SYDNEY: The vast majority of brands intend to make greater use of social media in Australia this year, with marketers often shifting resources away from traditional media as part of this process.

The study was produced by Community Engine, the social networking technology provider, and Nielsen, the research firm, based on the views of 347 advertisers.

It reported that 70% of these companies intend to utilise sites like Facebook and Twitter this year, reaching a peak of 75% among larger businesses with 100 or more employees.

A 54% majority of the panel as a whole had either already produced a formal social media strategy or were in the middle of doing so at present.

More specifically, 26.5% of respondents had built a presence on Facebook, with 17% running at least one account on Twitter, 10% uploading videos to YouTube and 5% using MySpace.

Over 80% of firms distributed product information via these portals, with 46% offering deals and promotions, 32% holding competitions and 25% adding video and other forms of rich media.

Some 61% identified their main motivation in the medium as its potential for brand building, with securing customer feedback on 53% and consumer engagement on 42%.

Encouraging word of mouth among internet users received a score of 40%, a figure that fell to 38% for uncovering customer insights and 33% for customer retention.

However, just 27% of the organisations taking part in the survey listed generating revenues as one of their primary social media goals for this year.

Similarly, 29% of participants had not attempted to measure the return on investment from this kind of activity as yet, in many cases because they had been unable to identify viable metrics.

Despite this, half of marketers believed failing to join the conversation on these web properties meant they were at risk of "losing touch with their customers".

In terms of financing these efforts, 47% of contributors anticipated transferring resources away from print media, with 33% saying the same for funds previously devoted to direct marketing.

By contrast, just 15% of advertisers were likely to divert resources away from TV, a total that stood at 14% for radio and 8% for outdoor.

The brand owners that were most involved in social media planned to allocate between 5% and 20% of their marketing budget to this channel in 2010.

Around 30% of companies also stated a preference for creating their own online communities, with a fifth also keen to develop their own social network, largely to capture more accurate information.

Previous research from Nielsen revealed that 38% of the social media audience in Australia engaged with a brand in some way last year, up from 23% in 2008.

"Australian organisations cannot afford to overlook social media as a highly effective means of engaging with their customers and stakeholders," Melanie Ingrey, research director of Nielsen's online arm, said.

Data sourced from Nielsen/Smart Company; additional content by Warc staff