Facebook Isn't Among 60 Most Visible U.S. Companies

By David Cohen Comment

Harris Interactive released the 2012 version of its list of the 60 most visible companies in the U.S. Surely, Facebook was in the top five? Top 10? The social network had to be in the top 25, right? Try again: Facebook didn’t even make the list.

How is it possible that a social network with some 155 million users in the U.S. didn’t make the visibility cut?

Especially when three of the top five companies on the list hailed from the technology sector (Apple at number one, Google at number two and Amazon at number four)?

Harris Interactive Executive Vice President Robert Fronk had some answers:

The public doesn’t actually right now think of Facebook as a corporation. It thinks of Facebook as a tool or a service, which is very interesting, considering that they’re about to go public and put themselves in the public eye, taking on all the responsibilities and expectations of a public company.

The news gets worse for Facebook, as Fronk said that while most companies — even those that scored high on its list — had a group of five percent to six percent of respondents with negative opinions of the company that were likely irreversible, that figure leaped to 25 percent for Facebook.

Why so much negativity? More than one-quarter of respondents said they would not trust Facebook to do the right thing if the social network were faced with a problem, and they perceived the company as one with negative ethical standards. Security and privacy issues reared their ugly heads, as well.

Facebook’s upcoming initial public offer could be seen as a blessing or a curse in that regard. As a public company, Facebook kept much information close to the vest, as was its right, but when it goes public, that lack of transparency will no longer be an option.

Fronk also mentioned The Social Network, saying that many respondents’ impressions of the company were shaped by the film, particularly the lack of trust. He added:

It is rare for a company, unless you’re in the midst of a crisis or a scandal, to have as low a rating on the emotional appeal scale as Facebook does. If we were to poll just Facebook users, there might be some differences. A migration in thinking will have to take place at the senior level at Facebook in order for it to adjust to being public. We will be watching Facebook’s evolution closely from private entity to defining the company outside of usage.

Positive aspects that were mentioned about Facebook in the research by Harris Interactive included its strong expected financial performance, strong vision, and “great future prospects.”

Fronk addressed the impact of social media in general on the annual survey’s results, saying:

There have been dramatic changes. We have tracked impact of use and awareness of social media for a few years.When there is a crisis, if you have not built reputation equity over the long haul — if you don’t have a few friends available to you — you run the risk of plummeting off that cliff faster. You really see it in categories like anything related to babies — the mommy blogosphere is just so active.

Readers: Were you as shocked as we were that Facebook didn’t make the list of the 60 most visible companies in the U.S.?