Perceptions of regional digital communication are wrong

Perceptions of regional digital communication are wrong

All too often we hear suggestions that regional audiences are not regular users of digital and social media. We hear that traditional communication and marketing platforms such as newspaper, television and radio are the only mediums for reaching regional audiences. And we are told regional users are not high frequency users of digital and social media platforms.

These perceptions, often perpetuated by those living in metropolitan areas, are wrong.

If you have a need to communicate with regional and rural audiences you must consider digital and social media as part of your marketing and communication strategy.

The 2015 Sensis Social Media Report [1] found that a similar proportion of people access the internet daily in both metropolitan and regional areas. It found 81% of metropolitan based Australians access the internet daily, with 77% of regional and rural Australians accessing the internet daily.

Moreover, in the last several years we have seen a range of regionally focussed social media platforms launched with substantial followers and regular conversation and engagement. Some of these include, an online community designed to connect Australians in agriculture, and, which is a self-help farming website allowing users to post questions and provide answers on everyday farming challenges. We have also witnessed the ongoing strength of twitter forums such as #AgChatOz with 12,800 followers [2], and even some government departments and agencies have increased their digital presence. For example the Victorian state government is providing new avenues for Victoria’s young farmers to have their say via The Young Farmer Ministerial Advisory Council online discussion forum [3].

Social media campaigns in regional and rural areas can have powerful impacts. Take for example the recent and ongoing campaign in the Liverpool Plains to lobby against the Shenhua Watermark coal mine. This campaign has been driven by young farmers through social media leading to extensive exposure, engagement and media coverage.

Importantly too is the growth of digital commercial platforms in e-commerce. The success and growth of online livestock auction website Auctions Plus has removed the distance between buyer and seller to run real-time livestock auctions online.

We have also seen rapid growth in the use of apps and online farming productivity technology in the last several years such as satellite precision farming systems and remote water monitoring solutions. CropLife Australia, in partnership with the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council recently launched an app called BeeConnected [4], which enables collaboration between farmers and beekeepers to ensure beehive positions are not impacted by planned crop protection applications.

All of this would seem difficult considering telecommunications infrastructure continues to be an ongoing issue for regional Australian’s. However as they have shown for centuries regional Australians find a way to innovate and make their limited resources work for them. The adoption, use, and innovation in digital and social media by regional and rural Australian’s is remarkable considering at times the limited infrastructure available.

Therefore as many organisations plan their 2016 strategies and tactics make sure you do not exclude digital and social media strategies in targeting regional and rural audiences. These audiences are just as savvy, connected, engaged and networked as metropolitan audiences. Ignore digital and social media strategies, and you could be missing an important regional and rural engagement opportunity.

[1] Sensis Social Media Report May 2015

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