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PWC’s eighth annual Business Insights Survey, a survey of 400 CEOs at Canadian private companies, reveals that many business owners are underestimating the impact social media can have on their growth.

A startling 28% don’t plan to use social media at all. “Canadian private company leaders looking to grow their top line need to invest in technology, it’s a business imperative,” says Tahir Ayub, PwC private company services leader for Canada.

If it’s a case of being intimidated by social technology or not understanding where the potential is, advises Aayaz Pira, director, management and technology consulting for PwC, businesses should take the leap anyway. “Companies need to make an investment in social media before they can determine the overall return,” says Pira.

For those that do use social and mobile technology, the survey drilled down and identified some specific opportunities that business owners may still be overlooking when it comes to the application of social media at their companies. These include:

Sales and marketing. Less than half of survey respondents say they plan to use social media for sales and marketing purposes, and only 13% plan to use it to develop new products.

Read: Get Help With Social Media

“This is a huge missed opportunity,” says Pira. “Social media gives customers a voice to be part of the business and provides the ability to collaborate with customers to develop the products and services they want.”

Attracting talent. Only 34% of respondents use social media to find workers. Today’s workers, particularly millennials, use social media in both their personal and professional lives and are much less likely to be attracted to companies that don’t take advantage of that.

Internal collaboration. In terms of employee engagement and retention, only 16% of respondents using social media plan to apply it to internal collaboration. “The ability to collaborate and create new ideas with peers and companies in real time is quickly becoming a key differentiator between companies that can [retain talent] and companies that can’t,” says Pira.

For more on the 2012 Business Insights Survey, visit PwC.

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