BERLIN: Less than half of German companies are using social media, despite the rising popularity of sites like Facebook and Twitter among consumers.

BITKOM, the trade body, surveyed 732 firms forming a representative sample of the entire German economy. It found that 47% already utilised social media and 15% plan to in the near future.

Some 86% of organisations currently engaged with these platforms had a presence on social networks such as Facebook and Xing. Another 28% used video-based properties, primarily in the form of YouTube.

Blogs logged 28%, beating microblogs – say, Twitter – on 25% and branded online communities with 13%, the same score as content-sharing sites like Flickr and SlideShare. Location-based offerings including Foursquare, however, posted just 1%.

Among the firms active on these and similar channels, 82% did so to build awareness, 72% hoped to secure new buyers and 68% wanted to deepen customer relationships.

Elsewhere, 42% of businesses turned to this medium to improve their image, 31% conducted market research, 23% wished to attract potential staff and 15% sought to enhance innovation.

More specifically, 75% of the same enterprises used social sites for advertising, standing at 71% for marketing, 59% for PR, 36% for customer service and 17% for internal communications.

Looking ahead, 62% of these relatively early adopters believed social media would assume greater importance going forward, increasing to 89% for the largest featured players.

When considering investment levels, 41% of this cohort expected to boost budgets, 42% anticipated maintaining their outlay and only 12% intended to cut back.

For the companies yet to embrace this medium, 62% said their target audience was typically absent from this platform, and 50% mentioned legal uncertainties, for example linked to data protection.

A further 45% stated that social media did not "fit their corporate culture", while 28% regarded the staffing resources required as too great, as did 14% for the necessary financial investment.

"Some of these concerns are understandable, but ignoring social media altogether is risky," said Dieter Kempf, the president of BITKOM. "Discussions about brands and products made by these companies will find a place on the social web anyway."

Data sourced from BITKOM; additional content by Warc staff