Among social media channels, healthcare execs are most comfortable with YouTube and least comfortable with Twitter, a survey suggests.

Ideahaus MarketSMITH Services and Hellebusch Research and Consulting surveyed 107 healthcare professionals (30% from pharmas and biotechs) ranging from CEOs to brand managers and found widespread trepidation about using social media channels absent FDA guidance spelling out the boundaries. That won’t surprise anyone, but maybe ought to, nine years after the advent of Facebook and seven years after the first Tweet.

Nearly three out of four respondents (74%) said they’d been conservative in their use of social media to date. Asked about the appropriateness of using different channels, respondents were most comfortable with YouTube (68% called it acceptable, update or no), followed by LinkedIn (62%) and Facebook (60%, even though many abandoned their brand pages on the site after comments were mandated). Respondents were twitchy about text messaging (49%), Twitter (42%) and Flickr (32%).

“Apparently, media and context is another important consideration calling for additional research,” wrote the study’s authors. “For example, video (a series of pictures and sound) is more favored while single images are not. A more descriptive and invading media has been selected over other media. Additionally, a common characteristic of YouTube is that of a broadcaster’s network while Twitter is regarded as conversational. It may indicate levels of comfort with sharing information but not with engaging in a dialogue.”

Only half think companies should monitor social media sites to understand patient needs, concerns and perceptions.

Respondents were split on whether companies are misusing social media, with a third saying mareters manipulate blogs, chat rooms and discussions, and only 8% say the FDA is adequately managing social media or that it has the resources to do so.