US chief executive officers (CEOs) believe that social media tools could be more effective in building corporate reputation than as a sales driver, according to a new poll.

Conducted by PRWeek and Burson-Marsteller, the survey of 200 CEOs also suggested that while 29 percent of respondents viewed social media as an ineffective stakeholder communications tool, the same proportion said they thought it was effective for this purpose.

While more than four in ten CEOs were found to use social media on a personal level, less than a fifth of these said they did so for the purposes of reaching stakeholders.

Other results included the finding that 71 percent of CEOs believe company websites comprise the most effective way of reaching customers in the midst of a crisis, while 67 percent indicated that they are looking to increase investment in online marketing next year.

"CEOs should understand that many of their stakeholders are active users of social media and that it can be an extremely effective means for communicating a message," remarked Mark Penn, president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller.

North American usage of social networking websites increased by nine percent between June 2007 and 2008, according to figures from comScore.