Social media is “phenomenally” important to a business because it helps engage customers, an expert has said.

Tristan Garrick, PR manager for the Direct Marketing Association, explained that social media helps businesses form relationships that they just do not get with push media.

“With push media, obviously you have wide scatter-shot top brand advertising, whereas with social media marketing, it’s just a great opportunity for consumers to take the brand in their own hands,” he said.

Mr Garrick added that social media also allows sales leads and consumers to pull information out rather than having it thrust at them.

He warned, however, that social media does carry some risks because it forces businesses to throw their brand equity into the hands of consumers.

According to new research from software security firm Clearswift, the use of web 2.0 is critical to business success in today’s competitive markets.

A poll by the organisation found that more than half (52 per cent) of companies believe that web collaboration tool such as Facebook play an important role in the success of their firms.