By Mary Kate Hickey & Rachel D’Arcy
Ireland has been named as one of the top three countries in Europe for social media usage by businesses.
In figures posted by the CSO, it showed that Ireland came second to top, just behind Malta. 64% of Irish businesses, employing 10 people or more, used some form of social media in 2015 – an increase of 16% since 2013. The EU average for social media usage, such as Twitter or Facebook, in a business is 39%.
“I have to say I am surprised by those statistics,” said social media expert at Fuzion PR, Greg Canty. “I do social media training for local enterprises and I am astounded by the amount that aren’t on Facebook, Twitter and the likes. Perhaps this could be due to us having a big SME (small medium enterprise) culture in Ireland, and maybe smaller businesses are embracing social media more than larger ones who may get caught up and feel more anxious about it,” he commented.
Malta had the highest percentage of enterprises utilising social media at 72%, with the Netherlands coming in third, with 63% of Dutch businesses using social media for promotion or otherwise. Poland ranked bottom of the list, with just 22% of Polish businesses utilising social media in their businesses.
“I think many businesses may misunderstand how to effectively use social media. A lot wonder how they can use social media presence to get more sales,” Greg explained.
“I think social media can give businesses a platform to have a conversation with their clients, and not hit them over the head with goods and services they are trying to sell them,” Greg said, on how effectively he thinks Irish businesses are using social media.
In data released by Eurostat, it shows that Irish enterprises upped their usage of Twitter and similar sites by 3% since 2015, with 30% of businesses now using the microblogging site. YouTube usage also increased by an impressive 7%, meaning that 21% of Irish businesses now use multimedia websites to promote their products or services.
“A lot of businesses push out posts, but don’t take the time to engage with customers on a personal level. Social media gives businesses an opportunity to show their own personality, which is difficult to do on a website or in an ad campaign,” Greg said. He added that businesses could even use social media to share stories about the team that works in the company, and really engage with their customers on a more personal level, to humanise the business.
“I’d also advise businesses that if they’re going to exist on social media, then put in the effort and really exist – don’t half do it. These things need to be maintained at a professional level to keep an open and interesting conversation with customers. By responding to customers on social media, businesses can make themselves look really good and customer friendly, and it’s really easy to do,” Greg added.
As well as increasing social media usage as a form of promotion, a whopping 53% of large Irish businesses had e-commerce sales. These e-commerce sales accounted for 50% of all total sales, meaning half of all sales by Irish businesses included in the survey are made online. “E-Commerce has become a big player in the Irish market, and I think that’s due to it making the ‘pain in the arse’ tasks a lot easier to do. Reliable online shopping makes the annoying tasks less so,” Greg explained.
However, more businesses made online purchases than sales. 70% of larger Irish enterprises made purchases online in 2015, which accounted for 42% of overall purchases by large businesses. Medium businesses made around 20% of their total purchases online, with 58% of this size of enterprise purchasing materials or services online. 44% of small businesses made purchases online, or 12% of small business purchases overall.
“Without a shadow of a doubt it is imperative that businesses use social media in this day and age,” Greg told us.
“It’s all about storytelling – telling the customer about who you are – and now social media gives businesses a chance to have a conversation with customers to add to their story. Engaging with the customer is where that little piece of magic lies in selling a business I think.”