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May 7, 2013

Who’s afraid of Facebook? Australia’s top businesses

Australia’s largest companies say they’re using social media, but they’re not using the networks most Australians use. Twitter rules, ahead of Facebook.

Half of Australia’s largest companies say they’re using social media, but they’re not using the networks most Australians use. And when they do use social media, they’re far more comfortable broadcasting their views rather than engaging with customers.

That’s the finding of a survey of the ASX100 — Australia’s 100 largest companies by market capitalisation — released today by online marketing agency Web Profits. It found 53% of the ASX100 made use of Twitter for corporate purposes, while only 27% had a Facebook page. Less than a quarter used both.

This is despite most Australians using Facebook far more than Twitter. Only an estimated 2.2 million Australians are active on Twitter, while 11.5 million Australians use Facebook. Given its potentially greater reach, this would appear to make Facebook the more effective marketing channel.

Paul Sprokkreef, managing director of Web Profits, thinks large companies are choosing Twitter over Facebook in an attempt to “hide” their output. “It suggests that Twitter is seen as a safer option. If someone says something negative about a company on Twitter, because of the multitude and frequency of tweets, and the way Twitter is set up, that negative comment isn’t as apparent. Companies feel safer on Twitter,” he said.

Sprookreef believes this sense of safety is misplaced, as Twitter’s reach in Australia is growing. “If you want to retweet, it’s just a touch of a button away. It’s quite easy for things to go viral,” he said.

Of the 26 ASX100 companies that do use Facebook, many do not respond promptly to comments or criticisms. This includes some of the most popular Facebook pages, like those managed by Coca-Cola Amatil, Woolworths, JB Hi-Fi and Telstra. All four had more than 340,000 Facebook “fans”, but none had responded to any of the last 10 posts left by customers on their pages.

Many of these posts were cynical or negative about the company, or contained questions. A lack of response by the company is likely to only breed cynicism, Sprookreef says. “In today’s world, the consumer has a loud voice. And there’s a lot of active cynicism there. But there are also passive customers, who won’t complain, but who will monitor the websites of these companies,” he said.

“If they read about negative experiences, that cements their cynical viewpoint of the brand. But if they can see the company engaging, perhaps leaving a happy customer, but at least showing that they care, that shows the company in a much better light.

“These are the bastions of corporate Australia, yet half seem to shun social media altogether … I hope that they can turn their ways of thinking around. Social media’s here to stay.”

*This article was originally published at SmartCompany

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4 thoughts on “Who’s afraid of Facebook? Australia’s top businesses

  1. John64

    All social media will reveal is that the average consumer is a miserable s**tc**k of a human being who shouldn’t have been allowed near a computer to spam their opinion in the first place.

    And I suspect Twitter is used over Facebook due to the character restriction. You can’t have someone post a “real issue” in 140 characters – and the replies are equally short.

    To be honest though, why exactly DO companies need to “engage in conversation” with their customers? Conversations don’t sell products. You don’t sell a pair of shoes by talking to people about them. And 90% of the people on your Facebook probably aren’t real customers anyway (but likely say they are in order to join whatever the latest campaign against you is).

    The truth is, it’s the consumer who’s afraid of the “conversation”. The consumer doesn’t want any conversation. They just want the company to bend over to their whims. Take the recent Myer debacle lately. Probably the best post I read on Myer’s facebook page was one saying along the lines of “Look, we know what you said was correct… but you shouldn’t have said it!!”.

    That doesn’t sound like “conversation” to me.

  2. terry dear

    Companies are run by Comms departments who only see the world in terms of issues management, ie. in reactive terms. Therefore social media is seen as a giant ‘risk’ as Comms depts are only interested in one way conversations – we tell you what we think and we frankly don’t care what you think.
    Until this changes social media will not be used as a viable channel.

  3. Bob Sanderson

    How utterly absurd to judge the service levels of Coca-Cola Amatil, Woolworths, JB Hi-Fi and Telstra with a “last 10 posts” glance. These Facebook Pages deal with 100s of customer posts per day and any lack of comments observed in a token glance is not indicative of anything.

    If you took research validity more seriously (EG looking at the % of customer posts responded to over the last month), you’ll find that ALL of these businesses that you have mentioned are actually quite socially devoted. More useful indications to this effect can be seen at

    Do some proper research before criticising the efforts of some of our nation’s best-practice social media users.

  4. mick lafo

    I couldn’t agree more to the comments below. Leave social media social. How much longer can journalist and marketing employees keep up the social media hype. I would hate to imagine the loss of productivity and money spent in departments with middle managers spending time feeding content into these third party platforms only to build the profits for FB and Twitter,…..