Social media? So what?

Social media is transforming business. It is building new kinds of communities and shaping key conversations. What are the trends? Who’s doing it well? And how can you build your own online profile?


“The point with social media and business is that it’s out there. And your brand is out there all across social media platforms, whether you like it or not. That can be scary, but it’s also an incredible opportunity. The question is, what is your business going to do about it?” Dr Tim Kastelle


Queensland Police Media launched their social media experiment in May, 2010. After six months of tweeted press releases and public information bulletins, @QPSmedia had a following of around 8,000. When Cyclone Tasha hit Central Queensland on December 25, all that changed.

Accurate, trusted information exchange became critical. @QPSmedia was there to fill the need. Followers doubled within two weeks. But this was merely a dummy run. When floods hit Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley, moving on to Ipswich and Brisbane, @QPSmedia found itself the authoritative point of contact for the community. With news emerging from all quarters, the media, the emergency services and stranded Queenslanders turned to @UQSmedia and Facebook, to find out what was going on, and to post what they knew.

Communications were immediate, squashing rumour, and correcting misreporting. QPS tweets were broadcast on national TV news tickers, and read out by radio announcers moments after being posted online. For the first time, the emergency services had a direct, two-way conversation with the public – and everyone was listening in, and chipping in. In the 24 hour period following the floods the number of ‘likes’ on the QPS Facebook page increased from around 17,000 to 100,000. In the same 24 hour period it generated 39 million post impressions – 450 million views per second. Social media had earned its stripes for disaster management.


90% of consumers believe social networking saves them time shopping. 40% use the web for competitive shopping. (IBM 2012 Consumer Study) 11 million Facebook users in Australia. 51% penetration of total population. 64.46% of internet users. $400 million spent on group buying and growing 72% each quarter. (Sydney Morning Herald) 50% faster growth in online auctions than global average. 10.7 million video users, 60% of the population. 941.4 million videos viewed. 89 videos each.


Convergence Where real world and social media meet. Take the Gold Coast theme parks. What if every Dreamworld visitor updated their Facebook status and sent an automatic tweet each time they swiped their pass to go on a ride? High visibility, low cost, engaged impact marketing, adaptable for a huge variety of real world experiences, is next on the social media marketer’s agenda. It’s where you are Your age, your likes, where you live and how you spend your money are old news to marketers. They want to know where you are. Now. Location-based social media, like FourSquare – or simply the GPS facility on your smartphone – is tailoring advertising to where you are at any point. It is the next rich seam in the social media data gold mine. What are you worth? Your social capital is your ability to influence others with what you think and what you buy.

A number of businesses measure online social capital by capturing your online interactions and activities. The idea is to offer incentives to encourage you to use your social capital for their ends. Of course, some Twitter users slip through the system. @BigBen tweets ‘boings’ to mark the passing hours, has 176 000 followers and the standout: a social capital rating of 69 (Klout). But will Big Ben influence which hotel you choose next time you’re in New York City? Count me out!Advertisers and search engines build comprehensive profiles of online behaviour which they sell, largely without asking permission. More and more, consumers are asking how they can opt out.

Companies like disconnect. me, launched by a former Google staffer, offer tools that allow users to turn all that tracking off. Peace and privacy at last?


Belgium cable tv channel, TNT, is celebrating a recent viral success. 22 million views of their 1 minute video ‘press to add drama’ within a week of its hitting YouTube. That’s three times the TV channel’s target market, the Dutch speaking population of Belgium. The video spoofs the reality tv prank show format. A button, on a pedestal in a quiet Belgian square is labelled ‘press to add drama’. When some curious passer-by does, a raft of activity explodes out of the surrounding buildings – horsemen, emergency rescues, street brawls, romance.

The drama is irresistible, the shock and surprise of passers-by delicious. Online video viewing in Australia is among the highest in the world, according to ComScore’s 2011 report on Australian internet activity. 10.7 million Australians watch online video each month – averaging 10 hours of video per person. And it’s growing. The Online Advertising Expenditure Report (OAER) compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), shows online video advertising increasing 53 per cent year on year in Australia, with further growth expected as broadband reaches 95 per cent household penetration by 2015.

Last updated:
25 February 2019