Australian Businesses Finally Get Social with #SensisSocial

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.

Big Data and the Trust Paradox

We have all become blasé about the information that we share on the internet. We openly tweet, share updates, create photos and post images about where we are, what we are doing and who we are with. We carry our mobile phones with us everywhere – and have become so reliant upon them that we have had to name a condition for the state of anxiety we find ourselves in when we leave our phones at home. It is “nomophobia” – literally the fear of having “no mobile”.

And just as our internet connection is “always on”, so too is our phone. And being always on, it’s always collecting, sharing and posting data about us. Even when it’s sitting “idle” in our pockets it is triangulating our position, beaming our latitude and longitude to satellites, connecting to wifi hotspots and cellular phone towers. Many of the apps that we use also collect and share our location – some are obvious like Google Maps and Facebook. Others not so. But it’s when we start using the phone, that the data really explodes.

The following infographic is now quite old, being originally published in 2010. It shows the “meta data” – the hidden data that is relayed along with every update that you make using Twitter. It’s not just the 140 characters of your message, but hundreds of additional characters that accompany your message, including your:

  • User name
  • Biography
  • Location
  • Timezone
  • Follower / following statistics.

And more. So much more.


Trading privacy for convenience

The accepted wisdom is that users of these services are knowingly trading privacy for convenience. The reality is vastly different. After all, when using the internet, we are not working in full knowledge. In fact, our understanding of what we are doing, how much information we are revealing and where our data goes is extremely limited. And even when we choose to share location information with an app or when we accept notifications, chances are that we will forget that consent has been given. Or the context in which that consent was given will become lost in the daily grind of our busy, connected lives.

This plays well for those platforms that collect, harvest and sell the data of their users. In fact, it’s one of the business models that many startups rely upon – data collection, harvesting, sale and exploitation is the name of the main game. But there is change in the air, and we can expect that these business models will increasingly come under greater scrutiny and pressure. A 2014 an EMC poll revealed that only 27% of those surveyed were willing to trade their private information for a more convenient online experience. And over half (51%) straight out said “no”. Moreover:

The majority also believed “businesses using, trading or selling my personal data for financial gain without my knowledge or benefit” were the greatest threat to their online privacy.

These beliefs and expectations were further reinforced in the Pew Research Center’s Future of Privacy report, where “Some 55% of these respondents said “no” they do not believe that an accepted privacy-rights regime and infrastructure would be created in the coming decade”.

Yet despite an inherent and ongoing suspicion of corporations and governments, the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2016 reveals that the general sense of trust is improving. Edelman’s research describes a well educated and well-resourced segment of the population (approximately 15%) as the “informed public” – and measures trust in the wider population as well as this narrower segment. To qualify for the segment “informed public”, people must be:

  • Aged 25-64
  • College educated
  • In the top 25% of household income per age group in each country
  • Significant consumers of media and report high engagement in business news.

This also means that the “informed public” would be considered a “tech savvy” audience.

While trust has grown overall, it has accelerated faster between 2015 and 2016 in the “informed public” segment. And this is what makes this report so interesting. Despite a wide and growing concern around big data, meta data and data analytics, those who are MOST LIKELY to know and understand the use to which their data will be put, are reporting an improvement in their sense of trust.

And it is this “Trust Paradox” which offers both hope for business and a warning. For while trust has been improving, business and government is only as trusted as the last security breach or unexpected outage. The IBM/Forbes’ Fallout Report estimates that “lost revenues, downtime and the cost of restoring systems can accrue at the rate of $50,000 per minute for a minor disruption”. A prolonged problem would take an even greater toll on brand reputation and business goodwill.

The risk of a breach or outage, however, is not shrinking but growing, thanks to the proliferation of “shadow technology”, expanding supply chains and growing online activism. And as digital transformation continues to take on an ever greater role in customer experience, the potential for consumer impact and reputational damage also grows.

John Hagel suggests that as brands work towards a “trusted advisor” status, that they will have a “growing ability to shape customer purchasing behaviour”. But brands will only have this luxury while the Trust Paradox works in their favour. At present, the Edelman Trust Barometer suggests the balance of power remains with our peers. We trust them more than anyone else. And that means securing or “scaling trust” (using John Hagel’s terms) remains our real challenge in the years ahead.

State of the Nation: Australian Community Management 2015

Community management has, over the last decade, a professional, high growth industry. Touching on social media, knowledge transfer, customer service, PR and marketing, today’s community manager wears many hats, is often the most recognised representative of your company and has become a vital business asset. Yet despite the importance of the role, there is surprisingly little information about the role, salary, focus and breadth of community managers in an Australian context.

Now, thanks to the Swarm Conference, Quiip and Dialogue, the first research report into Australian Community Managers has been released. Some of the highlights include insight into community managers:

  • Education levels
  • Areas of study and expertise
  • Focus for professional development
  • Salary
  • Seniority

For those well versed in community management, it is not surprising to see that most community managers work significant levels of overtime (paid and unpaid). They also experience higher than usual levels of harassment:

Community managers often bear the brunt of aggressive and abusive behaviour online. They are generally accountable for protecting and defending organisational liabilities in digital social contexts, yet rarely find adequate support when managing, or personally confronting, bad actors.

But working at the coalface of customer engagement, community managers are in a unique position to understand the pulse of the community. And in an increasingly contested media landscape, community management can make a massive difference across the entire marketing cycle (yes, from planning and product development through to loyalty). As one respondent confided:

I think some people underestimate the power that community management has over a brand’s identity in this increasingly digital and social world.

Judging by the survey results, there’s work to be done at a corporate and community manager level in the years ahead. Download the report here.

Time for Parents to Step Up as Digital Role Models

Working in digital and social media means you are often drawn into quite personal conversations with people. And by “conversations” I don’t just mean “discussions” or “chats” – but one way broadcasts where your only interaction may be to virtually “nod” (via a “Like”), acknowledge or amplify a situation (via sharing or a retweet). For while social media allows us to “engage” or interact with others, the vast majority don’t. Most of us are “lurkers”.

Lurkers are the 90% of people who use social media to observe. Watch. Listen in. It’s only 1% who create this content. We call this the 90-9-1 rule – or the “1 percenters”.


You may only be “Friends on Facebook”, but this can expose you to a vast insight into a person’s life. For example, lurking you will learn about:

  • Private details – birthdays, relationships status, holidays, workplace, friends and networks
  • Lifestyle – favourite restaurants, foods, cafes, sports, hobbies, games
  • Travel – holiday destinations, desires, interests.

Social media reveals the pattern of your life

Now it all sounds innocuous enough, but think about all these pieces of information put together. What does it reveal? It reveals the pattern of your life. Every item that you post, share, click, promote and comment on can be found in your own feed. Perusing a Facebook profile page essentially provides a glimpse into your private world. For while you may feel that you are just sharing an inspirational quote with your loved ones, it generally means that you are sharing that quote with the friends of your friends. And in isolation you can easily ask – does this tell the “story of me” – and do I feel comfortable with strangers thinking that?

In fact, researcher Sam Gosling and author of Snoop – what your stuff says about you, uses his psychological framework, observation and analysis to explain how our small objects and personal spaces reveal a great deal about ourselves. While his research methodology centres on the analysis of personal bathrooms – his OCEAN framework has also been deployed as a Facebook technology to generate insights from Facebook profiles.

So when you see that 50 people have Liked one of your posts, the 1 Percenters rule suggests that more than 10x that number have “seen” it. And while this doesn’t mean that your update or profile has gone “viral”, it is far from private.

Think of the children

As an adult, this is not that frightening, right? But think of the role modelling that is taking place here. Especially for those who are parents – or who have high levels of interaction with children.

Telstra’s Cyber Safety – Balancing Screen Time Survey asked 1348 Australian parents of children aged 3-17 about their own use of devices. They also surveyed these parents on their children’s use of technology. The research revealed:

  • 65% of parents don’t think they’re good role models when it comes to device usage
  • 77% of parents considered putting controls on the device but 33% didn’t know what is available or HOW to implement it

It is that second bullet point that concerns me the most. Telstra provides Cyber Safety information available via their website, including links to:

  • eSmart – a cyber safety behaviour-change initiative of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, aimed at schools and libraries
  • Smart Controls for customer mobile accounts that can create restrictions on devices
  • Online Security – tools for broadband customers designed to keep your family safe

In the survey, when children were asked about perceptions of their parents’ device usage, 12 per cent said the amount of time their parent spends on their device impacts how well they look after their family, and a further nine per cent say the amount of time their parents spend on their device takes away from their family time.

Telstra’s Cyber Safety Manager, Shelly Gorr, said:

The results are a reminder to parents that they’re a key influencer on their children’s online behaviour.

Moving beyond screen time

There are plenty of additional insights coming from the survey – especially around the often vexed subject of screen time. How much is too much? How do you manage it? Why should you? Most of this is subjective – and dependent upon your own style of parenting. And while there is a real risk related to screen time – there is also much hype, conflicted and skewed research supporting both more and less screen time for kids. But surely this is not  a question of technology – but a question of “what kind of family” and “what kind of adults” are you preparing for the world.

If it is time for parents to step up as digital role models, there’s also a need for support for those parents. We are currently putting together a simple online course for parents interested in protecting their family online – and managing the effects of screen time. If you are interested in this, sign up below and we’ll let you know when it is available.

Register your interest in cyber safety course

Brewing Disruption: Percolate’s Future of Retail

When it first launched, Noah Brier’s Percolate was a daily filter of quality social media content delivered directly to your inbox. But there was a deeper, darker and stronger agenda lurking beneath the surface of the Percolate news – a marketing platform that seeks to become the system of record for marketing. Now boasting clients as diverse as GE, Unilever, Converse and Pandora, Percolate have begun to amass a big data warehouse that can yield up-to-date information across a range of industry categories.

In their Future of Retail report, the Percolate team have curated 50 charts that signal the changes that have occurred and that are projected into the near future. Broken into six sections – macro trends, industries, eCommerce deep dive, consumer behaviour, path to purchase and offline strikes back – there is plenty to think on for the traditional, hybrid and digital retailer alike.

You can register to download the report for free – but there are few charts that caught my attention and are worth a closer look.

Percolate-6 Price and Coupon Search Leads In-Store Phone Use:  Perhaps there is no great surprise here, but this research lends weight to anecdotal evidence and data analysis that suggests smartphone use in-store can play an important role in closing a sale.With 31% of respondents indicating that they use their phones for comparison shopping in-store, it’s clear that there is an opportunity to use technology to influence a sale with an almost immediate impact.Question for retailers: Have you invested in “right time” technologies that allow you to target, reach and engage shoppers who are in-location and ready to buy?
Percolate-1 eCommerce Growth Driven by Mobile: We’ve been saying this for a while, but it’s clear that transacting via smartphones is becoming commonplace. And when we read this chart in conjunction with the one above, the message for retail laggards is equally clear – disruption has arrived.This disruption has been made possible because of the gulf between customer expectation and the retailer’s ability to deliver.Question for retailers: What do your competitors look like? How do they approach eCommerce?
Percolate-5 Social Traffic Conversion Rates are Growing: For years it has been accepted that social media is more about brand building than about sales. But the data reveals some growth here. And as with anything digital, those experimenting and learning from their efforts now, will reap the benefits further down the track.Question for retailers: What are you learning from your social media eCommerce / conversion initiatives?
Percolate-4 Consumers Will Pay More for Sustainability: In all countries/regions, there has been a significant year-on-year rise in the percentage of consumers who will pay a premium for sustainable products and services. This puts social responsibility on the brand agenda precisely at a time where sustainability is under pressure from the political classes.Moreover, it has never been easier for consumers to determine the scale of a brand’s commitment to social responsibility.Question for retailers: Have you gone beyond “greenwashing” to make a true commitment to sustainability? How does this play out in other aspects of your business beyond the product?

You can download the full Future of Retail report and charts on the Percolate website.

Disrupting Retail: Three myths about digital and in-store shopping

A couple of weeks back I had the opportunity to speak at the DiG Festival about the future of retail. The panel hosted by retail guru, Nancy Georges evolved very quickly away from a simple notion of retail to one augmented by digital technology, mobile connectivity and dominated by a focus on customer experience.

And while great strides have been made overseas in recent years, it seems that Australian retailers are only now starting to properly grapple with the challenges and opportunities afforded by digital. For many categories, this has left gaping holes in the retail experience, affording startups and more agile small players to enter and dominate parts of the Australian retail landscape. Just think of the way:

  • Zara swept into the country, catching Myer and David Jones completely off guard
  • Shoes of Prey have outflanked and reinvigorated the custom women’s footwear space
  • ASOS out-compete local retailers with reliable online shopping and speedy fulfilment

In many ways, this is symptomatic of a larger shift in consumer behaviour. We are now using our mobile phones and digital devices to fulfil our consumptive impulses, and Australian retailers have been caught with their pants down, having stubbornly under-invested in technology, innovation and customer experience for decades.

There is, however, an increasing body of evidence that retailers can rely upon to bust the entrenched, old-skool thinking that seems to dominate the boards and executive ranks of Australian retail. And this latest research from Google is a great starting point. Busting three myths about digital and its relationship to in-store purchase, the report shows:

Myth 1: Search results only send consumers to eCommerce sites

The research shows that far from creating a barrier to in-store shopping, quality search results can drive in-store traffic. However, this clearly means that retailers have to be actively managing and updating their web presence and product catalogues.


Myth 2: Retailers lose the attention of in-store customers once they turn to their smartphones

With 42% of in-store shoppers searching for information online while in the store, an up-to-date website with integrated recommendation could deliver powerful cross-selling opportunities.


Myth 3: Online research has relegated in-store experience to the transaction

In reality, consumers have higher customer experience expectations than ever before. For example, 85% of shoppers say they’d be more likely to shop in places that offer personalised coupons and exclusive offers in-store.


You can download the full report here. But it is time for retailers to go beyond reading and to step out of the shadows of the Twentieth Century. It’s time to embrace the opportunities that come with disruptive technology and business models. Not to do so will open yet more doors to disruptive competitors – and no business can afford that.

Do CMOs Like to Play the Field?

CMOs are a funny breed. They work with a constant tension – half living in the shadow of the former incumbent and half looking towards their own future vision. And with a tenure that lasts about 45 months, that means that there is about two years’ worth of clean air for the marketing chief to make their stamp on a business. It’s precious little when you think about it.

So, from an agency point of view, working with a CMO also has challenging ramifications. Is there alignment between the agency and the CMO? Is there a long term partnership? Or is there a whole new agenda at play?

The Agency Management Institute has released a study that looks under the hood at what truly drives the agency partnership by interviewing CMOs from across the US. It reveals three main style of CMO:

  • Looking for love: these are the CMOs who are in it for the long haul. They are looking for the one-stop-shop and see the agency as a partner in the business and brand building process
  • Playing the field: this is the CMO who hires best of breed. They want the expert know-how and will shake up the agency relationship to keep the blood pumping
  • Single and satisfied: these CMOs are firmly in control of their own destiny – they’ve got strong in-house teams and use agencies on a project by project basis.

Understanding the CMO you are dealing with can help you plan ahead. But there are some things that all the CMOs agreed upon – agencies need to stop being pushy and need to work on building trust levels. Easy to say, hard to do.



Take the Australian Social Business Survey 2014

To call out the term “social business” seems almost anachronistic in 2014. After all, aren’t we all now working in “social businesses”? Haven’t we all been part of the digital transformation sweeping every business?

Well, yes and no.

When I ran my first social business survey back in 2011, I was interested to gather some data on Australian-based businesses. After all, there was plenty of information available about the US – but anecdotal evidence suggested that we were behind that curve. Way behind. And again, in 2012, the survey revealed that there was a gap – not only between Australia and the US – but between businesses and the customers they served. It was what IBM called a “perception gap”.

These days, despite what we hear at conferences and read on news sites and blogs, it seems that social business, digital transformation and (dare I say it) innovation continues to struggle. Sure there are pockets of connectedness. Campaigns for transformation and change. And even some success stories. But what is the true picture?

Participate in the survey and receive the report for free

When you participate, you not only have the chance to share your perspective on the state of social business / digital transformation in Australia. You will also receive a copy of the report when it is complete. This will allow you to get a sense of where you and your business stand in relation to others.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey. And if you already happen to have AskU on your smartphone, simply enter the Private Code social2014 [case sensitive]. And be sure to share it with others. The more responses we get, the better the report will be.

ADMA Experts – 56 Trends Shaping Australian Marketing

Each couple of months, Association of Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) convenes their expert groups on a wide range of topics. Drawn from across the marketing landscape, these groups hash out important, practical topics and challenges that impact their daily work. There are groups that focus on multi-channel, and acquisition and lead generation through email, B2B, search and social media to data and analytics – and everything else between.

Having been a participant for the last two years, it can be a fascinating process to go through. It’s a chance to share your own business and marketing challenges and to learn from others.

Earlier this year, each member of every group was asked to put together a brief prediction for 2014. All of these have now been collated and published. And you can download the report for free. The report outlines 56 trends from data and privacy to wearable tech. It may be the most useful 22 page report you’ll read this year. It will, at the very least, challenge your plans and strategies for the months ahead – and hopefully validate your own work. Download it free here.

Pew Research’s Conrad Hackett Has a Beautiful Tweetstream

Pew Research is the US-based, non-partisan “fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world”. It regularly makes a splash in social media by the regular release of research data on a wide variety of topics.

And as the Edelman Trust Barometer suggests, in a world saturated with information, we turn to brands like Pew that carry a sense of reputation and authority in order to make sense of the world. After all, it’s not more facts we need. It is insight. Analysis. Recommendation.

But how do we make sense of it all?

For those of us who look to research to help us make decisions, plan our strategies and execute our visions, Twitter has become an invaluable tool. If we organise our Twitter tools well – like TweetDeck or Hootsuite – we can curate a single, unique portal that delivers much of what we need – the content, context, filters and network for sharing. But you will also notice, as you scan the Tweetstreams, news feeds, hashtag chats and so on, they are very text heavy. My own included. But when you visit Pew demographer, Conrad Hackett’s stream, you are greeted by something altogether different. Dare I say, beautiful?

Brains and beauty are always a winning combination. Check it out.