Social media is being adopted as an emerging technology across six major vertical markets including banking, government, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and utilities.

This is one of the findings of IDC’s new study, “2012 U.S. Social Media Trends by Vertical”, which finds that similar to Internet adoption in the 1990s, B2C companies – especially retailers – are driving social media adoption while B2B companies lag behind.

The report also found that social media is enabling organizations to increase productivity and improve knowledge sharing as they leverage social networks to share best practices and identify appropriate resources.

Additional key findings include:

* Increasing awareness of product and services is the top social media investment driver;

* Respondents cited managing and tracking all posted content as the top challenge to social media;

* Social networking accounts for half of the social media budget; and

* Marketing is the biggest user of social media and is driving the purchasing decision of these technologies.

The study also found that, when comparing social media investment to other emerging technology areas, retailers more than any other industry are making strong investments. Successful retailers are integrating their mobile, analytic and social media strategies into one cohesive business approach. Social media touch points such as Facebook, Twitter, and Groupon are enabling these organisations to analyze customer behaviour and in turn deliver personalised offers direct to a consumer’s mobile device.

“Industries that are consumer focused such as communications, media and recreational services are spending a larger percentage of their IT budget on social media as it is easy for them to make the shift to adopting the way consumers communicate,” says Eileen Smith, program manager: global technology and industry research organisation at IDC. “However, there are early adopters in vertical markets such as insurance and professional services.

“Emerging uses in the construction industry for instance demonstrate how B2B organizations can leverage social media as a powerful collaboration tool to share project and material data, submit bids and review designs.”

Across all verticals, the research found that moderating conversations about products and services was not a high priority. IDC notes that companies are not taking full advantage of the communications aspect of social media and are using it more as one way method of communication – gathering feedback or pushing brand messaging to a wide audience – rather than collaborative communication as the medium was intended.