Companies are failing to understand the future business benefits of having a proper social media strategy in place, according to poll of over 1,000 senior executives. At the same time, unguarded corporate social media accounts are leaving companies exposed to potentially serious security breaches – resulting in reputational damage.

The study, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of my company, found that, despite a vast majority of respondents (87%) claiming they employ social media strategies to enhance their businesses, almost one half (45%) of respondents had experienced a security scare as a direct result of social media use, during the past 12 months.

Security scares ranged from a complaint campaign that affected the company’s operations or reputation, to a full-blown leak of company sensitive information from an internal source.

We are seeing a major discrepancy between what organisations are trying to achieve with their social media activity and what is actually being achieved. It appears that insufficient resources are being dedicated by the majority of companies to get their social media strategy right.

Many respondents agree that companies should have strict guidelines about the content that can be posted by employees in the organisation’s name (43%), and over a quarter (27%) believe employees should be allowed to use their own social media accounts to post content on behalf of the organisation. However, the overwhelming majority of respondents said they only offered employees up to four hours of training on social media use per year (73%).

Companies want to do the right thing. Roughly one in two people we surveyed are concerned that employees be made aware of what constitutes ‘fair comment’ and that employees need to know how best to represent their brands on social media platforms . Yet in over a third of cases , responsibility for using social media still falls to the IT department.

Even with the best will in the world, this department is not where responsibility for executing social media strategies should lie. A gulf is clearly being created between how an organisation’s social media strategy is being devised and how it is being executed on the ground and this needs to change.

The future need for this change was also thrown into stark relief by the research. One in four respondents said that they simply did not know how important social media activity was in terms of the long-term impact on their company’s reputation. The same number did not understand how concerned they should be about customers using social media to create a campaign against their business.

Similarly, over one third (389%) said they were uncertain whether social media could boost future sales, despite nearly half (46%) believing the greatest value of social media derived from product and brand awareness.

There is still considerable confusion surrounding the value of social media for organisations and the impact that a proper social media platform can have on their company. This in turn is creating a very mixed approach towards social media policy which can result in potential security issues if employees are not well trained on how to use social media platforms on behalf of their organisation.