Social Media is key at the 100 largest Fortune 500 Companies - A Burson-Marsteller White Paper Review
March 02, 2010
I read a very interesting white paper this week “The Global Social Media Check Up” by the folks at Burson-Marsteller, a global PR and communications firm, regarding a study they did assessing social media use at the largest 100 companies in the Fortune Global 500 index, and it was very good news indeed, which is why I’m sharing it with you!
They start off with a quote that I completely agree with:
It is time for companies to embrace, not fear, emerging media. There is no other way to remain competitive.
Their study takes a look at these companies use of specific social media tools – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and corporate blogs – all things that I evangelize for and develop use cases, best practices and guiding principles at EMC, so this study was of keen interest to me. Amazingly, of the companies included in the study, a whopping 79% of them are engaging in at least one of the social media platforms mentioned previously!
What did surprise me about the study was that only one-third of the companies were using corporate blogs to reach their audience. This number was much lower than my expectation for blog engagement, although if one takes into account the time and effort commitment to sustain a blog, it’s not such a surprise. Still, I was thinking the number would be at least 50% of companies, if not higher. The other surprising corporate blog statistic for me was that the utilization of corporate blogs is higher in the Asia-Pacific companies at a rate of 50% of the companies having blogs, than the 34% in the U.S.
Twice as many companies overall use Twitter to engage with their audience, which is not all that surprising to me, as Twitter is relatively easy to sustain given character limits – short and sweet is easier than what’s expected (although certainly not required) for lengthier blog posts.
The beautiful revelation about Twitter use is that companies are responding and retweeting others and engaging in genuine dialogue. It’s all too easy for a company to simply use Twitter as nothing more than another broadcast channel without actually retweeting or engaging with their followers, but the study shows that is not the case with these companies! Yay!
What I would like to see across these companies is a more balanced reciprocation of following those that follow them on Twitter. In their summary deck (embedded below) Burson-Marsteller states “[companies] are taking the initiative to follow others, building a more symbiotic relationship with Twitter users” but I do not think that companies are where they need to be with this. Unfortunately, the companies were following less than half of the people that were following them, which still shows a bit of a bias towards a one-way relationship – a huge opportunity for improvement, in my opinion.
The neat thing is that of the companies using Twitter, forty-two percent of them are being tweeted about by others, so there’s clearly an interest in engaging with companies on Twitter.
The study demonstrates… that simple, responsible
engagement in social media can reap big rewards in building relationships with
The study demonstrates… that simple, responsible engagement in social media can reap big rewards in building relationships with stakeholders online.
Over half of the companies surveyed are using Facebook Fan Pages as a way to engage with their audiences. Again, I would have thought this number would be higher, but what it tells me is that Facebook is still facing the challenge of overcoming the perception that it’s not a business tool or is “just for college kids.”
What is neat to see though, is that 43% of the Fan Pages out there had posts from fans – so when the fans are there, nearly half of them are posting, and considering that the fan page average for these companies is 40,884 (wow!) – this is total goodness!
YouTube is a popular venue for sharing content and engaging with stakeholders, with 50% of the companies having a YouTube channel and several hundred subscribers. Shockingly, the average number of views per channel is nearly 39,000 and over half of the channels have comments from viewers! That’s much higher than I would have guessed, and tells me that we are not utilizing YouTube as much as should be at EMC.
I have to admit that I laughed out loud when I saw that most companies have multiple accounts on each of the social media tools, but that the averages were so much lower than our totals on each of these platforms – 4.2 Twitter accounts, 2.1 Facebook Fan Pages, 1.6 YouTube Channels, and 4.2 corporate blogs. Oh, how I wish that our numbers were that low!
The study also indicates that it was sometimes hard to determine which accounts were “official” accounts versus which accounts were rogue accounts. As Burson-Marsteller indicates, this is incredibly problematic for someone looking to engage with a company on any social platform and encountering many accounts, some even duplicate – the risk is that the person could get misinformation from a non-official account and/or just get frustrated and not try to engage with the company via social media. This only serves to re-emphasize the importance of the work we’re doing now to step back, inventory, and evaluate all of our existing social media presences and re-engineer where we can.
I found this study to be very interesting and informative, and I’d recommend it for anyone wanting a better view into the social media activities of the largest Fortune Global 500. It was a great way to sanity check my own thinking, as well as reinforce existing areas in need of much attention and improvement.
While only 20% of the companies are using all 4 platforms simultaneously, I still think this number is full of hope. There is opportunity to integrate the platforms with other social media platforms, as well as more traditional forms of media, such as press releases. Our strategy from the beginning has always been that social media activities cannot live in isolation, and this study supports our strategy:
No single social media tool can stand on its
own. For a company that wants a truly effective communications strategy,
leveraging multiple social media tools for their individual strengths is
No single social media tool can stand on its own. For a company that wants a truly effective communications strategy, leveraging multiple social media tools for their individual strengths is required.
The end of the white paper offers invaluable advice that all companies thinking of engaging in social media must take into account to be successful:
- Monitor your own – and competitors – social media presence
- Get top management “buy in”
- Develop a social media strategy
- Define and publish a social media policy
- Develop internal structure
- Contribute to the community
- Participate in the good times and in bad
- Be prepared to respond in real time
- Beyond monitoring, measure the impact of social media engagement
View more presentations from Burson-Marsteller.