NEW YORK: Even though almost nine-in-ten (88%) of organisations recognise that social media is important to maintain a competitive edge, they face difficulties translating these benefits into commercial gain, a new global study has revealed.

Based on the responses of more than 750 businesses in eight countries around the world, the Hootsuite Social Business Benchmark report found they rarely use data insights gleaned from social media.

Less than half (40%) said they use data gained from social media to improve their bottom line, while 60% said it's a challenge to find actionable use for the data collected.

The online survey was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Hootsuite, the social relationship platform, and questioned current or prospective clients of Hootsuite in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Despite their concerns about whether their organisations make the best practical use of social media, the report showed the great majority do recognise its value as a means to connect with consumers.

A full 84% said social media can add value to enhancing relationships with existing customers, while a similar proportion (81%) said it provides the means to learn about a company's reputation, and to monitor external communication (79%).

On top of the difficulties businesses face translating social media into commercial action, the report also found that their internal departments do not always work together to make use of it.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) agreed that the number of departments using social media is growing, but almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents whose social media strategy is at least somewhat aligned said that aligning strategy across departments is difficult.

"While social media is a part of everyday life for consumers, effectively integrating social in the workplace hasn't been as easy," observed Hootsuite CEO, Ryan Holmes.

"Nearly all survey respondents agreed that social data can improve the bottom line, yet turning that data into something actionable can be a challenge," he added.

To assist in the task, Hootsuite also announced that it is launching a Global Agency Partner Program, a network of more than 250 global agencies, to provide advice and training about social strategy and technology.

Data sourced from Hootsuite; additional content by Warc staff