NEW YORK: A majority of brand owners around the world believe social media has potential benefits in areas like marketing and innovation, but most still do not measure the effectiveness of their activity.

Deloitte, the advisory group, and the MIT Sloan Management Review, the business title, polled 3,748 executives from 115 countries and 24 industries, exactly 80% of which stated social media had a key role to play in building customer relationships.

Another 74% agreed it could foster innovation that delivered genuine differentiation, while 65% cited benefits linked to hiring and retaining talent and 61% referenced revenue-generating possibilities.

The major advantages of leveraging social tools internally included connecting with other staff, working more effectively, being able to voice opinions, and feeling a tighter bond with employers.

By discipline, 77% of contributors took the view that this type of software was important to their marketing, branding and reputation management efforts, matching the total for customer service.

"I see IBM as a social business because of how we've broken down the barriers of reaching out to the people within the organisation, but also how we're leveraging these same tools externally facing, to interact with our partners and clients," said Jeff Schick, IBM's vice president of social software.

However, just 18% of the respondents thought social software was extremely important to their company at present, and 40% expected it to be so one year from now, rising to 63% in three years' time.

When asked which metrics they use to assess internal and external social initiatives, the top score in both areas was found to be that companies "do not measure" results.

Additionally, only 9% of organisations that incorporated social data media into their corporate practices and systems "a great deal", and 27% placed this level at "somewhat".

"People have begun to realise there's a better model to how we work as teams that is socially driven," said Tom Poole, managing vice president, mobile and social media, at Capital one said. "There is an incredible opportunity to use channels like Facebook or Chatter to drive this change.

Currently, marketing drives the uptake of social software in 63% of firms, hitting 60% for IT departments, 59% for sales, 57% for customer service and 48% for new product development.

Rick Wion, director of social media at McDonald's, the fast food chain, argued connecting with individuals was particularly important. "We understand the power of making one customer happy," he said.

Data sourced from MIT Sloan Management Review; additional content by Warc staff