A social experiment

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A social experiment

Staff Reporter 3 minute read

Businesses are investing millions in social media strategies. And while there are connections and money to be made in tweets, there are also common traps to avoid

Social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are now an accepted part of Australia’s online lexicon, with millions jumping on the social networking bandwagon over the last few years.

In 2003, MySpace changed the way people interacted and paved the way for a new wave of social networking platforms. In 2006, Jack Dorsey invented the concept of Twitter, a social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read messages known as tweets.

Originally created so employees could send short bursts of information to their colleagues in-house, Twitter became a worldwide phenomenon when celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher jumped on the micro-blogging bandwagon, tweeting to communicate directly and instantly with fans.

Twitter now has more than 249,000 Australian members – an increase in membership of 1,067 per cent since the beginning of 2009.


And the popularity of social media is growing. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians spend eight per cent of their online time on social networking sites. By far the most popular social media platform in Australia is Facebook, which boasts more than eight million members and is the country’s second most visited website – with predictions that it will soon overtake Google in popularity.

And it’s not just members of Generation Y that are avid users. Recent Nielsen data revealed that one in every two Australians is using social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or LinkedIn.


Given their popularity, the potential of social media platforms to be powerful brand building tools for brokers is clear.

Used the right way, they can help brokers connect with existing and potential clients, build relationships, find new employees and satisfy cravings for water cooler chats, all of which can lead to opportunities.

Twenty-three year old Sydneysider Natalie Tran is an example of a social media success story. In 2006, the university student launched her own YouTube channel, Community Channel.

It went on to become the most-subscribed YouTube site in Australia, with more than 600,000 registered users.

Tran’s site has attracted more than 224 million hits globally, putting her in the list of the top 20 Australian most watched videos of all time – and generating significant advertising revenue through the various web ads that play beside her videos.

Her most popular video is “How to fake a six-pack”, a parody of an ad which demonstrated how women could achieve the look of a six-pack by using make-up products. The video has racked up 20 million views to date and counting.

But while social media can be a great way to build brand awareness, brokers should be wary of the pitfalls.

Mortgage Choice’s senior corporate affairs manager Kristy Sheppard says brokers who choose to use social media to promote their brand to consumers need to ensure they choose the right channel – and invest time and effort in engaging regularly with their audience.

Ms Sheppard says Mortgage Choice spends one hour a day on average interacting with users and updating information via its chosen social media channels.

“Social media is becoming more effective with every passing day, due to our target market’s eyeballs on what we’re doing, the conversations we are having with them or the learning’s we attain from researching our market and others through these channels,” Ms Sheppard says.

It’s also important that those engaging on behalf of the business keep their interactions business-like – a lesson a member of Westpac’s marketing team learnt the hard way.

In a tweet that was intended for another profile – and probably echoing what many of us have thought at least once during the working week – the individual made it clear that they were “oh so very over it today”.

More than 100 followers re-tweeted the message before Westpac could strip it from the site.It was eventually deleted, and in its place the following message appeared: “Yes, a case of the multiple account slip; here’s hoping you have a better day tomorrow”.

A social experiment
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