SINGAPORE: Most firms in Asia Pacific believe social media offers substantial opportunities to drive word of mouth and deliver consumer insights, but less than 5% actively use it to build brands, a study has shown.

Ogilvy & Mather, the advertising agency, and Ipsos, the market research group, polled 153 executives in 14 nations, spanning sectors including food and beverages, financial services and technology.

Exactly 66% of participants reported that "buzz building" was the main purpose for social media, ahead of monitoring online sentiment with 63%. Brand building logged just 2.6% on this metric.

Some 40% of respondents agreed social media had a "primary role" for their business, with Hong Kong, China and Singapore posting over 33% here, falling to around 20% for Indonesia, India and Taiwan.

Marketing teams leveraged social media at 90% of companies, a level of uptake reaching 46% for corporate communications, 34% for customer service, 25% for human resources and sales, and 13% for research and development departments.

In terms of budgets, 60% of interviewees stated that under 5% of their expenditure on marketing and communications was attributed to this channel.

One reason for this may be the comparative novelty of using this medium, as 58% of the featured brand owners had established a presence on such platforms within the last two years.

"Many businesses in Asia missed the first wave of social media because they only saw a consumer fad," said Paul Heath, Chairman, Ogilvy & Mather Asia-Pacific. "Now companies need to understand the strength that social media brings to business, including and beyond marketing."

Indeed, 22% of enterprises had already been "hurt" by social media, as negative buzz aggravated a "crisis" situation. Only half of firms had a plan in place to react to such problems, however.

Additional issues occurred from a lack of in-house co-ordination, given that more than a third of businesses had also seen members of staff set up unauthorised social media properties.

When discussing internal structures, 43% of respondents revealed a single team managed this channel for their whole company, while individuals in different teams did so at 24% of operators.

"Executives in Asia instinctively recognise that social media has changed the behaviour of their customers," said Thomas Crampton, Asia-Pacific Director of Social@Ogilvy. "The difficulty comes in convincing their own organisation to adapt to that change."

Data sourced from Ogilvy & Mather; additional content by Warc staff