Social media opening doors

THE idea of making a landline call to a friend’s house, leaving a message and waiting, sometimes a whole day, for them to phone back is a foreign concept to most Australians these days.

Between texting, email, instant messaging and social network sites, we are used to instant communication and gratification.

IT-savvy children have never known a life without a computer or the internet.

The 2010-11 Nielsen Online Consumer Report has found mobile internet reached 50% penetration among online

Australians in 2010, in turn stimulating the social network and media site activity.

Commenting on the continued rise of the social internet, Nielsen Online market research director Melanie Ingrey said Facebook was this decade’s favourite site.

“Social media has truly been a revolution for online Australians with the most common activity (done by 73% of online Australians), tapping into other consumers’ opinions found on social media,” she said when snippets of the reports came out in March.

Nielsen studies showed the time spent on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, increased by 82%, comparing the a month in 2008 with 2009.

Australia was the leader when it came to time spent on social media sites, with an average of six hours and 52 minutes spent “virtual” socialising in one month.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has little data on adult rates of participation on social networks.

But of the two million Australian children aged 5-14 years using the internet at home in 2009, 22% visited or used social networking sites.

The proportion was higher for children aged 12 to 14 at 48%.

One can easily assume these figures have blown out considerably with the further explosion of social networking.

The advent of these instant forums has resulted in plenty of negatives, from party gatecrashing, cyber bullying, high-profile bitching, workplace dismissals and compromising photos.

We have heard about the trolls who prey on tributes to victims of crime or traffic incidents, and the stalking and taunting online that ends up before the courts.

But social networking has become a huge part of our lives and most of us are using it for good, not evil.

The Queensland Police Service and SES use social media to disseminate information in crisis and to engage people in crime solving.

The Sunshine Coast Daily uses its Facebook site ( to break news and have a conversation on local issues with more than 51,000 fans.

Airlines such as Virgin and Jetstar offer happy hour specials to Facebook and Twitter users, and post delay informationand have two-way conversations with customers posting questions.

Journalists use social media to gather information on unfolding events before official sources and can disseminate important information quicker.

Businesses use Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to market their services and productswhile hopefully increasing positive word of mouth at lightning speed.

Community groups like Mums Group Caloundra and Lazy Runners use Facebook to rally the troops and as a forum for discussing techniques. Coast sporting groups use social networking in a similar way.

Clubs and pubs – such as CBX at Caloundra, the Alex Surf Club and Beerwah Hotel – promote meal deals, bands and events at their venues to rustle up customers.

University of the Sunshine Coast psychology lecturer Peter Gibbon, who has an interest in social media, said he feared for the safety of individuals swept into the social networking world and the potential abuse of cyberspace for marketing and politics.

He believed social networking sites would need to strike a better balance between open access and privacy to maximise the upside of their use.

“For the young generation brought up with constantly evolving technology they grab anything that comes out, they’re not fazed by moving from one social media site to another or by moving from a PC, to a laptop, mobile phone to a tablet,” he said.

“The main impact social media has had is that it makes communication instantaneous regardless of distance,” he said. assuming the person at the other end is available at the time.

“In a much broader sense, it’s certainly reduced the six degrees of separation greatly to the point you could probably contact anyone in the world through a social networking connection.”

Small business

IT’S easier to ask award-winning Styling You blogger Nikki Parkinson which social networking sites she is not on.

Find her on Twitter. Facebook. Youtube. Google+OK. Foursquare. Instagram. Pininterest. Linked In.

She has good reason for jumping on these networking opportunities, attributing 90% of her business and blogging success to social media.

“I have 100,000 hits a month for my blog. This time last year I had 12,000 hits a month,” she said.

“I started on Twitter for my business but it’s enabled me to network on a national and then an international basis.

“It’s a giant chatroom, a 24/7 party, and you can jump into the party whenever you feel like it.

“I use it as a marketing tool to promote what’s on my blog. Facebook and Twitter are big referrers to my blog.

“There’s still pockets of the community who are only on Facebook, so in business you can’t ignore any of them.

“That’s why I’ve joined Google+, the new one. Google is behind it, so it’s go the capacity to be bigger than Facebook.

“It makes sense to get in at the ground level and adopt to the new environment early.

Because of the success of my blogging, I’m getting advertising but also speaking engagements and workshops across the country.”

Big business

HAVING a presence on social media is also important for big businesses.

Birch Carroll and Coyle Cinemas Maroochydore assistant manager Simon Priestley said the cinema used Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook, but so far Facebook had proved the most beneficial.

“We’ve only gotten involved in the past six to eight months to promote our films, our site and the many events we do,” he said.

“We use it to celebrate our successes like Chicks at the Flicks and the Harry Potter opening by putting a lot of photos of up

“By allowing interaction we are building a regular customer base.

“We try to generate interest in our Facebook page by offering competitions to win movie tickets, T-shirts and other prizes.

“With that goal in mind, we offer special deals for Facebook followers only, especially when it’s quiet.

“A prime example was the friends and family $7 tickets in March, only through electronic media, when we had about 13,000 tickets redeemed at Maroochydore, over six to eight weeks which was up on the previous year by 35%.”


TEENS are easily adaptable to new technology, flitting seamlessly between a PC, laptop, smart phone or tablet.
It’s the same with social networking – from Bebo to MySpace to Facebook and most recently to the new Google+.

Pelican Waters 15-year-old Holly Kinnear said she checked her friends’ updates and her notifications on her Facebook account every 15 minutes.

“Everyone you know is on Facebook. And you can make new friends too,” she said.

“I most like Facebook chatting at night time.”


PARENTAL “stalking” is a well-known phenomenon these days. Instead of ringing around friends’ homes or calling out in the street, most parents just jump online.

While this is the reason many parents join social media sites, they soon realise how easy it is to keep in touch with family in other states, or abroad, and often reconnect with old school friends.

Nambour’s Carolyn Mikl said she made sure she could see her teens’ Facebook pages to keep an eye on them.

“I would look at their photos, sometimes their friends’ photos and see what their friends were up to as well to see whether there was any bullying, the degree of offensive language and the activity generally,” she said.

“My kids are 18 and 20 now, so I don’t feel I need to keep an eye on them as much. But it has also enabled me to connect with people from school that I haven’t seen in billions of years.

“And friends overseas, you get to see their kids grow up when normally you wouldn’t.

“There have been so many times I’d write a letter but never send it because getting to the post office would be rare. Chatting can be done in a second.”

“It’s hard to imagine what it was like before social media.

“Also, creating events is much easier than sending invitations.”

Wurtulla’s Judy Houley said she had no choice but to join Facebook, and next Skype, when her daughter moved to Darwin and her son to Sydney.

“I basically just use Facebook to talk to kids and reconnect with a couple of friends from school,” she said. “My daughter set me up before she moved so we can chat online.”

“Some of the school friends I would never have caught up with because I left school in Sydney at 15 and have barely seen them since.”

Emergency services

THE Queensland Police Service is one of an %increasing number of public service organisations using social media as a way to disseminate accurate information immediately.

THE 2008 Mumbai bombings brought the importance of Twitter and Facebook to the fore with mainstream media reporting what people on the ground were experiencing well before official sources could.

Police Media executive director Kym Charlton said her section began using Facebook in May last year on a trial basis but they now had 206,000 likes.

She said in the 24 hours after the inland tsunami through Toowoomba and Grantham in January the department had almost 40 million story views on its Facebook page.

“That’s 450 story views a second from people looking for information,” she said.

“It’s not just the people directly involved looking for information but family and friends in other states, people overseas and concerned community members.

“The reason we got into social media was because we were aware that in times of crisis, Twitter is often the first reporting from people on the ground, so we wanted to get into that space.

“Fast forward six months (after entering Facebook) to the cyclone and floods and we discovered it was incredibly effective.

“Facebook proved its value 100 times over because it enabled us to provide immediate, accurate information to the people of Queensland.

“A lot of the information was specific local information that probably would not have been published by media outlets or needed to be released in a timely manner.

“We have now found at least two missing people as a direct result of our Facebook page.”
I have asked Crime Stoppers to start keeping statistics on how many people ring after seeing requests for information on Facebook.

“We also use socia media to let people know about traffic crashes, delays and road closures.”
The service also has Twitter and YouTube accounts.


GAINING event exposure has become easier with social networking. While you are often preaching to the converted, each time someone else likes an event it usually appears on hundreds of newsfeeds and can attract new followers.

The Queensland Garden Expo at Nambour has grown from 300 visitors 27 years ago to more than 30,000 this year.

Event manager Marion Beazley said the event had grown by about 30% in the past five years and she attributed much of that to internet marketing.

“We’re now reaching a much wider audience than we’ve ever been able to do in years gone by. so we’re trying to use these new technologies as they become available,” she said.

“We’ve got nearly 110 people on our Facebook page.

“The impression is that gardeners are old, not computer savvy and not on Facebook.

“A survey we did of visitors last year found 47% of visitors had a Facebook page which they regularly used and more than 50% of people at the event were under 55. “We’re now finding a large group of young people are getting involved in gardening, especially in organic produce. The place was jam packed with strollers (earlier this month).”We’re attracting a lot more younger people and I think that’s partly because we’re targeting them through the internet.”


AS someone in the marketing industry for almost 20 years, Campaign Group director Rebecca Grisman said she had noticed the increased use of social media in the past two years.

Ms Grisman said her company used Facebook, Linked In and Branch Out.
She said she also monitored her clients’ sites because word of mouth could spread so fast online.

“Whereas previously you could just get by understanding or knowing about it, you now need a strategy and presence in the social media world.

“I think the next five years is going to be enormous and if people don’t get involved, they will be left behind.”

“Facebook has been extremely successful in gaining us testimonials. A lot of people feel very comfortable on

Facebook. They are more snappy, so the paragraphs are well constructed and brief.”

“They’re often not forthcoming from clients and customers if they have to sit down and construct something on letterhead.

“We also use Facebook to share images of events we’re involved in.

“As for our clients, we tell them Facebook can be useful but you have to be strategic about it.”

“You can’t bombard people with information and what you do give them has to be relevant to them.


“Linked in is much more of a networking tool where you can befriend people with similar professional interests to swap CVs or seek staff.

“It has a much stronger etiquette and you can’t send as regular updates about what you’re doing today.”

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