Organisations need stronger governance and IT department involvement to make the most of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

Only one in 10 respondents noted direct IT involvement in social networking initiatives at their company, according to a Cisco-commissioned global survey.

This is despite 75 per cent of respondents using social networks and half using micro-blogging to reach their target consumer audiences. Moreover, the report found that businesses can only reap maximum benefits by integrating social networking tools with each other, as well as the business’ existing architecture.

Meanwhile, the majority of companies (six out of seven) do not have any policies about the deployment of social media tools, with just one in five identifying any policies about the use of social media tools.

One hundred and five companies were surveyed for the study, of which 19 were in the IT and Telecom industry. The research was conducted between April and September 2009 by the UK’s Henley Business School, IESE Business School in Spain and the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.

Although small and medium-sized businesses are actively using social media to generate leads, larger companies are lagging behind in the adoption of the technologies. The report found that the unstructured nature of social networking is one reason that makes it difficult for companies to create and adopt related policies.

Companies are also struggling to strike the right balance between the personal and business use of the tools, while confusion over who owns the social networks also makes them difficult to control and manage.

The study concluded that for businesses to implement a successful social media strategy, they need to address when, how and what initiatives are to be launched; as well as how the tools, and employee use of the tools, should be managed.

Evgeny Kaganer, lead researcher and assistant professor at IESE Business School, said: The research findings spotlight an underestimation of the power and influence of social networks on businesses, and the transformation that companies need to make, not only to protect themselves, but also to encourage and benefit from the collaboration these social networks and tools afford them.

“Ignoring the increased usage and influence of social networking and Web 2.0 tools leaves organisations at the risk of misuse, potentially leading to the disclosure of information and misrepresentation of the company.”

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