BRISBANE: Most of Australia's biggest advertisers are not taking a proactive approach to connecting with their customers on Twitter, a new study has found.

BCM estimated that there are currently 800,000 members of the microblogging service in Australia, with this number having grown rapidly in each of the last two years.

The advertising agency assessed 8,000 "tweets" posted on the social network in an effort to ascertain how effectively 81 major companies were employing this channel.

It found that just 54 of these corporations had established a presence on Twitter to date, with 72% of this group using it solely as a promotional, rather than interactive, tool.

"Only six bothered to actively listen and engage with their customers' positive or negative comments," BCM's study added.

"It appears that brands want to be seen in this space but are not prepared to invest the resources in genuine participation."

Telstra, BigPond and Optus, the telecoms firms, were among the organisations credited with attempting to take part in conversations about their products.

Overall, this group responded to between 14% and 45% of "tweets" relating to their brands, and generally replied to both positive and negative remarks.

Flight Centre, the travel specialist, answered 80% of relevant feedback on Twitter, with Harvey Norman, the retailer, on 67%, although these firms generated relatively lower levels of activity in all.

Telstra also received ten times more negative than positive electronic word-of-mouth, according to BCM's analysis.

BigPond and Vodafone, its fellow telecoms company, joined Australia Post and the Australian Taxation Office on the list of brands that were the subjects of the most critical coverage.

In contrast, Boost, another telecoms provider, Sony, Panasonic and Canon, the consumer electronics manufacturers, and Target, the retailer, were given the most praise.

The technology sector as a whole delivered 15% of all "mentions", with retailers responsible for around 10% of this buzz, although much of this output was essentially "neutral" in sentiment.

"Peer-to-peer influence is becoming increasingly important when it comes to brand and purchasing decisions," Kevin Moreland, a partner at BCM, said.

"The prevalence and influence of social media means that marketers cannot assume that its good enough to simply define their brands and continually keep pushing messages out."

Data sourced from AdNews/BCM; additional content by Warc staff