Since blogging first became a lauded tool for companies large and small to communicate and engage with their consumers, people have been interested in whether the really big companies – the Fortune 500 companies – have joined the fray. Facebook and Twitter came along and interest escalated. After all, if social media is the great equaliser then it’s only natural that the small and medium sized fish in the great big digital pond want to see how their stack up against the whales.
Over the years countless agencies have conducted studies into social media participation and the general consensus has been that Fortune 500 companies keep social media at arms length. The kind people say that the 500 are cautious, the mean people say they’re cowards.
The trouble with a lot of these studies is that they are viewed with sceptism. They are considered biased or skewed in some way, or the methodology left a lot to be desired – or something. According to Steve Olenski, creative director of Digital Services for The Star Group (writing for Social Media Today), one of the most “statistically sound” studies has recently been conducted by the Centre of Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
The figures are pretty bleak across all forms of social media, including the humble blog. In 2008, 16% of Fortune 500 companies had a blog (public facing corporate blog to be exact). In 2009 that went up to 22%, which went up to 23% in 2010 and stayed at 23% in 2011.
It looks slightly better for Facebook and Twitter, with figures of 58% and 61% respectively. When you dig a little deeper, you see that the results are skewed towards Fortune 100 companies – the most successful of the 500. Between 2008 and 2011, 36% of Fortune 100 companies have blogs, compared to 14.5% of the companies in the 400 – 500 range.
25% of Fortune 100 companies have Twitter accounts (2011) compared to 17% of the 400 – 500 companies.
Now, this doesn’t indicate a causal relationship: social media doesn’t make a company more successful, but, as Olenski infers, adopting social media could indicate a company’s willingness to embrace change and to experiment and innovate. And those are hallmarks of a successful company.