Australians are #1 globally in usage of social media: Why?


Some very interesting data just out from Nielsen on social media usage. The headline is that people in developed countries are spending 82% more time on social media than they were one year ago.

However the data point that struck my interest most is that…

Australia is #1 globally in usage of social media


This is a real news. For many years I was bemoaning the slow uptake of social networks in Australia. Research featured as late as our Future of Media Report 2007 showed that Australia was dramatically behind the US and UK in Facebook usage, though it was beginning to catch up on usage of MySpace usage and tools such as Photobucket.

I was long having to come up with explanations as to why Australians were so slow at taking up social media. A Sydney Morning Herald article in 2007 reported my findings that blogging was one sixth as prominent in Australia as other English-speaking nations, and suggested it wasn’t important. In response I wrote Why less blogging is a matter for national concern, referencing my early piece Australia needs a debate on why it lags in online and network thinking

Since then I have been very encouraged and excited at the pace that the Australian online and social media space has moved ahead. I have often said that in almost any domain, some of the very top people in the world are Australian, however that understanding or expertise is often not widely diffused. Now, clearly there is a far broader uptake of network thinking, as evidenced at least by use of social media.

The question arises:

Why are Australians now such avid users of social media after a very slow start?

I have a few thoughts gestating on this that I’ll structure a bit before sharing.

[UPDATE:] Here are Some thoughts on why Australians are #1 globally on social media usage (from a slow start)

I’d love to hear what you think.

  • Hi Luke, I wanted to add some points to your interesting post. I would have to say that I fall in the demographic of a recent social media user, as I only really got into it 18 months ago. Since then I have learnt heaps and met some fascinating people (mainly just online, tweetups to come).
    Here ( is a link to an article illustrating a change in the Forester Social Media Usage Types between 2006 and 2009. It includes a new category between critic and creator, a conversationalist. 33% of social media users conduct Conversationalist behavior, compared to 25% who create new content and 37% who critique.
    This is a North American survey, but it is true of my own experience, as I have only just started my own blog and am starting to introduce my own content to the web. This would be true of a lot Australians, who are wary of blogging their opinions to the world in fear of tall poppy syndrome but feel good about sharing information in a collegiate environment.
    Just putting it out there.

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  • Yes that makes sense. Australians may not want to express their views too loudly when they feel they’re in a minority group. But once lots of others are on board, you don’t stand out by participating, and it can become truly conversational, then we’re all for it.
    It would be interesting to map the speed of transition to conversationalist across several countries.

  • Oops, maybe I’m holding up the Aussie average – probably spend the monthly average on social media each day *blush*
    Yes agree, just because some statistics are showing numbers of new users is slowing doesnt mean we are not using social media. Great post thanks Ross. @frombecca

  • Hi Ross
    That’s a fascinating statistic – it makes sense to me too. Why? Just look at the rise in “tweetups” such as Coffee Mornings, and the Brasserie Bread example ( )
    The Northside Coffee Mornings (search #nscm on Twitter) just keeps on growing, has its own collaborative blog ( and just this week was picked up by an American blogger as an example of the rise of Twitter communities:
    My friend and blogger Kare Carruther also identified 2009 as “the year other people discovered Twitter. It went from a small and fairly intimate place to hangout to a busy bustling intersection of information, commerce and conversations. See
    Australians are seeing social networks going mainstream, and are coming to join the conversation.
    Look forward to your “gestating thoughts” on this too Ross.
    Tony Hollingsworth

  • Hi Ross,
    What a fascinating find. I’m curious to know how those hours are broken down, and on which social media. Having been in Australia only since last April I’ve seen a huge pickup in Twitter use, myself included, and it appears that LinkedIn usage has also grown.
    I wonder also if the boost in Australian usage might have something to do with the way Australian firms have dealt with the GFC. As companies globally flocked to social media in 2009, it wouldn’t surprise me if Australian companies (or branches of MNCs here) adopted more readily or more completely than their counterparts did elsewhere.
    Obviously this wouldn’t account for everything but it could be a contributing factor.
    Anyway I’m looking forward to your insights –

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    I think it’s because for one-third of the year, it’s too damned hot to go outside. LOL

  • I will be interested to see your further thinking on why there has been a change here. I agree with some of Tony’s points, but have some more views of my own. Will write them up when I have a chance 😉

  • Hi Ross,
    In response to your question, I have a few theories myself.
    Smartphones: Australia has over 100% penetrations in mobile phones with smartphone usage on the rise. Most would have internet access and it is safe to say they would host some sort of social media app.
    Aussie Culture: multi-cultural, hyperactive and verbal. The eclectic mix of ethnicities in Australia in combination with increase immigration, our love for travelling and our sociable nature it does not surprise me at all the platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn have acquired more users since that 2007 report. These platforms have enabled us to stay connected with friends and family overseas.
    Hype : social media platforms have received so much hype since 07 in Aus, which may also have an affect. Users are realising platform such as Twitter is great for news, international celebrity stalking and of course, spam. Although the latest development in the SM space is complaining about brands/ services and receiving swift responses…
    GFC has also played a part I think. People that lost jobs or trying to find jobs end up starting their own little enterprises. Internet tools and social media are a great way to market oneself and are cost effective.
    Hope these can contribute to your ‘gestation’
    It would be interesting to see the growth of Social Media adaptation by Australians mapped out on a graph from 2000. I’m sure we’ll see an steep curve at the beginning of 2008.
    Finding by Comscore that you maybe interested in:
    This if the first time I read your blog, you have compelled me to comment. Good stuff!

  • Thanks all – great comments and insights. Looking forward to your thoughts Gavin – my early ones are up now 🙂

  • I think Australians have a wider access to the internet on a daily basis than Americans – I wonder if this is a factor in those results. Very interesting indeed.

  • This is interesting.
    Is there any relationship between population size and social media adoption?
    Does the Web become more useful / valuable as a communication and sharing platform in countries with smaller populations because there is a more tightly networked community and as a result a high proportion of each individual’s network engaged and online and then a greater time spent.
    Perhaps this could explain the rapid acceleration from a low base, i.e. the benefits of these platforms are communicated more effectively and quickly among smaller populations.
    Or am I demonstrating that PRs should never dabble in mathematics?
    I would say the large Australian diaspora and the sizeable ex-pats are drivers and perhaps also the poor quality of other forms of media play a role e.g. TV.

  • i wouldnt have believed it if you didn’t show me the stats. This is really insightful, shows us what aussies are ‘actually’ doing behind their computers.

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    Yes that makes sense. Australians may not want to express their views too loudly when they feel they’re in a minority group. But once lots of others are on board, you don’t stand out by participating, and it can become truly conversational, then we’re all for it.It would be interesting to map the speed of transition to conversationalist across several countries. Nike Shox Dream

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