SYDNEY: One third of Australians on social media follow brands and businesses but only one third of businesses actually have a presence there and many of those are failing to engage consumers with tangible benefits.

Marketing services company Sensis, polled 800 consumers and 1,100 businesses for its Social Media Report exploring their engagement with social channels and found that 68% of internet users had a social media profile which they mainly used to keep up with friends and family.

And a significant minority (32%) also followed brands and businesses. Further, 20% accessed offers and promotions while 19% conducted research about products and services they wanted to buy.

The report noted that half of those using social media to research products and services had gone on to make a purchase and two thirds of them had made that purchase online.

"It remains paramount for businesses and marketers to establish a connection by engaging with them in a meaningful way," it said.

But only 33% of Australian businesses had a social media presence and most of them were using it to solicit comments and feedback.

"This appeals to consumers to some degree but they tend to be seeking tangible incentives like discounts or coupons," said Sensis and only 25% of SMEs and 30% of large businesses were offering these – "which could be a missed opportunity".

Around one quarter of businesses had used paid advertising – mostly on Facebook – and 69% thought it was effective.

That didn't quite tally with the consumer viewpoint. When it came to advertising and sponsored posts, 32% said they liked seeing sponsored posts from businesses they follow, while 38% didn't mind seeing ads and 42% occasionally clicked on ads to find out more.

"This suggests paid advertising or sponsorship is reasonably effective for targeting consumers of interest although it's likely to be ignored by many," the report said.

Data sourced from Sensis; additional content by Warc staff