As reported by SearchEngineWatch.com, a new engagement index calculated by The Wetpaint/Altimeter Group is debunking some myths about social media, for example that it can’t be measured or that it doesn’t work in B2B environments. It also reveals that companies who’ve invested in social media are weathering the recession better.

The study looks at the depth of involvement of the top 100 global brands in various social media channels in an attempt to measure the true value of social media. Customized criteria were used to score each company’s involvement in social media channels including blogs, branded social communities, discussion forums,  social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Wikis, and content distribution sites. The highest ranking company was Starbucks, which uses 11 channels and employs a social media team of six people. By comparison, #2 ranking Dell spreads social media responsibilities around to all employees, who spend 15-20 minutes a day sharing their thoughts on Twitter and personal blogs.

Although the engagement index reveals a significant correlation between social media involvement and financial performance, don’t expect social media to be a magic solution for disappointing second-quarter profits. Engagement takes time, and the quality of your social media campaigns is critical when it comes to building relationships with your customers and earning their trust — which is, after all, what social media is all about.

More key findings from the study:

  • Focus on quality over quantity. Engaging deeply in one or two channels is preferable to skimming the surface of several.
  • Keep content fresh and respond to comments;  customers want companies that engage with them.
  • Make social media a part of everyone’s job, from the CEO on down. A few minutes a day from all employees adds up.
  • Tailor your social media campaigns to your industry. Luxury automotive brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Porsche engage in just two channels each. If your target audience doesn’t depend on social media, certain channels may not be right for you.
  • Do something. You don’t have to do it all, but you must start somewhere, or risk being left behind as consumers become more dependent on social media.

Read the full study here (PDF).