Survey: Social media in use at eight out of ten Global 100 companies

Customers and consumers now control market conversations, a fact not lost on the largest companies in the world.

Social media is hot and heavy among the largest organizations in the world -- however, there is confusion about "official" corporate communications channels versus more informal or departmental-level engagements.

A new survey of the Global 100 companies conducted by Burson-Marsteller 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. The study (PDF summary) of the world's largest companies found that 79% are using at least one of the most popular social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or corporate blogs.

As Burson observes, with social media, customers or consumers now control the conversation, which companies need to get out in front of:

"Social media has shifted control of the corporate message away from the organization and towards consumers and other stakeholders, and running away and hiding is no longer the safe option."

The study also observes that "renegade" social media accounts are also prevalent -- contributing to a form of "communications anarchy."  Of the companies that are engaged in leading social networking sites -- Twitter, Facebook and YouTube -- most have multiple accounts. For example, each active company has 4.2 Twitter accounts, 2.1 Facebook pages, and 1.6 YouTube channels. Organizations with blogs also had multiple blogs — an average of 4.2 — but those blogs were often maintained on the corporate site in a cohesive way.

For companies with multiple Twitter accounts, most often only one was a primary corporate account, the study found. The other accounts were started and managed by a local market office, represented a research or special-interest division at the company or was related to a corporate sponsorship event the company was engaged in. "Often it took a few views to determine which Twitter account was the primary corporate account — if there was one — and it was not always possible to affirmatively determine if there was a primary corporate account."

Overall, Twitter is the social media platform of choice -- 65% have active accounts on the micro-blogging site. A majority, 54%, have a Facebook page, while 50% have a YouTube channel. Interestingly, only a third, 33%, have corporate blogs. About 20% use all four platforms.

It also appears that some companies are getting more comfortable using social media as they are interacting and engaging more and not just broadcasting corporate messages. Companies using Twitter are following an average of 731 people each and 38% of companies are responding to people's tweets.  Thirty-two percent have also "re-tweeted" or reposted comments user comments during the previous week.

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