Twitter is the most popular social media platform for businesses, a new survey has revealed.

Virgin Media Business polled 5,000 businesses across the UK, and while it found that only a third use social media, the microblogging site was found to be slightly popular than Facebook.

The survey found that 33 percent of the companies that use social media to engage with consumers use Twitter, compared to 32 percent who use Facebook. MySpace followed third, being used by 29 percent of businesses, while 19 percent of respondents blog and 17 percent produce and distribute video content via Youtube.

Twitter is the most popular social media platform for businesseRegionally, companies in London (47 percent) and the South East (44 percent) were most likely to use social media. They were followed closely by 42 percent of businesses in the South West and Wales, but the region least likely to engage with consumers through social media was Northern Ireland (21 percent).

Andrew McGrath, executive director of commercial at Virgin Media Business, said: “While the research shows that different parts of the UK are responding to these opportunities [to engage with customers and promote products and services] at a different rate, it’s clear that the rate of adoption shows no sign of slowing.

“British businesses have been quick to see the opportunities that lie within social media and are helping lead the world in targeting this new form of media.”

However, digital consultancy NewMedia Counsellors, has warned that businesses should be careful about leaving their social media reputation in the hands of inexperienced staff.

David Wheal, director of NewMedia Counsellors, said: “Most companies’ social media presence is handled by people who may know a lot about websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc, but have little or no experience of past crises, corporate affairs or public relations.”

“Viral campaigns and digital press releases are not enough when serious crisis management is called for.”

However, he admitted that a big issue is that many senior communications managers, who may have the required experience in handling crises, do not understand social media.

“They [businesses] should be monitoring intelligently online to see what people are saying about them, training their staff as to how to respond, and as a first step they need buy-in from senior management. Often it is the reluctance of senior management to fully understand the impact of social media, leaving it to often inexperienced members of staff, which leads to online issues rapidly developing into crises,” said Wheal.

He added: “Companies starting in social media because they think it is cool, or will lead to an increase in sales need to think through what can happen and make sure their contingency plans are tested and tested again.”