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Kiwi businesses grow less active on social media

Report shows decline in social media usage among companies, with owners stretched for time

New Zealand business owners are becoming less active on social media due to time constraints, a MYOB report shows. The rates of use of social media platforms have fallen about 4 percent in the last year, with only 20 percent of kiwi business owners using social networking. Online payments and email marketing, on the other hand, are increasing in popularity.

Businesses are turning to search engines to advertise their business or choosing to keep a blog, the new MYOB Business Monitor shows.

The regular survey analyses the responses from over 1000 small to medium businesses and found that business owners are more likely to use online tools that are less time-intensive than social media, such as paying suppliers or making purchases online. “Tools that address the problems of time-poor business owners and make it easier to run a business are more likely to be adopted,” says Julian Smith, MYOB general manager.

“What these results show is that there are some business owners who are definitely interested in the social media space and the business benefits that it provides, but who have not been able to sustain an enduring social media presence,” he says. “This suggests that many business owners would probably like to have more of a social media presence than they do, but don’t have the time or the resources to manage a wide variety of online marketing tools.”

The survey shows that only 17 percent of New Zealand businesses use LinkedIn to network with business colleagues and/or clients and 16 percent connect with customers and fans via a business page on Facebook or Google+. A total of 21 percent use Skype or VOIP to make free business phone calls over the internet.

“We’ve seen similar patterns in both New Zealand and Australia this year,” says Smith. “After a steady take-up of social media, usage from business has fallen off significantly. For a business owner who might be preoccupied with the day to day challenges of running a business in a sluggish economic recovery, maintaining an active social media presence is clearly not easy.”

“Businesses are focused on their bottom line and make decisions about which services to use based on a cost/benefit basis. Online tools that require large amounts of time and energy are simply not going to pass that test,” he adds.

Levels of social media use differed greatly by age group, with business owners from Generation Y more than twice as likely to embrace the technology as their older counterparts. 42 percent of Gen Y business owners were using social media in their business in the last year, compared to just 21 percent of Gen X business owners, 20 percent of Baby Boomers and just 12 percent of business owners over 60.

However, younger business owners were not the highest users of all online tools. Gen Y had the lowest rate of use of internet search engines to promote their business, with just 14 percent of Gen Y business owners using them compared to 18 percent of those aged over 60, 31 percent of Gen X and 30 percent of Baby Boomers.

“These results are interesting because they point to a real difference of approach between business owners across the age range. Younger business owners tend to communicate with potential customers in a much more conversational way, preferring to use social media tools such as Facebook that allow for back and forth. Whereas what we are seeing from older business owners is a preference to communicate in a more traditional manner, but with improved reach and accuracy through online tools like search engines or email,” says Smith

The key, says MYOB’s general manager, is using it “little and often”, “taking the approach to do a small amount regularly will make it more manageable for Kiwi business owners to get a return on their investment”.