Social media has been buzzing around the IT agenda for some time, but it is about to become one of the main items of concern.

In its Technology Vision 2012 report, Accenture says social media is "already a powerful catalyst that changes the way customers, employees and partners use technology to interact with the world around them". But most enterprises still "have yet to catch up to social media and almost none take full advantage of it".

As a result, it will become increasingly important for IT leaders, a report revealed at the start of the year.

Social media seems to have come out of left field of the corporate radar, driven by consumers and technology zealots, and as such as produced an ad hoc, inconsistent response from some organisations.

While the mode of communication may sometimes feel informal, it is essential that companies are capable of a structured approach to the challenge. They need to have the resources in place to make sense of the vast volume of data which might reference their company in some way that can be generated by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other online communities.

IT giant Dell offers a good example of how to approach the issue. It not only tracks discussion about the company, its products and customers, it has built a “command centre” which serves as the bridge between the organisation and customers that use social technology. It publishes daily, weekly, or monthly reports to different internal teams according to their needs. This “listening platform” is now being offered more widely throughout the business, although it maintains formal data collection and reporting processes, according to a Forrester paper.

Other firms may want to follow this kind of approach. Tools at the disposal of IT management included advanced CRM, advertising attribution software and surveys. The most important thing is to have a structured approach that is consistent and repeatable. That way companies can understand the effect of strategies they employ across the board.

With some much at stake in these new media, it is import to take the steps needed to lead firms through the social maze.