Social media marketing in Asia has doubled in the last year however companies in the region are still to master the potential of the medium, according to a new report from Burson Marsteller.

The public relations firm found that 81 percent of the companies listed on The Wall Street Journal’s Asia 200 Index use social media, which is up from 40 percent in 2010, however it also identifies a number of issues around the use of the channel in the region.

Many companies in Asia are not making use of social media as part of a long term plan, according to the report which finds 62 percent of the social media accounts recorded to be inactive. Equally, “the great majority” of active accounts are updated infrequently having been set-up for short-term marketing initiatives.

Of those that are active, the report concludes that strategy is lacking with firms not adapting their communications to the demands of new media. One third of the companies using social media are focused on basic outreach to media and influencers through ‘pushed’ messages – chiefly around new products – while many fail to create new channels for corporate news, instead piping all communication to consumer audiences.

Social networks and microblogging – which includes China’s Sina weibo and Tencent weibo as well as Twitter – were unsurprisingly the most used mediums across the seven markets, although the use of video grew significantly as the chart below shows.

social media channels2 Report shows social media marketing on the rise in Asia but strategy still lacking

Within the continent, China and South Korea are highlighted as Asia’s corporate social media hotspots, with the use of blogs particularly noteworthy in both countries, while the conservative nature of business in Taiwan and Singapore is cited as a key reason companies in the two markets rank lowest for social media presence.

Bob Pickard, President & CEO of Burson-Marsteller in Asia-Pacific, reflects on the findings of the report pointing out that, despite progress, Asian companies are still under-emphasising the value of social media.

The fact that twice as many Asian multinationals are using branded social media channels this year compared to last underlines the opportunity for global corporate communications on digital platforms based in Asia. Companies in Asia are approaching Western levels of adoption but there’s a long way to go when it comes to community engagement in cultures where ‘face’ remains more important than Facebook.

It should be noted that Burston Marsteller is in the business of providing corporate communications consultancy, amongst its PR services, however the takeaways from this report remain valid.

Given its survey sample of top level, corporate brands, the report is not saying that social media marketing is struggling in Asia, as it has been widely adopted for consumer-centric promotion already. Instead, it highlights the fact that many companies in Asia have not yet engaged social media’s ‘soft’ communication potential.

As the medium matures, local knowledge develops and more experienced experts take up roles in the region, it is likely that companies will begin to adopt more progressive types of engagement. As this evolves more Asian companies will deploy the types of strategy that are adopted in western markets.

The full report can be found on SlideShare or within the embed below.