SYDNEY: Some of Australia's largest companies are failing to exploit the opportunities offered by social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, according to a report from Burson-Marsteller.

The PR agency aimed to show how effectively Australia's 20 biggest brands, as identified by Interbrand, are using Facebook, Twitter, and corporate blogs to engage their stakeholders.

This group included Telstra, the telecoms giant, as well as a number of financial sector specialists, such as the Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac.

Woolworths and Harvey Norman, the retailers, and Billabong, the apparel manufacturer, were among the other organisations analysed in the study.

Overall, two-thirds of Burson-Marsteller's sample were active on one of the channels assessed, with 15% using two, 5% on three, and 15% not utilising any of these tools.

More specifically, 50% of this cohort had established a presence on Facebook, a figure that fell to 40% for Twitter, and just 20% for official company blogs.

By category, 75% of retailers had built a page on Facebook, with 63% on Twitter and 25% producing blogs, with each brand in this segment using at least one such medium.

In contrast, only a quarter of brands in the financial sector were doing the same, rising to 38% for those on Twitter, while 25% had a dedicated outlet on Facebook .

More broadly, the 20 biggest assets in Australia boasted a total of 18 Twitter accounts – eight of which were inactive – with an average of 193 "followers", rising to over 8,000 for Billabong.

In all, 55% of these feeds served as customer service tools, while 45% mainly offered news and promotions, and 9% were related to human resources and recruitment.

However, some operators were making more impressive use of the social messaging utility, with Westpac posting "tweets" about its local offerings and sub-brands.

Similarly, 15% of brand hubs on Facebook were inactive, but some firms were positively involved in "groups" on the site, such as communities for current and former employees.

Telstra, Australia's most valuable brand, has added a variety of links to its Facebook page, be it to its other social media accounts, third-party material or its customer service centres.

Furthermore, the fact it clearly identified the members of staff which contributed to the social network was said to help stimulate "genuine interactions on a wide range of issues."

Moreover, it has embraced Twitter as part of its CRM programme, dealing with around ten individual queries a day, as well as providing a mixture of updates and discounts.

Billabong has used this platform to talk about issues relevant to its customers, such as pollution and surfing, as well as for "subtly" promoting products and deals, Burson-Marsteller said.

Along with Woolworths, it was also among the best practice examples with regard to using blogs to fuel discussion and gauge consumer feedback, the WPP Group agency's study argued.

Data sourced from Burson-Marsteller, Slide Share; additional content by Warc staff