Though most people would think differently, blogs, social media, RSS, video and podcasting are gradually establishing themselves as new critical components in the development strategy of many large companies in the American corporate landscape.
Photo credit: Robert Mizerek
These companies look at the adoption of social media technologies as a mean to improve their communications approach, to build internal knowledge, to improve marketing and sales as well as to guarantee long term sustainability and growth. And these need not be just technology related companies.
Many such organizations are Fortune 500 companies, who according to the report I present here today, have started to take up social media, a bit slowly, but very seriously.
Authored by Nora Barnes and Eric Mattson, this report originally entitled "The Fortune 500 and Blogging: Slow and Steady and Farther Along Than Expected" examines the 2008 Fortune 500 list in an attempt to quantify the adoption of social media across diverse companies and sectors.
Previous reports analyzing blogs and social media adoption across other types of organizations have utilized the Inc. 500, US colleges and universities and the Fortune Magazine’s list of the 200 largest charities.
Given that the Fortune 500 stand as a model for business success and for where corporate America may be moving next, the results emerging from this report provide some interesting insight into what is changing when the world of executives and corporate budgets meets the one of blogs, RSS, Twitter and social media in general.
If you want to know what American Fortune 500 companies are doing with blogs and social media technologies you will find some valuable facts and information in this report.
The Fortune 500 is a definitive list of the country's largest (by revenue) and most influential companies. A company's fall in rank on the list could indicate or reflect problems for the company or its industry, and a move up the list generally signals good news.
The Fortune 500 is often viewed as a list of America’s most admired companies.
This study examined the 2008 Fortune 500 list in an attempt to quantify the adoption of social media by identifying those with public-facing blogs. Similar work has been done with the Inc. 500, US colleges and universities and the Fortune Magazine’s list of the 200 largest charities.
Given that the Fortune 500 stand as a model for business success, it is interesting to examine their involvement in the social media arena.
For purposes of this research, the following definition was used to locate 2008 Fortune 500 companies with blogs.
A company was counted as having a blog if they had a public-facing corporate blog from the primary corporation with posts in the past 12 months.
Due to the complexity of corporate legal structures in this group and no clear methodology on how subsidiaries have been located or analyzed by others, the research presented here focuses on the primary / listed corporation.
In addition, it is worth noting that there is some evidence there is usage of social media such as blogs inside of large companies like the F500.
This research did not look at that subject but instead focused on public-facing blogs as a barometer of usage.
All companies were analyzed using multiple steps.
All 500 companies on the list were examined using this process. The data was collected in February and March 2008 at the University of MA Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research.
Thirty-one companies dropped off the Fortune 500 list in 2008. Of those, two had blogs (Avaya and Lucent Technologies). Among the new 31 companies to the list, only one has a blog (Symantec).
It is important to note that while the turnover on the list is about 6%, the impact of one less company blogging is negligible.
Eighty-one (16%) of the primary corporations listed on the 2008 Fortune 500 have a public-facing corporate blog with a post in the past 12 months. These early adopters include three of the top five corporations (Wal-Mart, Chevron and General Motors). The two remaining in the top 5, Exxon / Mobil and Conoco Philips do not have public-facing blogs at this time.
This is the first study to systematically examine the entire 2008 Fortune 500 list. Based on available information to date, the result is a higher percentage of Fortune 500 bloggers than suspected. (Figures estimating Fortune 500 blogs commonly range from 8% - 12%)
The 81 companies with blogs come from a cross section of industries. A partial list is presented below showing those industries with the greatest presence in the blogosphere.
Blogging differed by industry type with Computer Software, peripherals and office equipment companies having the most blogs (8). Companies in this category include Xerox, Dell, Microsoft, Oracle and EMC.
The Telecommunications industry represented by companies like Verizon, Sprint and Virgin Media had 5 of the blogs studied.
Food related firms like McDonald’s, Tyson, Whole Foods, General Mills and Safeway also had 5 blogs.
Many industries had 4 blogs. These, with some examples, include: Commercial Banks (Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase), Insurance (Progressive, NY Life), Internet Services (Google, Amazon), Semi Conductors (Intel, Texas Instruments), Specialty Retail (Foot Locker, Best Buy and Motor Vehicles (Ford and General Motors).
It is interesting to note that in the General Merchandise category there are two retailers on the list, Wal-Mart the #1 Fortune 500 company and Nordstrom, #299. Wal-Mart has a blog. Nordstrom does not.
Rank appears to influence the adoption of blogging by the 2008 Fortune 500.
Of the top 100 companies on the list, 38% (31 companies) have a corporate blog. Of the group listed 101 - 200, 25% (20 companies) have a corporate blog. The top 200 companies account for 63% of the corporate blogs among this group. In contrast, the bottom 200 (those listed 301 - 500) account for 26% of the corporate blogs.
Of the top five corporations on the list, three have blogs. These include Wal-Mart (#1), Chevron (#3) and General Motors (#4). Exxon Mobil (#2) and Conoco Phillips (#5) do not have blogs.
All 81 blogs were examined to determine the level of interactivity the blog allowed. This was done by looking at the blog to see if comments were accepted, if RSS feeds or email subscriptions were available and checking the date of the last post to determine how current it was.
Over 90% of the Fortune 500 blogs take comments, have RSS feeds and take subscriptions.
These blogs are kept current with frequent posts on a range of topics. It appears that those companies that have made the decision to “blog” have utilized the tool well. There is frequent posting, on-going discussion and the ability to follow the conversation easily through RSS or subscriptions.
Of the 81 blogs located, 23 (28%) linked to a corporate Twitter account. Many more may have Twitter accounts, but at this time they do not link to those from their homepage or blog.
The 2008 Fortune 500 blogs were examined to determine usage of additional social media tools. Researchers looked for the use of podcasting (audio files available for download) and video to enhance the blog.
Sixteen percent of the F500 are podcasting and 21% are using video on their blog sites.
The data collected in an earlier study on the Inc. 500, indicates significant differences between the two groups on their involvement with these social media tools.
Our research with other groups, using 2008 data, indicates that the Fortune 500 are blogging at a lower rate than other business groups (Inc. 500), US colleges and universities and the largest US Charities as listed in Forbes Magazine.
The Fortune 500 is blogging at a rate that pales in comparison to the latest data on other businesses and organizations.
The Inc. 500 are made up the fastest-growing, private companies in the US, while the Fortune 500 is based on revenue and may include public and private companies. It is possible that the difference is related to size of company, internal structure or corporate philosophy regarding open communication with its stakeholders.
Colleges and universities are moving quickly to develop more effective communications with a very wired generation.
America’s charities are leveling the playing field by quickly adopting social media.
As budgets get tighter and donations more scarce, not for profits have jumped ahead of all other sectors in the use of social media.
Regardless of the motivation, the Fortune 500 companies appear to be moving more slowly in their adoption of social media tools.
This research represents the first comprehensive study of public-facing blogs in the 2008 Fortune 500. It conclusively shows that while the Fortune 500 companies are adopting social media at a rate much slower than other leading businesses, universities and charities, many more of them are blogging than has been previously reported.
Those F500 companies that have taken the leap into the blogosphere represent all the things that make social media great.
Given the multitude of challenging communication obligations that large organizations have to a diverse range of stakeholders, it’s exciting to see this much adoption already. And just like the rabbit and the hare, we expect “slow and steady” to win the race for these companies.
Originally written by Eric Mattson and Nora Ganim Barnes for the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research and first published on April 1st 2008 as "The Fortune 500 and Blogging: Slow and Steady - and Farther Along than Expected".
About the authors
Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes earned a Ph.D. in Consumer Behavior from the University of Connecticut and is a Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. As Director of the Center for Marketing Research, she has provided services in brand and product development, research, promotion, and commercial television production to hundreds of clients.
Eric Mattson is the CEO of Financial Insigths Inc., a Seattle-based boutique research firm focusing on technology innovation in finance and banking. He’s also an independent social media scholar whose research has appeared in BusinessWeek, Inc. Magazine and a number of other publications. Eric Mattson is a graduate of the University of Washington where he earned dual degrees in business administration and mathematics as a Washington Scholar.
Eric Mattson and Nora Ganim Barnes -
The Fortune 500 and Blogging: Slow and Steady - Eric Isselée
Methodology - Silvia Bukovac
1. Changes In The Fortune 500 (2007-2008) - Slobodan Djajic
3. Blogs by Industry - felinda
5. Level of Interaction On Corporate Blogs, Links To Twitter - Tatiana53
6. Use of Podcasting and Video - Ben Goode
7. Comparison With Other Sectors - rido