Insurers increasingly are using Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and YouTube to promote brand awareness, pursue marketing and even handle customer service. Most expect to use them more in the future. But companies haven’t yet pursued ways to maximize social media’s money-making potential, limiting its industry impact for now, Moody’s Investors Service found in a new survey.

Moody’s said it surveyed 22 property/casualty insurers and 42 life insurance companies and determined that 86 percent expect to increase their use of social media to conduct business.

Many insurers turn to social media to promote their brands, Moody’s determined. Others rely on the medium for marketing and human resources tasks such as job postings. The report noted, however, that insurers remain in the early stages of incorporating social media more closely into their business plans and that there is a conservative attitude about advancing further. However, insurers continue to experiment.

“Insurance is in the early stages of using social media,” the Moody’s report stated. “We do not see social media use as a competitive advantage at this stage, but it could be in the future.”

The Moody’s survey identified at least two potential uses of social media toward building insurance business, but the industry hasn’t yet embraced either option.

According to the survey, some insurers use social media for fraud detection, such as to help uncover a person “on disability who posted pictures of himself playing golf or running a marathon.” Moody’s said that respondents would still use other means to confirm the basic information revealed by social media in that case.

Relying on social media to pursue underwriting and pricing is another long-term option, but insurers have barely embraced this idea. As Moody’s noted, “insurers are approaching such an idea with extreme caution due partially to legal and regulatory concerns involving data use.”

Among the more detailed findings involving insurance industry social media usage to date: Facebook and Twitter are the most popular options so far for brand/company promotion and marketing. But LinkedIn is at the top of the list as an insurance industry human resources tool for hiring, employee screening or monitoring.

Still, Moody’s expects both property/casualty and life insurers to expand how they incorporate social media into growing their businesses, if only because it has become so ubiquitous in so many other parts of society.

“Social media has had a significant impact on our society, especially the younger generation. Technology-savvy adolescents and young adults are the future customers of insurers,” Moody’s wrote in its survey report. “How they view insurers, as well as the way they make financial decisions and transactions, can be influenced by social media. Failing to develop a social media strategy today may therefore have a sales impact for companies later.”