The very largest corporations in the country — those who make up the Fortune 500 — are showing “the first signs of really embracing a range of social media tools.”
That’s the finding of a study undertaken this past summer by the Charlton College of Business Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Nora Ganim Barnes, the Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a Chancellor Professor of Marketing, Ava M. Lescault, the Assistant Director / Senior Research Associate at the Center and Justina Andonian, the Social Media Coordinator / Research Assistant at the Center, examined how companies from the 2012 Fortune 500 list were using blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.
Some of the more interesting findings include the discovery of many more Twitter accounts than blogs among Fortune 500 companies. Many companies are also doing specialty blogging and using their own YouTube channels.
Here are some details:
Blogging: A total of 139 companies, or 28% of the Fortune 500, had blogs. Those in the telecommunications industry had the most (40%); followed by commercial banks, specialty retail and utilities (25-30%). Several industries on the list — forest and paper products, railroads, tobacco, toys/sporting goods, real estate, building materials/glass and trucking and waste management — had no members with blogs.
What are these firms blogging about? While the purposes vary, Barnes says that her research shows that blogs are becoming more popular for branding and thought leadership, with some companies using the forums to discuss social concerns. For example, Exxon Mobil’s Perspectives blog often discusses environmental protection.
- Interesting Discovery: The researchers reported finding an increasing number of blogs within the enterprise. They also noticed the appearance of “specialty blogs” — blogs that focus on narrower issues, such as company career paths and hiring, social responsibility and community causes.
Twitter: A total of 365 companies, or 73%, were found to have a corporate Twitter account. The food/consumer products industry had the most, with 93% of its firms on Twitter. The specialty retail industry as well as aerospace/defense were next with 86% each. Companies such as Walmart on Twitter mostly provide links to their ads, flyers, sales and so on in their tweets. Southwest Air on Twitter is monitored by company staff for complaints or problems. Those staff contact people via Twitter to try to diffuse the issues.
- Interesting Discovery: Google had the most followers on Twitter with 4.8 million (up 44% from last year). Disney’s Twitter feed has increased the number of its followers by a phenomenal 523% in one year, from 206,843 to 1,289,229. (It’s now at over 1.5 million.)
Facebook: A total of 330 companies, or 66%, had a Facebook account. That represents an 8% increase over the previous year. Industries with the greatest presence on Facebook were specialty retail (89%); consumer products (86%); and telecom (80%). No firms in tobacco or in diversified outsourcing services had a Facebook account.
- Interesting Discovery: Coca-Cola’s Facebook page had the most Facebook fans, with 42 million (now up to nearly 60 million). Disneycame in second, with 32 million (now over 40 million). Both Disney and Intel’s fan bases more than quadrupled over the previous year.
Other Social Media Sites: For the first time, researchers also looked at the Fortune 500′s presence on YouTube and Pinterest. It found that 309 firms, or 62%, had a YouTube account, which Barnes says are used primarily for commercials and product demonstrations. Eleven businesses (including GE on YouTube, Lowes at Pinterest and Starbucks at Pinterest) use their channels to demonstrate how to use products.
- Interesting Discovery: In 2011, 31% of Fortune 500 firms had neither a Twitter nor a Facebook account. That that number was down to 23% in 2012. That increased usage, say the researchers, represents a “leap forward” in the use of social technologies by these largest of American corporations.