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Castleford is a premium provider of marketing services in Australia.

This is a really exciting time for Australia’s online marketing industry. With solid growth in broadband and smartphone subscribers, online is playing an increasingly important role in how organisations of all types and sizes communicate.

Businesses, non-profits and government have never had so many great opportunities to reach out to their customers, engage with their stakeholders and learn about their markets. The latest government statistics show the online audience is continuing to expand, which can only be good for online marketing.

A growing online audience

At the end of last year, there were 10.4 million active internet subscribers in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). That doesn’t include the millions of mobile users now able to access dedicated apps and the wider internet through their smartphones.

Aside from the total number of internet subscribers, it’s the rate of growth that’s encouraging for Australia’s online marketing community. Subscribers were up 16.7 per cent year-on-year. Slow connections are predictably on the wane, now accounting for less than 10 per cent of the market.

The government has pledged to bring reliable, high-speed internet to all Australians. While its National Broadband Network (NBN) project has attracted some criticism, it represents a major commitment to the internet and to the digital economy in general. With a budget of $36 billion, the government’s NBN Co plans to connect 100 per cent of Australian premises with a combination of fibre, wireless, fixed-line and satellite.

A mobile future

Mobile will play an increasingly important role this year for Australia’s online marketers. The number of smartphone subscribers is growing. At the same time, network capacity is improving and handsets are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s outgoing CEO, said recently that mobile internet was continually beating expectations. During the 2011 Superbowl, Google saw spikes in search queries on mobile devices that comfortably out-paced those on desktops.

Mobile devices are accounting for a larger slice of the search pie and they’re accounting for more eyeball time. This means getting a mobile presence is essential for Australian marketers. There are of course dedicated apps and mobile ad platforms, but the first step is a mobile-friendly website.

More capable devices with larger screens make it easier for users to view standard web pages, but checking the mobile compatibility of websites, particularly during re-designs, should be a top priority.

Going social

Australia has embraced social media. Leading platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have attracted millions of users from across the country, driven by faster internet connections and more sophisticated mobile devices.

Facebook remains the big beast of the social media jungle. More than 9 million Australians are on Facebook, making it an important territory for online marketers. There are also some enticing statistics that suggest a strong link between Facebook Likes and the willingness to use and recommend a brand.

Twitter, which can be a great online marketing tool, saw record growth last year. More tellingly though was the shift towards more detailed bios, more links and more location sharing. Twitter users are taking things more seriously these days, which presents a great opportunity for Australia’s online marketing community.

For more on the marketing potential of social media, check out the slides from our presentation at ad:tech Sydney 2011.