Study: Inc. 500 outpace Fortune 500 in social media adoption

Can elephants be taught to blog and tweet? Fortune 500 companies lag Inc. 500 companies in blogging, but are catching up with Twitter usage.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Can elephants be taught to blog and tweet?  Apparently, yes, but slowly.

Nora Ganim Barnes at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Eric Mattson of Financial Insite just posted the results of a longitudinal study that shows that Fortune 500 companies are still much farther behind the curve than their smaller, fast-growing counterparts in the Inc. 500 when it comes to corporate blogging.  However, large organizations are getting Twitter-savvy.

Their study updates a study from last year, based on 2008 data. (Thanks to Bill Ives, my friend over at FastForward Enterprise 2.0 and the master of knowledge management, for surfacing this study.)

A total of 22% of Fortune 500 companies maintained a public-facing corporate blog with a post in the past 12 months, the study also finds. Of the top five corporations on the Fortune 500 list, three have official blogs -- Wal-Mart, Chevron and General Electric. Overall, corporate blogging was up by 16% over the previous study.

Smaller, fast-growing companies are far more likely to be engaged with blogging, the study finds. In fact, Inc. 500 companies are twice as likely to be supporting official blogs -- 45% versus 22% of the Fortune 500s. Blogging increased by six percent over the past year for both types of companies, the study finds.

"It is possible that the difference is related to size of the company, internal structure or corporate philosophy regarding open communication with its stakeholders," Barnes and Mattson conclude. "Regardless of the motivation, the Fortune 500 companies have been less likely to adopt social media tools than their smaller, fast-growing counterparts."

Tweeting, however, is catching on quite strongly at the largest companies in the world. The survey finds that 47% of the Fortune 500 companies have some type of Twitter account. About 35% of these large companies had a Twitter account with a post within 30 days of the study. Of these companies, four of the top five corporations (Wal-Mart, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and General Electric) consistently post on their Twitter accounts.

This seems to be relatively close to the level seen among Inc. 500 companies. In a separate study conducted last year by the same authors, 52% of Inc. 500 companies engaged in Twitter microblogging, up from 43% the previous year.

Most of the Fortune 500 companies engaged with Twitter also are staying on top of the conversations -- 69% consistently responded with @replies or retweets within the past thirty days of the date of the study. The Twitter accounts are kept up-to-date with current news and information.

The authors add that in addition to these results about public-facing blogs and microblogs, "it is worth noting that there is evidence of usage of social media such as blogs inside of large companies like the F500."

The study echoes another survey recently conducted among Global 100 companies by Burson-Marsteller, which finds that eight out of ten of these large organizations are immersing themselves in popular social media sites, and are quite active in these environments.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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