Retailers have flocked to social media over the past few years, but it appears that many of them need to work on the amount that they actually engage with their customers.

A new study from consultancy firm Auros put the UK’s top 25 retailers to the test and found that while 4-in-5 of them have a Twitter account and 72% are active on Facebook, only 25% of those on Twitter actually replied to a question directed at them and 50% of questions posted on Facebook walls went unanswered.

Retailers tested in the study included well-known names like Apple, Tesco and British Airways. A series of tests were set for each, such as “Do they respond to questions and/or positive or negative mentions directed via @reply?”, “Do they respond to questions posted in response to their Facebook wall posts?” and “How long does it take them to respond and are their responses helpful?”

Responding to negative comments appeared a particular challenge for the retailers. Auros says that only 20% responded to a negative comment directed at them on Twitter, while on Facebook, the figure was a mere 11%.

The overall message from the study is that major retailers too often see social media as a one-way channel for broadcasting to the public, rather than as conduit for two-way communication with customers and potential customers alike. Still.

If it was still 2008 this all wouldn’t be too surprising, but it’s 2011 and in those three years so many blog posts and books have been written on social media best practice, so many seminars and conferences held – not to mention the amount of money spent by businesses on social media consultants who should the importance of engagement – that the results are rather disappointing.

While the full study document promotes Auros’ own services towards the end, the findings are worth a read. You can download them by filling in the form here.