NEW YORK: Social media exerts the most powerful positive influence on marketing and sales effectiveness and market share, a new survey of brand owners has revealed.

PulsePoint, the consultancy, and the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research group, polled 329 North American executives regarding how their firm used social tools to connect with staff, customers, business partners and other stakeholders.

The companies deriving the best results in this area secured a "return on social engagement" of 7.7%, versus 3.9% for a more typical performance, and 1.3% at the bottom end of the spectrum.

"We believe we are seeing an inflection point at which many organisations are moving from an experimentation phase with social technologies to achieving tangible and measurable returns on the investments," Paul Walker, a partner with the PulsePoint Group, said.

In evidence of this, 84% of contributors agreed that utilising social media improved marketing and sales effectiveness, and 81% reported that it boosted market share.

An additional 68% asserted that product or service quality had been enhanced due to this activity, 67% argued that brand or stock price values had climbed and 65% suggested innovation lead times had fallen.

Some 69% of interviewees believed that customers speaking out on social media increases sales, while 67% said linking to suppliers via this route "raised their game" and 54% thought it helped "attract talent".

In all, 81% of the panel had found that social engagement offered "tangible benefits", normally tied to project management, R&D, collaboration, efficiency gains and making cost savings.

Elsewhere, just 17% concurred that responsibility for social initiatives was "well-distributed" throughout their organisation, the analysis added.

Marketing and branding teams were among the units which took "prime responsibility" for such duties in 41% of firms, with other communications specialists, like PR staff, on 41%, sales on 16% and customer services on 11%.

The most widespread social schemes at present include online listening on 28%, blogging on 24% and reaching influencers on 21%. By contrast, 57% of the best performers, were crowdsourcing new products.

Moreover, 28% of all companies still don't monitor social media results. A further 45% of the sample stated an inability to prove ROI was a "roadblock" to deeper engagement, and 33% point to legal or regulatory concerns as an obstacle.

Data sourced from PulsePoint; additional content by Warc staff