Social Media Proves Valuable for Internal Communications . / Credit: Social Media Image via Shutterstock

Employers are no longer using social media to only connect with customers and clients.

A new study by global professional services company Towers Watson revealed employers are now utilizing a host of social media tools to communicate with their employees. Specifically, more than half of the employers surveyed say they currently use various social media tools as part of their internal communication initiatives as a way to build community.

Among the companies surveyed, instant messaging, used by 77 percent, and streaming audio and video, used by 61 percent, were the most popular social media tools. Other tools being widely used include human resources or employee blogs, enhanced online employee profiles, social networks, SMS messaging and mobile apps.

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"We believe that social media can be a great tool for communicating with employees in the workplace," said Kathryn Yates, global leader of communication consulting at Towers Watson. "By its nature, social media is designed to build community and could help engage employees on key topics such as performance, collaboration, culture and values."

Despite the increased adoption, reviews regarding each tool's effectiveness have been less than overwhelming. The study found that for each social media tool, less than half of those using it find it to be effective. Additionally, only 40 percent rated the use of social media technology as cost- effective.

Despite that, researchers believe the importance of social media tools will only grow as businesses become more dependent on remote workers. Currently, just 23 percent of those surveyed said their company is effective at building community amongst its remote workers.

Yates said telecommuters are looking for clear communication, to be treated with integrity, and want coaching and support from afar.

"For employers to effectively engage and retain remote workers, they will need to connect them with their leaders, managers and colleagues," she said. "We think social media tools can be a real help in making this connection."

The research was based on surveys of 290 organizations from across North America, Europe and Asia.

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