infographic provides some great high level stats, pros and cons for each of the platforms and some useful comparison benchmark data. The data appears to be current as at February 2015 and includes sources like Social Media News, YouTube press statistics and DirectTarget.

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The First Rule of the Consumerverse

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Let’s face it, big numbers are sexy. The bigger they are, the more business leaders, marketers and yes, even economists, become excited. So any report on social media that delves into those massive network numbers is bound to cause a flurry of activity. But the big numbers are not what should be interesting us in the latest Global Web Index report on social media engagement. The first rule of the Consumerverse is:

“It’s the little numbers that matter most”.

But before I explain why, let me share the big numbers with you. According to GWI:

  • Over 170,000 internet users were surveyed across 32 markets
  • Data is collected in the last six weeks of every quarter, making this Q1 2015 report as up-to-date as possible
  • Stratified sampling ensures that responses are representative of the internet population aged 16 to 64 in each country
  • Outside of China, over 80% of internet users have a Facebook account (indicating a plateauing)
  • Tumblr and Pinterest continue to show impressive growth
  • The average internet user has 5.5 accounts and is active on three platforms
  • More internet users now visit YouTube each month than Facebook.

Now, these are fascinating figures. But the dot point that drew me in most was the last one. In bold.

Why is this important?

It comes down to one of the basic tenets of online participation – what we call the 1% Rule:

  • 90% of users are “lurkers” – read, consume and observe
  • 9% of users intermittently produce content, engage in comment or discussion
  • 1% of users create content.

The GWI report highlights this gap – the participation gap. The figures – on the surface – indicate that internet users have a growing preference for consumption. We visit but don’t contribute. But this has always been the way.

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But what if we turned the big numbers inside-out?

  • Only 18% of internet users DON’T visit YouTube
  • Only 27% of internet users DON’T visit Facebook
  • Both are approaching saturation points in terms of consumption
  • YouTube still offers significant room for contribution growth.

In my recent presentation, experience is the currency of your brand, I talked about the importance of understanding your customer journey and overlaying that with your business’ sales cycle. This is often a challenging task. But it reveals important insights.

What we call “engagement” is the most trafficked element of the customer journey, yet is often disconnected from the complete picture. It operates in isolation from the sales cycle – from the technology (devices), spaces, channels and processes that deliver business and marketing outcomes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Start by looking closely at your own “little numbers” and find the insights they reveal. It’s the first rule of the consumerverse.

Is TV Dying or Are Its Best Years Still Ahead?

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We’ve been heralding the death of TV ever since we plugged a 2.8k modem into our phone lines. Sure it meant we couldn’t make a phone call while “online”, but we were living the future. It just required some patience. Or maybe an overnight download. But the possibility of downloading a TV show that had just screened in the US was tantalising – so when modems leapt to a powerful 28.8k rate, it felt like the world had become a fraction of its former size.

As usual, however, the future takes its own sweet time to arrive.

Decades later, we still – as a population – continue to make massive personal investments in ever-larger flatscreen TVs and home theatres, keeping our “second screen” relegated to our laps. But the CONSUMPTION behaviour has changed. We’re not just watching free to air TV. Screen Australia tells us that 50% of internet users from all walks of life are watching movies and TV online.

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Based on a variety of Nielsen data from 2014, this infographic by Anthony Calvert reveals some interesting changes in the way that Australians CONSUME content. My favourite insights are:

  • We like our content local – There are 16 Australian YouTube channels with more than 1 million subscribers
  • We watch what our friends watch – While TV advertising and word of mouth rank highly in helping us discover new shows, 36% use social media to learn about new shows
  • We’d watch more with the NBN – No surprises here, but 51% say they’d watch more online content if they had a faster connection (ADSL 2 sure beats 28.8k, but is a far cry from the speeds offered by fibre)
  • We like free, but could and would pay – If Apple has done anything at all, it surely has conditioned us to pay for use.

So … with this shifting behaviour, how do you feel about the future of TV? Is it on its last legs – or are there a few more laps left in the beast?

The Sum of All Your Social Media

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What happens when two of your social media friends get together? Well, this week Sum All, the social media dashboard and Buffer, the social media management tool, hooked up to share some salacious social data. By working together they were able to compare the the effectiveness of posting frequency. And they came up with some pretty interesting insights.

For those who are active on social media, the recommendations may come as a surprise. After all, it’s easy to schedule or post  multiple updates to run WITHIN AN HOUR – not just across the course of a DAY. But it seems for the most part, that INFREQUENT posting may be the most effective route. For example:

  • Twitter: probably the noisiest of the lot, Twitter can explode on a particular topic. Just look at “today’s” fascination first with llamas and then later, with #TheDress. Research suggests that the level of engagement begins to decrease after only the THIRD tweet each day – and that means #TheDress flooded most people’s quotas
  • Facebook: there’s an ongoing debate over the Facebook newsfeed algorithms and the level of organic reach, but the research also indicates that two posts is the max point for “Likes” and comments
  • Blogging: perhaps the most interesting of the stats – is that doubling your blogging efforts from around once a week to twice a week doubles the number of inbound leads. And here we were thinking that blogging had died a quiet death

The big question is …

As with all research, there will always be outliers – and exceptions to the rule. But for those who actively manage brands on social media, how do you find this correlates with your experience? Have you tested for post frequency? What about time of day? Or “best day” for posting? My thinking and experience suggests:

  • B2C brands may need to post more frequently – especially where there is a customer experience / service angle
  • Brands that are in the early stages of growth will always take effort to establish a follower base. Activity can ease off as community activity begins to increase
  • Standard time of day posts still tend to work when your audience is receptive – during work breaks and in the evenings (note this can be challenging where your audience is comprised of shift workers)
  • Some channels work better on weekends. And yes, that can mean email too. Be sure to test all opportunities to engage.

 

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Data is Eating Marketing: Digital, Social and Mobile in 2015

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Data. It’s out there. And there is plenty of it. We create data with every status update, photo shared or website viewed. Each search we make is being monitored, sorted, indexed and analysed. Every purchase we make is being correlated, cross-matched and fed into supply chain systems. And every phone call we make is being logged, kept, passed on for “security purposes”.

There are so many kinds of data that it is hard to keep up with it all. There is the data that we know about – the digital items we intentionally create. There are digital items that are published – like books, websites and so on. There is email which creates its own little fiefdom of data.

There is also the data about data – metadata – which describes the data that we create. Take, for example, a simple Tweet. It is restricted to 140 characters. That is the “data” part. But the metadata attached to EACH and EVERY tweet includes information like:

  • Your location at the time of tweeting (ie latitude and longitude)
  • The device you used to send the tweet (eg phone, PC etc)
  • The time of your tweet
  • The unique ID of the tweet.

But wait, there’s more. From the Twitter API, you can also find out a whole lot more, including:

  • Link details contained within the tweet
  • Hashtags used
  • Mini-profiles of anyone that you mention in your tweet
  • Direct link information to any photos shared in your tweet

There will also be information related to:

  • You
  • Your bio / profile
  • Your avatar, banner and Twitter home page
  • Your location
  • Your last tweet.

There is more. But the point really is not about Twitter. It is the fact that a seemingly innocuous act is generating far more data than you might assume. The same metadata rules apply to other social networks. It could be Facebook. Or LinkedIn. It applies to every website you visit, each transaction you make. Every cake you bake. Every night you stay (you see where I am going, right?)

For marketers, this data abundance is brilliant, but also a distraction. We could, quite possibly, spend all our time looking at data and not talking to customers. Would this be a bad thing? I’d like to think so.

The question we must ask ourselves is “who is eating whom?”.

In the meantime, for those who must have the latest stats – We Are Social, Singapore’s massive compendium is just what you need. Binge away.

With Social Media We Are All Swinging Voters Now

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State and Federal elections are a galvanising moment in our society for many reasons. It’s the chance for the masses to “have their say” about the policies, processes, interests and focuses of the political rulers, an opportunity to change what is – for what will be, and it sets in train a framework that governments and bureaucrats will use to make decisions in the years ahead.

For political parties contesting the election – there were tried and true methods to become elected. Before the 1980s, the approach was to set out an agenda – a vision – and to sell that in to the public through a rigorous series of public meetings, television appearances, letterbox drops and, of course, media. In the 1980s this changed. Rather than setting out your public agenda, a “small target” approach was adopted, with political leaders avoiding policy detail at all costs. Policy direction and costings would be announced at the “appropriate time” – meaning close to the election so that the opposition would have limited chance to respond or to argue with the details.

Throughout this time, the public heavily relied on two groups – the media’s political analysts and the parties themselves. For it wasn’t just the opposing parties who struggled to understand the broad range of policies, economics, social impact, and business and tax implications contained in party policies. The public were largely left out of the debate – included only when forced to by media campaign or protest. Most of the policy setting was accomplished well ahead of the election cycle through lobbyists, fundraising dinners, speeches and industry consultation. For while the public voted for the political parties, without joining a party, there were few avenues through which we could exercise our democratic rights with any force.

With a relatively controlled environment to operate within, political parties became experts at managing marginal seats. Those seats that were in jeopardy come election time drew the focus and attention of all parties – vying for the voters who had not yet firmed their voting decision. As a result, marginal seats received not just attention from politicians but also resources, investment, policies designed to appeal to voter interests and so on. But the 2015 Queensland Election has shown us that much has changed.

Social Media is the new Political Hustings

Just as social media has “democratised” the media, it is also democratising democracy. Finding a new voice, new influencers, analysts and commentators, social media is giving a new sense of mobility to voters. As the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2015 indicates, business and government are facing a challenge:

For the first time since the end of the Great Recession, trust in business faltered in the last year, signaling the finale of an era of recovery for business.

Trust levels in business decreased in 16 of 27 countries. The majority of countries now sit below 50 percent with regard to trust in business.

In fact, the credibility of spokespeople – a government official like, say, a  Premier or Prime Minister, sits at the lowest end of the spectrum at 38%, while “a person like yourself” commands 63%. Academic or industry experts rank higher still at 70%.

How does this play out in reality? A quick review of social media using the Hashtracking service shows massive spikes in conversation and engagement coming from non-mainstream media around the #Qldvotes hashtag.

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Professional and “citizen journalists” from Margo Kingston and Tony Yegles’ No Fibs website led the charge – connecting Twitter and longer form commentary sourced from the community. But there were plenty of individuals joining the debate. Kiera Gorden garnered almost 100 retweets and 45 favourites for one tweet alone. With her over 4600 followers (each of whom can be assumed to have 100+ followers), the network impact can be imagined. Turned into votes, this could be enough to change the fortunes of a sitting member or even a government.

Self proclaimed “swinging voter”, Sir StanDeSteam (obviously not his real name), was exceptionally active through the weekend’s election, tweeting and retweeting conversations, discussions and articles.

The shift in trust here shows the challenge that lays in front of all political parties – not just those in power:

  • We prefer and prioritise people like ourselves
  • A vast majority distrusts elected officials

And understanding that our news consumption, engagement and discussion around politics has shifted out of the hands of the broadcast media and into the hands of the population, means that electorates can – and seem determined to be – more volatile. We are, in effect, exercising our social judgement effectively, rapidly and in a volatile manner.

The Abbott Government’s massive investment of over $4 million in social media research indicates that they are taking this change seriously. But we are yet to see anything like a shift in policy. Either they are listening to the wrong conversations, unclear of their own digital objectives or simply inept at taking insight and translating it to action.

Revising the 4As of Trust in Social Networks

Just as businesses and organisations have been struggling to come to grips with the realities of the digital revolution, so too, political parties and governments must accelerate their use of, understanding and strategic opportunity available through social networks. The first step is building trust – the very thing that most politicians squander too early and easily. Only by taking a strategic – not a knee jerk – approach to digital (and not just social) media can politicians begin rebuilding their social and political capital.

There are elections ahead. They’d best get started now.

Australian Online Retail Grows – But Did You?

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eWAY-holiday-retail-spendingAn interesting report has been released by eWay – the online payments gateway that powers more than 17,000 Australian online stores. Showing a 20 percent year-on-year growth for the mid-November to mid-January period, the results bode well for the struggling retail industry.

The report reveals that with traditional sales kicking in on Boxing Day (26 December), the industry received a much needed boost. Over $35 million was spent not in-store, but from the comfort of our living rooms. But rather than a “holiday spike”, there was a consistency in spending online. “It was very steady. eWAY recorded higher sales and transactions volumes in October than we did in December”, said Matt Bullock, founder and CEO of eWay.

Processing 1 in every 4 dollars spent locally online, eWay have extrapolated their data to reveal a surge in retail over the Christmas/New Year period. Interestingly, this seems to have been mirrored by the retail growth experienced by Harvey Norman. Fairfax media reports that after a surge in its share price, Harvey Norman explained, “The big sales increase was in the December-January period. It’s only a week, and there are 52 weeks in a year, but it’s a positive sign”. And while sales were strong across the board, sales of the FitBit seem to be riding a #BackToFitness trend associated with new year resolutions and holiday over indulgence (yes, guilty as charged).

Unfortunately, the data from Harvey Norman does not reveal a split between online and offline sales. eMarketer, meanwhile, has released estimates claiming that retail ecommerce will grow 14 percent this year, passing $10 billion. This would seem a safe bet given eWay’s calculation that Q4 2014 sales accounted for close to $4.5 billion.

But what does this all mean?

Without a doubt, the retail industry is being disrupted. Consumers are discovering, debating and deciding on products well ahead of reaching out to retailers or visiting stores (with stores often only used for the convenience of immediate delivery). So if you ONLY have a bricks and mortar store, now is the time to being investing in your digital strategy. And if you already have a digital presence, now is the time to build out your customer experience strategy.

Facebook Charts the Course to 2025

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Strong third quarter earnings were posted by Facebook this week, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg set the stage for a year of investment ahead, with a ten year horizon. Facebook’s expenses are expected to grow between 50% and 70% next year, and the company looks set to not only aggressively scale its various app based technologies, but also recruit the best and brightest talent.

With almost 8400 employees, Facebook has grown 44% since last year. As CFO Dave Wehner explained:

… we’re investing where we think there is a great opportunity for long-term growth and that’s going to be really investing and continuing to grow the talent base of the Company. So, we’re investing in the people and that’s a big part of it.

On the user side, Facebook reports that over 1.35 billion people use the social network each month with 64% logging in daily.  On mobile – yes mobile – 703 million people login daily – signalling a massive 40% growth since last year.

Not content to simply keep pace, Facebook are pushing ahead with a substantial technology investment planned. The plan with 3, 5 and 10 year horizons is for Facebook to develop and grow multiple products to scale ahead of monetisation. On that agenda are WhatsApp, Messenger, Search, Video, NewsFeed, Oculus and Instagram.

Interestingly enough, for the majority of its social network users, Facebook is a single, broad product, with an abundance of features spooling kraken-like into our digital experiences. The push to hive off products across the social network platform (like the recently calved Messenger), however, signal a more strategic understanding of both the business opportunity and the audience behaviours.

With a core platform providing a consistency of experience, Facebook is well placed to aggressively invest in a next generation computing platform – based on augmented reality and Oculus. However, there are significant hurdles to overcome, even with a 10 year horizon. And that heavy investment will need to be focused around transforming the ungainly augmented reality hardware that limits the broad appeal of Oculus in order to avoid a fate similar to Google’s ill-conceived Glass.

Leaving that aside, Zuckerberg’s understanding of audience and scale and the commercial approach to technology and monetisation underpins both the investments and the product strategy. Turning his attention to Search and News Feed, he explained:

Some of the things like Search and some of these other products, this may sound a little ridiculous to say, but for us, products don’t really get that interesting to turn into businesses until they have about a 1 billion people using them. And so for Facebook, we’re there with News Feed and that’s why in the near term our priority is really around continuing to grow and serve that community and making sure that the business around News Feed and those mobile ads fully reach their potential. [my emphasis.]

Throwing these large numbers around seems trite until we break it down. Thinking through platforms at scale – with 1000 million people as a user base for several products at a time – means operating at a scale that few of us can imagine. In Zuckerberg’s own words:

But I do think that this is such a big opportunity ahead of us. I can’t think of that many other companies or products that have multiple lines of products that are on track to reach and connect 1 billion that have a clear path of how we can turn them into a business.

The path to 2025 has been laid out – and it looks like quite a journey ahead. But looking back to 2005 I could hardly imagine the 2015 we have in front of us. I’m guessing Facebook’s investors are consulting their psychics and calling on their resident futurists. And well they might, there’s certainly a lot at stake.

You can read the full transcript of the earnings call on SeekingAlpha.com.

Content Marketing in Australia 2015 – Are you creating content worth sharing?

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At a recent event hosted by Livefyre, Neal Mann, digital strategist for News Corp Australia posed a challenging question – would you share the last piece of content that you created? Answering his own question, Neal revealed the single largest challenge facing Australian brands and marketers using content marketing as part of their strategy:

Most people don’t say yes. They don’t. Because they’ve not actually created [content] to engage an audience, they’ve created it to get it out the door … It’s worth highlighting engagement on Facebook and marketing. There’s a big difference between paying for engagement which is kind of the initial stages of what happened with social. Now, if you look at the US brands in particular that are notoriously in news, they’re creating content that’s cool.

The Pepsi Max test drive pranks, for example, saw widespread engagement, with some of the videos – like the one below – delivering over 40 million views (and counting). And the Pepsi YouTube channel has also grown as a branded media channel with over 729,000 subscribers.

But this kind of content is rarely being produced here in Australia. There is sill a focus on buying engagement rather than producing engaging content – material and media that are worth sharing.

The release of the Content Marketing Institute – ADMA benchmark report for 2015, seems to provide at least some of the answers to why this might be the case. Presenting the findings from over 250 Australian marketers, the report shows:

  • Content marketing effectiveness is lagging: Only 29% of marketers consider their companies effective at content marketing – though this extends to 44% where there is a documented content marketing strategy in place
  • Marketers need to commit and plan content marketing: Only 37% of the respondents indicated that they have documented content marketing strategies in place. A further 46% indicated that there is an undocumented strategy
  • A disconnect between demand generation and marketing: With 60% of marketers indicating that web traffic is a measure of success for content marketing, sales lead quality languishes at 29% with customer renewal rates at 19%.

Interestingly, the report also reveals that 63% of marketers intend to increase their content marketing budget in 2015. And with this in mind there are some key activities that marketers can work immediately:

  • Develop and document a content marketing strategy: Unless a strategy is clear in the minds of the marketers, agencies and suppliers – as well as the business management – it’s almost impossible to track effectiveness. For assistance in developing your content marketing strategy, reach out to us here
  • Measure and innovate to improve effectiveness: Once you have a strategy, you need to stick to it. Simple frameworks and dashboards can help you measure what works, change what doesn’t and consistently improve over time
  • Commit to creating content worth sharing: Almost every business has employees who are also customers. If you can’t encourage your own employees to share your content with their friends, family and business networks, then you need to reassess your creative approach. It’s time to invest in creative rather than paid media.

As Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute says:

There are two critical factors that differentiate effective content marketers over the rest of the pack – having a documented content marketing strategy and following it very closely. Those two things make all the difference.

And with budgets under scrutiny and competition fierce, it may be time to reach out for assistance. After all, isn’t it time that you started making content that you are proud of? You know it is.