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Social media usage soars as Australian consumers turn to social for brand research

Social media usage is on the rise in Australia despite an overall drop in daily internet use, according to We Are Social and Meltwater’s Digital 2023 Australia report.

While users aged 16 to 64 spent an average of five hours and 51 minutes on the internet each day, down 5.9% from last year, social media use saw an almost equivalent spike of 6%, to 2 hours and four minutes.

The continued growth in social media usage reflects its changing use cases, with 61.5% of users aged 16 to 64 now seeing social media as a key source of information, up 5.9% on last year. The use of social media for pre-purchase research has risen 7.3%, with nearly one third of internet users conducting brand and product research on their social media feeds and one quarter (with 24.8%) having discovered new products and services via social ads.

Despite the shifts, social media still fell behind more traditional players as a brand research tool, with search engines leader (55.6%), followed by brand websites (35.8%) then consumer reviews (33.4%).

Digital ad spend made up 75.8% of total ad spend in Australia last year, contributing USD 11.80 billion (A$17.04 billion), a 10.4% increase from the previous year. Of this, social media accounted for 31.5% with USD 3.71 billion (A$5.36), an 11.6% increase. The highest increases in ad spend were seen in digital video ads, up 15% to USD 3.08 billion (A$4.45), influencer marketing, up 19.4% to USD 379.4 million +19.4%), and digital audio ads (USD 106.5 million +19.9%).

Of the social platforms, Facebook and Facebook Messenger remain in the lead, but are closely followed by Instagram and TikTok, with the latter having seen a significant 26.5% increase in usage. Australian TikTok users now spend an average of 29 hours and 36 minutes on the platform per month, taking out the highest monthly usage time in the world.

On Facebook, users spend 17 hours and 48 minutes, while YouTube averages 17 and 6 minutes, per month.

In another indication of its growth trajectory, TikTok was the second most downloaded mobile app in Australia in 2022, behind the Australian Taxation Office’s myGovID, then BeReal. TikTok also ranked fourth among mobile apps driving the highest in-app consumer spend, behind Disney+, Tinder and YouTube.

Suzie Shaw, CEO at We Are Social Australia, said: “There has been a shift in internet usage patterns in the last year: Australians are spending more time than ever on social media, despite the decrease in time spent on the internet overall. Social media is one of the go-to sources for brand discovery for consumers, making it a crucial channel for marketers to reach their target audience. As social media offers a more engaging and immersive experience, users are increasingly turning to social to make decisions on what to watch, where to travel, and what to buy, with TikTok playing an especially significant role in influencing consumer choices. Its unique algorithm and content captivate Australians for an hour a day, providing a great opportunity for marketers to reach a highly engaged audience. It is now more critical than ever for brands to have a strong presence on social media, and to understand how to navigate the ever-evolving culture of the internet and influencers, in order to connect with people in a meaningful way.”

The Digital 2023 Australia report also showed that consumer were regularly making purchases through the internet, with 19.46 million Australians spending a total of USD 39.57 billion (A$57.13 billion).

Fashion, food, and beverages are growing, with fashion up 2.1%, accounting for USD 9.8 billion (A$14.15  billion), food for up 4.4%% to USD 3.81 billion (A$5.5 billion), and beverages up 6.2% for USD 2.76 billion (A$8.95 billion). The online travel and tourism industry is unsurprisingly experiencing growth, with an increase in of 123% in annual spending for flights for USD 7.34 billion, ($A10.6 billion), hotels up 32.4% for USD 4.28 billion ($A6.18 billion), package holidays up 21.8% for USD 2.02 billion ($A2.92 billion), vacation rentals up 63.6% to USD 924.8 million,(A$1.34 billion), and cruises up 35.1% to USD 190.6 million, ($A275.29).

Ross Candido, VP ANZ and South-East Asia at Meltwater, said: “Social media should be a key strategic focus for marketers as consumers are spending more and more time on social platforms to discover and research new brands and products. As social intelligence can help brands capture important insights on consumer content preferences, it will play an important role for brands to optimise their campaigns and engagement with audiences. Tapping into this rich dataset will be essential to capture the attention, trust and loyalty of consumers.”

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