Nearly three quarters of the country’s small and medium businesses (SMBs) are failing to capture new market opportunities available through social media, according to new research released by Telstra.

The national survey of 1,000 SMBs found that only 24 per cent have embraced social media and were reaping its benefits, while the majority believed it neither helped nor hindered them, while 12 per cent believed that social media detracted from their businesses.

The research also concluded that 77 per cent of businesses believed that the internet was the most beneficial technology for their business followed by online software which was seen as beneficial by half of the respondents.

Group Managing Director of Telstra Business, Will Irving, said with 62 per cent of adults worldwide now using social media, SMBs ignoring this powerful tool were missing out on a significant business opportunity. 

“In a digital age where smartphones and tablets are used on a daily basis, we know customers expect a company to have a social media presence. 

“Successful Australian businesses are having a two-way conversation with customers online, allowing them to connect and engage on a personal level, either by providing real time customer service or highlighting relevant new products,” he said.

Telstra has provided the following tips for SMBs for engaging with social media:

  • Be the real you. Being authentic and representative of who you are and the values your business stands for is essential.
  • Know why you're there and be relevant. What would your customers like to see from you online?
  • Ask (and search) for feedback. Facebook's new search tool and searching Twitter is a gold mine of insights into what you're doing well and how you can improve.
  • It's a two way street. Joining the conversation is essential. Stories or photos of your business can generate engagement from both current and prospective customers.
  • Choose the right social places for your business. Look beyond Facebook and Twitter to services such as Yelp, Foursquare and Instagram.
  • Don't forget to protect your turf. Choose a simple social media name for your business - avoid underscores and tricky characters, they're not friendly on mobile devices.