Most businesses still aren't sure exactly how much they buy into the notion that social media is a crucial component of their business.

A study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte found that when asked to rank, on a scale of 1 to 10, how well their company has implemented social tools that not only drive collaboration and information sharing across the business, but also combine social media data into their operational processes, the majority gave their organization a 3 or lower. Just 17 percent of those surveyed gave their company a 7 or higher.

The research revealed that the major challenges preventing businesses from developing a more mature social networking program include the following: a lack of an overall strategy, too many competing priorities and a lack of a demonstrated business case or strong value proposition. In other words, they're just not sure the effort will bring about worthwhile results.

[6 Potential Social Media Disasters Averted]

"Overcoming these barriers requires strong executive leadership," said David Kiron, executive editor of MIT Sloan Management Review. "Companies that are generating value with social business tend to have leaders who have helped get these capabilities applied to important business problems — a process that can very often change the way people work."

In an interview last month with MIT Sloan Management Review, Dion Hinchcliffe, of the Dachis Group, explained that part of the reason social strategies aren't as developed as companies would like is because these tools weren't originally intended to be used by businesses. He noted that until recently, social media tools lacked the security, compliance and control capabilities required for corporate use.

"These requirements have made their way into the tools only in the past few years," Hinchcliffe told MIT Sloan Management Review. "We are now at the point where the tools are starting to meet business needs."

The study discovered that most of the companies that do have fully developed social media strategies are using social business tools to better understand market shifts, improve visibility into operations and identify internal talent.

The pressure to improve the use of social tools is only increasing. The study found that 36 percent of business executives believe having a social business strategy is important, up from just 18 percent a year ago. In addition, more than 70 percent of CEOs, chief information officers and chief marketing officers believe that social business is an opportunity to fundamentally change the company's working dynamics.

Based on the study, researchers identified four ways companies can improve the development of their social media programs:

The research was based on surveys of more than 2,500 business executives, managers and analysts from organizations around the world.

Follow Chad Brooks on Twitter @cbrooks76 or BusinessNewsDaily @BNDarticles. We're also on Facebook & Google+. This story originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.