It may be hard to believe as more and more firms take up social media, but a report from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth found that adoption could be leveling off. The report studied Forbes’ Fortune 500 companies on the premise that these companies’ “hugely influential role” in the business world provides a useful yardstick for measure corporate trends.
“While these companies may not always be the first to innovate,” according to the report, “they do provide a look at emergent trends among America’s most successful companies.”
The university’s Center for Marketing Research released its first study on blog use at Fortune 500 companies in 2008 and has published a new study every year. The latest iteration, “The 2011 Fortune 500 and Social Media Adoption: Have America’s Largest Companies Reached a Social Media Plateau?” includes data on Facebook and Twitter adoption. Data was studied over the summer following Forbes’ release of the 2011 Fortune 500 in May.
The report notes that there is evidence of companies using social media for their employee communications, but have declined to institute a public-facing social media presence.
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“The F500 are definitely a more regulated group as well as a more B-B group,” Nora Ganim Barnes, chancellor professor of marketing and director of the Center for Marketing Research, told AdvisorOne in an email. “They are also very large hierarchical corporations. All these factors have been negatively correlated with the use of social media.”
Of the primary corporations listed on the 2011 Fortune 500, 114 companies have a public-facing corporate blog and have posted on it in the last 12 months. Of the top five companies, just Wal-Mart and Exxon have a blog. The percentage of companies using blogs to interact with the public has increased since the inaugural study in 2008, but has declined since 2010 when 116 companies maintained a blog.
Firms that do adopt a corporate blog do so with gusto. Interaction levels have remained high since 2009 when 90% of companies allowed comments to be posted to their blog and offered RSS feeds or subscriptions. In 2011, 91% of companies did so. “These blogs are kept current with frequent posts on a range of topics,” according to the report. “It appears that those companies that have made the decision to ‘blog’ have utilized the tool well.”
To measure firms’ Twitter adoption, researchers looked for official Twitter accounts with a post made within 30 days and found that Twitter is the most popular social media tool among Fortune 500 companies. Almost 62% of firms have a Twitter account, up 2% from 2010, and all of the top 10 firms post consistently on their accounts.