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Concerning Facebook and LinkedIn: Austrian companies in the social media jungle

For the majority of Austrian companies, there is no longer any way one can avoid turning to social media, regardless of whether the focus is on advertising a new product, providing information about a service, or positioning the company as an attractive employer. For many Austrians, social media represent the first place they look to get information. An increasing number of blogs, specialist articles, press releases and video are being placed on Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn, in addition to traditional media and a firm's own website.

But why should one make such an effort? By leveraging social media platforms, companies can reach target groups which they could only have impacted earlier with significantly higher budgets and a greater workload. In addition, social media enables them to create a feeling of closeness to and availability for their customers. They have the possibility to react to feedback and respond to questions in real time, within the context of a direct interaction. In turn, this creates trust and can push referral marketing. Communities can arise around the corporate account. The interaction among them can provide the company with valuable insights into the thinking and wishes of the target group, but without any additional expense. Anyone who can be convinced online about a company, its products and its services may also convey this information offline to his or her acquaintances and friends, thus raising the general awareness of the company. Furthermore, active social media marketing promotes its position in the rankings of various search engines, and, in conjunction with the tool of search engine optimisation, helps facilitate the ability of potentially interested parties to discover one's own company.

Facebook continues to be the most popular social media

About 60 percent of all companies in Austria already used social media for communication purposes or to exchange contents in the year 2019. The economic sectors of information and communication were the most active users (which is hardly surprising). 86 percent of these companies make use of social media. The accommodation and food services industry also value the new communications channels. More than three quarters of these firms (76 percent to be exact) are present in the new media, followed by the retail and automobile sectors (two-thirds of the firms). The construction industry at 39 percent still lags far behind.

It is not surprising that companies use these new platforms in a targeted manner, considering that 88 percent of the population regularly surf on the Internet. More than half of them continuously use social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and also Instagram.

3.9 million out of a total of about 8.86 million Austrians are active on Facebook alone. It is the most widely used social network, with a share of 62 percent of all social media page visits (2018). For this reason, it is naturally of particular interest to companies. Facebook offers the perfect framework, especially for advertising with visual contents such as videos and photos. It is crucial to always keep the corporate goals in mind when generating content. Usually companies strive to increase visibility, cultivate their image and attract new customers. Moreover, it is also important for many companies to boost traffic to their own websites.

One additional decisive factor underlying this more personal type of company presentation is the desire to appeal to potentially new employees or to retain the existing team. The globally oriented platform LinkedIn is the market leader in the field of business to business (B2B) communications in Austria, followed by the German business network Xing. Twitter is still a marginal issue at the moment with respect to B2B marketing. Nevertheless, Twitter, together with Instagram and Facebook, is all the more important when the focus is on general information and up-to-date news from across the globe.

Conventional channels dominate

The results of a survey carried out by the Austrian Direct Marketing Association (DMVÖ) and First Social Media Work Group in B2B show that Austrian companies rely particularly on conventional social media channels and are not so keen to experiment. According to the study, almost all B2B companies (95 percent) focus on social media, and interest in social media is constantly growing. Facebook and LinkedIn continue to be at the top of the list of established channels in Austria, with more than 70 percent of the companies surveyed using them. YouTube ranks third with 60 percent, comprising a year-on-year increase of ten percent. In contrast, the use of Xing has declined by ten percentage points, attracting barely 46 percent of the interviewed firms. Instagram, the platform specialising in visual content, is considered to be increasingly relevant to companies. Instagram edged out Twitter to take fifth place in the rankings and is used by 38 percent of the responsible marketing managers.

Networks such as Snapchat and TikTok, which are relatively new and mainly used by young people, are not considered to be relevant to Austrian companies when it comes to B2B marketing, even if they register up to 800 million users. These very young network groups and not fully matured platforms often present more obstacles than the actual benefits which can be derived. Moreover, the contents which are normally popular on these platforms are often incompatible with the philosophy and mission statement of Austrian companies.

Time and money are needed

More than anything else, companies aiming to be active on one or even several social media networks need two things, namely time and money. The few Austrian firms which do not yet leverage social media for B2B communications state that social media are too time-consuming and there is a lack of sufficient resources.
Nevertheless, the online advertising market in Austria continues to grow. A survey of 90 industry-specific players carried out by the communications agency Momentum Wien estimates that EUR 73.6 million is spent for social media marketing. This corresponds to a share of eleven percent of all investments in online advertising.

An increase in social media budgets is once again among the top priorities of marketing managers in 2020, who, for the most part (in two-thirds of the cases) determine the contents used. A lot remains unclear with respect to measuring the success of their online communications. Most companies do not utilise any tools at all to assess the impact of their efforts, or else they resort to tools available for free. Only one out of every four domestic companies use purchasable software.

Instead, the responsible managers in the companies primarily measure the success of their activities by the achieved outreach, account growth or the number of interactions with the content made available by the company. In addition to quantitative measurements, conclusions can be drawn about the qualitative demands and preferences of the target groups.

With respect to the time involved, 38 percent of the companies say they require up to five hours of work per week, and every third company already invests between five and 20 hours. This amount of time is steadily rising, and a growing number of firms are willing to commit more than 20 hours each week to social media marketing, and with good reason. After all, the number of private users is continuously rising, and the platforms themselves are constantly developing new tools and functions to optimise the networks and their ability to impact relevant target groups.

Content and credibility as success factors

It is clear that a company posting something which is untrue or uninteresting quickly falls out of favour with users. Certain factors are decisive in order to be successful on social media. According to the Austrian Direct Marketing Association study, the greatest importance is attached to the contents themselves, followed by credible content and authenticity. Honesty and continuity are also a must - not only for the users but also for the platform operators. Whoever fails to regularly publish content is also not shown to all interested parties and is thus quickly forgotten. For this reason, social media managers not only have to develop an awareness for the preferences of the target groups but also for the constantly changing algorithms of the individual platforms, and thus adjust their contents and upload times accordingly. This task requires daily monitoring and regular analyses.
A clear trend is emerging for the near future with regard to social media communications. Above all, many companies are increasingly promoting recruiting via social networks. A growing number of firms are also relying on the support of agencies specialising in the field of social media and are prepared to commit higher budgets for this purpose. For the most part, these partnerships lead to highly professional strategies, campaigns and contents. Companies in Austria which cannot or do not want to devote the required resources are in danger of lagging behind, losing relevance and forfeiting outreach.

Read more about digital innovation in our blog article: How Austria shapes its future with AI

Mariella Mickla, BA

Online Communications & Social Media
+43-1-588 58-461 or +43-676-898590461
m.mickla@aba.gv.at

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