NEW YORK: Companies making the most effective use of digital media typically adopt a distinct set of strategies in areas like mobile, social networking and data analytics, a study has argued.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the advisory group, polled 489 US firms with annual sales of over $500m, and identified a selection of "top performers" boasting the strongest revenues, growth, margins and innovation credentials.

It revealed that 50% of these leading players planned to spend a minimum of $1m on building mobile tools for their customers to use in 2012. The same was true of just 29% of other enterprises.

Moreover, 66% of the premier digital businesses described their interaction with consumers on mobile devices as "quite or very significant", measured against 45% of all the corporations assessed

A 30% share of "top performers" deployed social networks to reach shoppers, versus 37% of firms not attaining such a status. But while 41% of the former group yielded "significant benefits" from this tactic, a smaller 24% of "the rest" said the same.

"Interestingly, though, there seems to be little connection between use of social media for external communications and actual commercial success," PwC study stated.

"We have found that the organisations that achieve solid results from their social media efforts are those that use it not only as an outreach platform but "also as a method to listen and engage."

By contrast, the companies enjoying the most impressive returns are making greater usage of social media internally, and 36% should spend at least $1m on this channel in 2012, standing at 22% for "the rest".

Similarly, although 56% of the entire panel intend to collect more consumer data in the next year, this rises to 66% for "top performers". Exactly 50% of the best organisations will exploit such insights for R&D, falling to 28% elsewhere.

Some 89% of top performers also agreed their company had a strategy in place that was likely to succeed, and 86% said their CEO actively championed new technology to achieve success. This beat average scores of 68% and 60% in turn.

More specifically, 63% of the highest-ranking operators believed that their chief information officer and chief marketing officer had a "strong" or "very strong" relationship, a total that fell to 42% of all featured corporations.

"Leading firms ... understand that being behind the curve on the strategic use of technology not only puts their firms at a competitive disadvantage, but weakens their ability to interact and strengthen relationships with customers," PwC said.

Data sourced from PricewaterhouseCoopers; additional content by Warc staff