More than 80 percent of companies listed on The Wall Street Journal’s Asia 200 Index have a corporate social media presence, up from 40 percent last year, according to the 2011 Asia-Pacific Corporate Social Media Study by Burson-Marsteller. The top companies in Asia closed the gap with Fortune Global 100 companies, 84 percent of which use social media channels for marketing and communications.

“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,” says Bob Pickard, president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific. “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.”

Key findings from the study include:
• 81 percent of top Asian companies have a branded corporate social media presence, over double the figure for 2010 and in line with the 84 percent of Fortune Global 100 firms
• 31 percent of companies use at least three social media channels, up from three percent in 2010
• 19 percent of companies still have no official corporate social media presence
• 30 percent of companies use social networks for corporate marketing and communications, up from 20 percent in 2010
• 28 percent of companies use micro-blogs for corporate marketing and communications, up from 18 percent in 2010
• 62 percent of social media channels surveyed were inactive, and the same percentage of companies do not promote their social media channels on their homepages

Overall, companies in Asia continue to use social media to ‘push’ news and information at users, rather than engage in discussions, with 33 percent of activity across Asia-Pacific focusing on basic media and influencer outreach, as opposed to engagement on substantive corporate topics such as Corporate Social Responsibility or Thought Leadership. Only nine percent of firms surveyed use corporate blogs for corporate marketing and communications, despite their value in helping explain complex topics.

“Companies in Asia currently lack the perspective and resources to develop and protect their brands in a strategic, structured and measurable manner using social media”, says Charlie Pownall, Burson-Marsteller’s lead digital strategist for Asia-Pacific. “Asia-based corporate decision-makers expect web-based crises to impact their businesses in the next twelve months; hence we expect a much sharper focus on proactive reputation management and greater participation in online conversations going forward.”

The percentage of leading companies in Asia with dedicated video sharing channels is up 50 percent over last year to 12 percent. This is still below the global average of 57 percent as found by the Fortune 100 Social Media Check-up. Video is hugely popular on the Internet and easily drives conversation, but the great majority of company video sharing channels are product marketing vehicles.

“To reach and persuade stakeholders today, it is not just the vocabulary and tone of corporate marketing and communications that must evolve,” says Pickard. “More important, companies must adopt a mindset that puts listening and acting genuinely and transparently front and centre. And, they must understand how to deal with negative feedback expressed publicly that could resonate and escalate.”