NEW YORK: US B2B firms recognise the potential benefits of social media marketing, but most have yet to implement effective integrated social media programmes for their brands.

A new report from Accenture shows that just 8% of companies in the B2B sector are "extensively leveraging" platforms like Twitter and Facebook, even though two-thirds of marketing executives at these firms feel that social media is "important" to their organisations.

More than one in four (26%) of survey respondents said they were either "not engaged at all" or "slightly" engaged with social media, and 19% said they had "no confidence" in their company's existing social media investments.

The general uncertainty over social could have its roots in the c-suite, since 23% believed social media marketing programmes had previously been "delayed" due to the company CEO's concerns over whether they would be effective or not. Moreover, just 11% had systems in place to track social media ROI.

"It's clear that B2B companies think social media can make a big difference to business; however, few have a social media plan in place that will help them achieve results, and many are still not sure what those results should look like," said Kevin Quiring, Accenture's CRM managing director for North America.

Among the key findings of the Accenture report was that existing programmes in the sector lack integration between social media initiatives and marketing in other online or traditional media channels. Just 5% said they "formally integrate" social media marketing in this way.

But B2B brands should adopt a "holistic" social media strategy that includes components such as analytics, marketing activity and organisational structure in a single plan, Quiring said.

"Each component is a vital piece of the social media puzzle and a highly-skilled talent pool is needed to take advantage of those integrated capabilities," he added.

The Accenture survey also revealed that B2B marketers saw the primary benefits of social media marketing was in "soft" metrics rather than hard business results such as sales uplift and ROI.

When asked for their main motivating factors for investing in social media, 60% cited increasing customer engagement, while 59% cited improving brand reputation.

By contrast, 52% cited the fact social media could create new revenue opportunities, and only 25% mentioned its potential for cutting costs.

Data sourced from Accenture; additional content by Warc staff