NEW YORK: Many brand owners are struggling to coordinate their social media efforts, making them less able to present a unified message on these sites, a study has argued.

The Altimeter Group, the consultancy, reported that "enterprise class corporations", with over 1,000 staff around the world, have an average of 178 social media accounts each, posing major organisational challenges.

"Companies that don't control these accounts are at risk of having abandoned accounts, lack of consistent experience, or untrained employees creating a crisis," Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at the Altimeter Group, said.

Its survey of 144 companies and 32 social media software firms, alongside qualitative interviews with 71 brand managers, industry experts and vendors, showed this trend was observable at the wider level.

Overall, 70% of brand owners agreed their activities on social sites were intended to meet clear business objectives, but only 43% had developed a formal "roadmap" about how this would be achieved.

"It's an issue, and an even bigger issue for global clients, as it's an issue for execution and management," said Ken Burbury, group director, social strategy and analysis, at Digitas, the agency.

The typical firm ran 39 accounts on Twitter, 30 on Facebook, 29 on LinkedIn, nine on YouTube and six on Foursquare. These were accompanied by 32 blogs and 23 forums, message boards or communities.

But just 49% of operators had built a centralised hub providing details of all their assets and activities within this space, and an even more limited 26% offered training to "rank-and-file" staff covering this area.

Cisco, for example, looked into its representation, and "shut down almost 200 rogue pages and ended up with one global page and one page per country, as well as a couple of product pages," said Petra Neiger, its senior manager, digital and social media.

Moreover, a modest 48% of featured corporations had established a coordinated approach to handling their social output that applied over all departments.

A key obstacle facing brands is the diverse range of applications and software that are available, most of which utilise a "freemium" model, but lack a clearly-differentiated positioning.

"There are so many tools out there, and none of them differentiate themselves from the pack in an articulable way," Shawn Morton, of JP Morgan Chase, said.

Data sourced from Altimeter Group; additional content by Warc staff