Nora Ganim Barnes and Justina Andonian at the Center for Marketing Research, Charlton College of Business, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth recently released a report on The 2011 Fortune 500 and Social Media Adoption: Have America's Largest Companies Reached a Social Media Plateau? This is another in the great series of studies on social media use in business and elsewhere (see for example, Social Media Use Continues to Expand in US Higher Education).
This study continues their annual research started in 2008 they released one of the first studies of the Fortune 500 (F500) adoption. The study has been expanded to include the usage of the fastest growing social media tools – Facebook and Twitter. They look at public facing instances of social media. They found that 114 (23%) of the primary corporations listed on the 2011 F500 have a public-facing corporate blog with a post in the past 12 months. This is the same as 2010 and only one more than 2009.
These results include two of the top five corporations (Wal-Mart and Exxon). Three companies in the top 5 in 2011 without a public-facing blog are: Chevron, Conoco Philips, and Fannie Mae. However, I know that Conoco Philips has a very active enterprise social media presence. In 2011, 91% of the F500 blogs take comments, have RSS feeds and take subscriptions and this is an increase of 1% since 2009 and 2010.
Twitter usage is much greater with 308 (62%) of the 2011 F500 maintianing corporate Twitter accounts with a tweet in the past thirty days. This represents a 2% increase since last year. Of these companies, the top 10 corporations (Wal-Mart, Exxon, Chevron, Conoco Philips, Fannie Mae, General Electric, Berkshire Hathaway, General Motors, Bank of America Corp. and Ford Motors) consistently post on their Twitter accounts. Note that this includes companies without blogs.
This is the first year the number of followers was included in this study. Google has the highest number of followers on Twitter among the 2011 F500 followed by Whole Foods Market, Starbucks, and Southwest Airlines. The Washington Post has quickly grown to almost 600,000 in just over a year.
Facebook presence is almost as high as Twitter and far greater than blogs with 289 (58%) of the 2011 F500 now on Facebook. Only 156 companies (31%) have neither a Twitter account nor a Facebook presence. A different set of companies lead in Facebook followers than Twitter followers. Coca-Cola dominates with 32,303,342 fans and this is the highest recorded number of the 2011 F500's 289 companies with a Facebook account. Starbucks pulls into 2nd place with 24,102,790 fans. Target and Nike both have more than 4.5 million fans. This makes sense as these are more mass-market companies who would tend to use Facebook for marketing purposes,
The researchers conclude that social media use by large companies may have leveled off and this could be the case. It does seem that the more marketing focused tools, Twitter and Facebook, are leading the use of blogs that tend to work better for thought leadership and more complex messages. I really appreciate the work of Nora Barnes and her colleagues. They are proving a great service. Check out their full report for more details.