BERLIN: Most of the German brand owners using social media for marketing purposes have failed to formulate an official strategy for this channel, a study has found.

A survey of 300 executives conducted by GfK, the research firm, on behalf of webguerillas, the digital agency, found that half of German companies now use social media to promote their goods and services.

Some 35.2% of the entire sample thought this medium should help reach new target groups, 34.1% pointed to the potentially positive viral effects and 23.6% agreed platforms like Facebook could improve the quality of consumer contacts.

But only 40.4% of firms currently active in this space had formulated an official strategy, and 8.5% of respondents did not know if the organisation they worked for possessed such policies.

Moreover, only half of the early adopters monitored online buzz and boasted official guidelines detailing how to use networks and microblogs. This total fell to around a third for actively engaging bloggers and providing in-house social media training.

These results came in spite of the fact that 74.1% of the panel believed social networks were becoming increasingly important for brands, while 61.8% said the same about online video sites like YouTube.

Moreover, confidence levels in more traditional forms of advertising seem to be decreasing, as 33% of those polled agreed their mainstream efforts "rarely" delivered high levels of engagement.

A further 41.5% suggested that the huge amount of advertising clutter was a major problem when trying to achieve cut-through.

Some 65.9% of companies have increased their investment in "alternative" strategies, with word-of-mouth marketing, online games and social media among the main areas of emphasis.

Despite the rise in interest in these disciplines, however, such activities still take less than 15% of total budgets for 75% of brand owners.

Among the potential obstacles cited for not raising budgets were a lack of experience on 19.6% and inadequate measurement tools on 15.9%. But the industry specialists did expect expenditure levels in this area to grow significantly in the near future.

Data sourced from