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Fortune 500 Social Media Adoption Surging in 2012

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The use of blogging, Facebook, and Twitter among the nation's largest companies—those listed on the 2012 Fortune 500—has surged in 2012, according to a new study by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth:

  • 73% now use Twitter (have an official corporate account with tweet activity in the previous month), up 11 percentage points (or 17.7%) from the 62% that did so in 2011.
  • 66% have a corporate Facebook page, up 8 points (or 13.8%) from the 58% that did so a year earlier.
  • 28% have a corporate public-facing blog from the primary corporation with posts in the previous 12 months, up 5 points (or 21.7%) from the 23% that did so in 2011.

Below, other findings from The Social Media Surge by the 2012 Fortune 500, issued by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Twitter Adoption

Some 365 (73%) of the 2012 F500 have a corporate Twitter account with a tweet in the previous thirty days; among them, the 10 largest companies (Exxon, Wal-Mart, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, General Motors, General Electric, Berkshire Hathaway, Fannie Mae, Ford Motors and Hewlett-Packard) consistently post to their Twitter accounts.

Twitter Accounts by Industry

The F500 companies with Twitter accounts come from a cross section of industries.

The food consumer products industry has the highest Twitter penetration with 93%, followed by the specialty retail and aerospace industries, each with 86%.

A partial list (below) shows those industries with the greatest presence on Twitter:

Corporate Twitter Followers

Google has the highest number of followers on Twitter among the F500 with 4,795,987, followed by Whole Foods Market (2,666,439), Starbucks (2,546,244), and Southwest Airlines (1,305,938). Walt Disney recorded the largest year-over-year increase, from 206,843 Twitter followers in 2011, to 1,289,222 in 2012.

Facebook Pages

Some 332 (66%) of the 2012 F500 now have a corporate Facebook page; among them, 8 of the 10 largest companies (Wal-Mart, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, General Motors, General Electric, Fannie Mae, Ford Motors, and Hewlett-Packard) have a Facebook Page. Exxon and Berkshire Hathaway do not use Facebook.

Facebook Pages by Industry

Companies in the specialty retail industry have the highest Facebook penetration with 89%, followed by consumer food products and telecom, with 86% and 80%, respectively.

A partial list (below) shows those industries with the greatest presence on Facebook:

Those industries with no Facebook presence are tobacco and diversified outsourcing services, the study found.

Corporate Facebook Fans 

For the second year in a row, Coca-Cola has the biggest Facebook fan base with 42.2 million fans. Walt Disney follows with 32.0 million. Walt Disney's and Intel's (10.4 million) fan bases have more than quadrupled year over year, while Yahoo's (9.6 million) and Google's (9.7 million) have more than doubled.

Corporate Blogs

Some 139 F500 companies (28%) have a corporate blog. Two of the largest five corporations (Exxon and Wal-Mart) are included in that group, whereas the other three (Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Berkshire Hathaway) do not have a corporate facing blog.

Blogs by Industry

The 139 corporations with blogs come from 54 of the 71 industries represented in the F500.

Companies in the telecom industry are most likely to have a corporate blog: 40% do. Commercial banks follow with 30%, followed by utilities with 27% and specialty retail with 25%.

By contrast, only one F500 company in the Aerospace industry has a corporate blog.

A partial list is presented below showing those industries with the greatest presence in the F500.

Blogs by Rank

Corporations ranked in the top 200 of the F500 tend to blog far more than those in the bottom 200.

More than one-half (54%) of all F500 blogs are published by the top 200 corporations, whereas 28% are published by companies ranked 300 to 500 on the list.

Since 2008, rank has influenced the adoption of blogging among the F500, whereas rank plays a smaller role in Facebook and Twitter adoption, the study found.

Comparison With the Inc. 500

Over the past few years, the F500 companies have typically blogged at a lower rate than other business groups, specifically the Inc. 500. The Inc. 500 list is composed of the fastest-growing, private companies in the US, whereas the F500 is based on total revenue (not growth) and may include public and private companies.

In 2011, 37% of the Inc. 500 had corporate blog (a 13% decline from 2010). With 28% of the F500 companies publishing a corporate blog in 2012, that gap appears to be closing.

About the data: Findings are from The Social Media Surge by the 2012 Fortune 500, by Nora Ganim Barnes, Ph.D., Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Data was collected in July and August 2012.

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Lenna Garibian is a MarketingProfs research writer and a marketing consultant in the tech industry, where she develops engaging content that builds thought leadership and revenue opportunities for clients. She's held marketing and research positions at eRPortal Software, GAP Inc., Stanford University, and the IMF. Reach Lenna via Twitter @LennaAnahid and LinkedIn.

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  • by George Fri Sep 7, 2012 via mobile

    Good article; it appears that those who don't use social media will be at a competitive disadvantage if they don't.

  • by Rose Sun Sep 23, 2012 via web

    I’m a person who is really behind the eight ball when it comes to being social media savvy. I find facebook and tweeting quite foreign and I just recently started my first blog. It is very evident that in order to be current and on top of things in Public Relations you need to learn how to use these communication tools. I agree with a previous post that if you don't educate yourself you will be a great disadvantage in this competitive world we live in. I am definitely in a learning curve when it comes to these social media platforms. This article made me realize how important it is and how some of the nation’s largest companies are using it. There is an expertise in this particular area that I lack and I will have to be more open to exploring. In order to keep up with changing times I have to continue to improve and educate myself and enhance my skills and qualities in social media. This was a very detailed and informative article.

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