The Fortune 500 and Social Media

February 20, 2010

The Fortune 500 and Social Media

The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth just released an interesting study of how Fortune 500 companies are using social media. The investigation was conducted by Nora Ganim Barnes and Eric Mattson. The examination expands on previous research they did in 2008.  There are some many interesting results which I want to share here.
1. 22% of 2009 Fortune 500 companies have public-facing corporate blogs (blogs are defined as company public-facing blogs from the primary corporation –no subsidiaries– that posted within the past 12 months). Another way to look at this finding, however,  is to note that 78% of Fortune 500 companies do NOT have public-facing blogs. Seems like a lot of companies are blog-less although the percentage is rising year over year (from 16% in 2008). Three of the top five Fortune 500 companies had one – WalMart, Chevron and GE.  The researchers also found that companies that have blogs work hard at blogging with frequent postings, RSS and other ways to engage visitors. Once they make the decision to blog, they do it. Companies with blogs came from different industries with the computer software/peripheral, office equipment industry having the most (not surprising) corporate blogs. This industry was followed in rank order by specialty retail, telecommunications, food production, services and drug stores, commercial banks, insurance, semiconductors, IT and motor vehicles.
2. The top 100 of the Fortune 500 companies are more likely to blog compared to those companies that fall later in the list such as 101-200, 201-300, 301-400 and 401-500. The largest companies are evidently leading the way.
3. A large 86% of companies with blogs link directly to a corporate Twitter account. This is three times more than was found in 2008. This demonstrates the rapid adoption of Twitter and social media once a company gets started in social media.  Just looking at how many Fortune 500 companies have corporate Twitter accounts altogether (whether they have a blog or not), the perecentage falls in at 35%. Again, that can be translated to mean that 65% of Fortune 500 companies do not have a corporate Twitter account. Weber Shandwick recently analyzed how Fortune 100 companies use Twitter and suggested that they might be in need of a Twittervention. Seems to be the case.
4. Interestingly, Fortune 500 companies are blogging at a slower pace than Inc. 500 companies (small businesses) – 22% vs. 45%, respectively.
5. Surprising to me was the finding that among those companies with a corporate Twitter account, the insurance industry had the highest concentration.
6. Luckily for those of us who are interested in how companies are using all types of social media, the researchers also looked at how Fortune 500 companies are using podcasts and video on their blog sites. They found that 19% of the 2009 Fortune 500 use podcasts and 31% use video. These are definite increases from 2008.

The authors conclude that there is a “continued steady adoption of blogs” and “explosive growth of Twitter” among the largest 500 companies in the U.S.  Since engagement with stakeholders is a key driver of reputation, the penetration of social media among our largest firms is moving in the right direction. However, there is plenty of room for more companies to join the social media bandwagon and hone their reputations by being more inclusive and engaging.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

  • Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA
    Posted at 03:42h, 21 February Reply

    This posting lends credence to the change that I have implemented in my “Publicity Techniques” (Writing for PR) class at Curry College.I tell my students that they must become comfortable using social media in a business, rather than purely social, mode. As part of their final projects, they are required to incorporate at least one (preferably more) medium…Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin…into their communication plan and explain why.

    For some reason, I don’t find the fact that Inc. 500 companies are leading Fortune 500s in social media use. I would be curious to know why, though.

    Thanks, as always, to Dr. Gaines-Ross for a highly informative blog posting!

    • Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross
      Posted at 13:29h, 22 February Reply

      Thanks Kirk, appreciate. I think that Inc 500 companies have more to lose by not being in close touch with their customers. Marketing is often too expensive (especially in a down economy) and social media serves as an inexpensive and high impact marketing channel. Just a guess. Best, lgr

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