LONDON: A majority of marketers in the UK think social media is "important" to their business, but less than a quarter see it as being vital to campaigns, the Internet Advertising Bureau has found.

The organisation partnered with Opinion Matters, the research firm, to assess whether industry specialists viewed platforms like Facebook and Twitter as being essential to their activities.

A survey of 80 senior marketers, including panellists from Coca-Cola and the Royal Bank of Scotland, reported that a third of respondents will spend between 6% and 20% of their digital budgets on social media in 2010.

In all, 88% of the sample saw these Web 2.0 properties as being "important" to their operations, but only 22% had made them "a core part of their communications strategy," the IAB said.

A fifth of brands found a role for this emerging channel in "most campaigns", with 23.5% employing it on a more ad hoc basis.

Some 27% had "tested it with a view to using again", while only 7% had not engaged in any activity via these increasingly popular online tools as yet.

Over half of participants with a presence on Twitter believed it was "very important", with 47% saying the same for Facebook, and 39% for branded communities.

This total fell to 37% for "blogger outreach" and user-generated content, 36% for using this channel for CRM purposes, and 35% for people who saw social networks as a good outlet for display ads.

With regard to assuming overall responsibility for devising and running initiatives in this area, more than seven in ten communications experts agreed marketers should take the lead.

This figure decreased to 33% for PR departments, 16% for customer services, 12% for researchers, and 7% for IT teams.

Three-quarters of contributors utilised these sites to encourage engagement and advocacy, with 60% doing so for research purposes, and 47% to drive sales.

A similar number argued the main obstacle facing these platforms was proving that they offered a meaningful payback for brands.

Nearly two-thirds also regarded challenges relating to measurement as one key reason why they did not heighten their investment in this medium.

Data sourced from IAB; additional content by Warc staff