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Study: Social Media Use by Fortune 500


The adoption of social media is growing among the nation's largest corporations: 22% of the 2009 Fortune 500 companies have public-facing blogs with a post in the past 12 months, and 35% have active registered Twitter accounts with a tweet sent within the past 30 days, according to a study from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Three of the top 5 largest corporations—Wal-Mart, Chevron, and General Electric—have active public-facing blogs, while four of the top 5—Wal-Mart, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and General Electric—consistently send tweets on their Twitter accounts.

Below, other findings from The Fortune 500 and Social Media: A Longitudinal Study of Blogging and Twitter Usage by America's Largest Companies.

Blogs by Industry

Among the Fortune 500, the 108 companies that maintain blogs come from a cross-section of industries:

Below, a partial list showing those industries with the greatest blog presence and representative sample of companies within the industry:

  • Computer Software, Peripherals, and Office Equipment companies have the most blogs (11), and include companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, and Xerox.
  • Specialty Retail companies have seven blogs; they include Home Depot, Best Buy, Toys "R" Us, and BJ's Wholesale.
  • Telecommunications companies have six blogs; they include AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and Comcast.
  • Food Production, Services, and Drug Stores companies have six blogs; they include Safeway, McDonald's, Tyson, General Mills, Whole Foods Market, and Hershey.

Rank continues to influence the adoption of blogging among the Fortune 500: The top 100 companies on the list account for 39% of the Fortune 500 blogs, whereas those ranked 101-200 make up 19%.

High Level of Blog Interaction

Nine in ten Fortune 500 blogs take comments, have RSS feeds, and take subscriptions. In addition, 86% are linked directly to a corporate Twitter account—over three times the level recorded in 2008.

Comparison With the Inc. 500

Fortune 500 rankings are based on total revenue, not growth, and may include public and private companies, whereas the Inc. 500 includes the fastest-growing private companies in the US.

Nearly one-half (45%) of Inc. 500 companies maintain a blog, compared with 22% of Fortune 500 companies.

However, both groups registered increases of six percentage points in their blogging activity in 2009 compared with levels recorded in 2008.

Looking for real-world examples of businesses achieving their social media marketing goals? Our 47-page case-study collection, Facebook Success Stories, shows you how to increase brand awareness, target specific markets, promote new products, and create communities that engage users. Also check out The State of Social Media Marketing, a 240-page original research report from MarketingProfs.

Corporate Twitter Presence

Over one-third (35%) of the primary corporations listed on the 2009 Fortune 500 have a Twitter account and have tweeted within the previous 30 days.*

Among the Fortune 500, the 173 companies with registered Twitter accounts come from a cross-section of industries.

Below, a partial list showing those industries with the greatest Twitter presence and a representative sample of companies within the industry:

  • Insurance: 13 Twitter accounts, including those of Allstate, TIAA-CREF, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, and Northwestern Mutual.
  • Food Production, Services, Drug Stores, and Consumer Products: 11 Twitter accounts, including those of Kroger, Walgreens, and McDonald's.
  • Computer Software, Peripherals, Office Equipment: 10 Twitter accounts, including those of Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft.
  • Specialty Retail: 10 Twitter accounts, including those of Home Depot and Lowe's.
  • Telecommunications: 10 Twitter accounts, including those of AT&T and Verizon.
  • Utilities: 10 Twitter accounts, including those of Dominion Resources and Duke Energy.

Twitter Accounts by Fortune 500 Rank

Rank continues to influence the adoption of Twitter: The top 100 companies of the Fortune 500 account for 27% of the 173 Twitter accounts, whereas those ranked 101-200 make up 20% of those with a Twitter account.

High Level of Twitter Interaction

Over two-thirds (69%) of Fortune 500 Twitter accounts demonstrate a high level of interaction, having consistently responded with @replies or retweets within the previous 30 days. Among this active group, the accounts are kept current with news and information, and there is consistent interaction with other users and ongoing discussions that are easy to follow.

Use of Video and Podcasting

The use of video and podcasting is increasing among the Fortune 500: 31% use video to enhance their blog, up from 21% in the previous year, and 19% use podcasting, up from 16%.

*Four of the companies (Boeing, Footlocker, FPL Group, and Winn-Dixie Stores) had their tweets protected and required a request to view their profile. Since posts within the last 30 days could not be verified, they were excluded from the tally. Nine of the companies (Baker Hughes, CIT Group, Computer Sciences, Delta Air Lines, Ecolab, Manitowoc, Mattel, MeadWestvaco, and Union Pacific) with corporate Twitter accounts had not posted within the past 30 days, so they were excluded from the analysis since they did not meet the definition.

About the data: Findings are from The Fortune 500 and Social Media: A Longitudinal Study of Blogging and Twitter Usage by America's Largest Companies, conducted by Nora Ganim Barnes, PhD, Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and Eric Mattson CEO, Financial Insite. The data was collected in October and November 2009.

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  • by Shelley Ryan Fri Feb 26, 2010 via web

    Fascinating! I wondered what the big co's mentioned here would be tweeting to the world. So I tried to find them.

    Look at the twitterstreams of @Chevron and @ConocoPhillips. It seems someone forgot to explain the "social" part of social media to them.

    Who is @GE and @GeneralElectric? Apparently not General Electric. And @walmart doesn't appear to be Wal-Mart, either.

    There's another story to be told, I'm thinking. Who's gonna blog about it? :)

  • by Justin Higgs- Chevron Sat Feb 27, 2010 via web

    I'm Chevron's Corporate Twitterer and am responsible for other company social media initiatives. Great post, great read, very interesting information!

    @Shelley Ryan- thanks for the comment, we appreciate the feedback. At Chevron, we put a high level of emphasis on interacting within the communities we are a part of- including Twitter. You'll also notice that we don't simply share "press releases". On the contrary, we take pride in developing and sharing diverse multimedia content as well responding to @replies. If you have any recommendations on how we can do this better and more effectively, I'd love to get your thoughts.

    All the best,

  • by Linda Ziskind Sat Feb 27, 2010 via web

    An interesting study, but I'm not sure I understand their criteria. Tweeting at least once in the last 30 days isn't the hallmark of an active Twitter account. And the occurance of @replies and retweets, while necessary for meaningful interaction, aren't guarantees that meaningful interaction is happening.

    Like Shelley, I wanted to take a look at some of the accounts. Conoco Phillips' Twitter account is so clearly a prefunctory initiative, that I had to go to their website to make sure it was actually their account. Frankly, with that little thought or strategy invested, they'd be better off without it.

    Chevron doesn't come off much better - sorry Justin. Listen, think about it this way. You're invited to a party. Would you go there with the intention of sharing the important information about your life with the other guests, and also being available to answer direct questions? If that was the extent of your social interaction, I'm afraid it would be your last invitation.

    Justin, social media is a party. Sure, the folks following you might be looking for information. But in social media, equally important to the information you offer, is the information you seek. They want to know that you're interested in their customer experience. You said you "don't simply share press releases". But what you're doing is not so different. You're broadcasting. Don't wait for someone to @ you. Go looking for the conversations that are happening about your brand. Engage with those people. Think about how great you'd feel if one day, as you're standing by the gas pump filling up, some senior exec. of the oil company walked up to you and said, "Hi Justin. Everything ok? Can we do anything to make this experience better? Getting good mileage? Let us know if we can help." I'll bet you'd be amazed to find a company that actually cared about what their customers think and feel.
    Well, that's what social media is. It's a party where a brand, through the persona of its designated Tweeting employees, gets to engage, make friends, and form relationships. It's a virtual meeting place where you can seek out your brand's constituency and say, "How're we doing? How can we help you?" Social media enables conversation. Conversation enables relationships. Relationships enable brand loyalty. Don't talk TO your customers. Talk WITH them.

  • by Dave Finkelstein Mon Mar 1, 2010 via web

    I agree that after checking a number of the companies mentioned many seemed to be going through the motions, to check the box and say they did. Can't imagine how they are really getting much out of that.


  • by Justin Higgs- Chevron Mon Mar 1, 2010 via web

    @Linda Ziskind- Thank you for taking the time to respond and for the constructive criticism. We appreciate your advice. While far from perfect, please know that we are making every effort to be actively engaged members of the Twitter community, not simply broadcasters of company news. If we are not there yet, we're working on it!

    Please continue to check in with us periodically and let us know what you think of our use of Twitter and social media platforms.


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