Social Media Adoption and Fortune 500 Companies — Have They Reached their Peak?

By Azam Khan 

Fortune Magazine annually tracks America’s largest corporations due to their influence in the business world. For this study,  Academics from Center For Marketing Research Dartmouth examined the social media activity, specifically blogging, of various organizations, concluding that the biggest companies have slowed down their social media efforts and appear to be hitting a plateau. More after the jump.

Out of the F500 companies examined, 23% or 114 have maintained an external corporate blog within the past year. These include Wal-Mart and Exxon. Three companies in the top 5 that lack blogs are Chevron, Conoco Philips and Fannie Mae. Those with blogs come from a variety of industries including software, office equipment and other retails. Specialty Retail industry (Home Depot, Best Buy, Toys R Us, saw an increase in blogging from 4 companies in 2008 to 9 in 2011. Telecomm industry on the other hand stayed solid at 7 blogs this year. Food companies such as McDonald’s and Tyson dropped from 9 last year to 7 today. Another interesting statistic is that 91% of F500 blogs take comments, have RSS feeds and take subscriptions. This number has stayed consistent for the past few years.

F500 seems to be lagging compared to Inc. 500 which is composed of the fastest-growing private companies in the US whereas the F500 list is based on total revenue (not growth) and may include private companies as well. 50% of Inc. 500 maintain blogs vs 23% o F500, a difference that could be attributed to company size, internal structure, corporate communication philosophy and other factors.


Twitter Usage

62% of F500 have corporate Twitter accounts with tweets in the past 30 days, an increase of 2% from last year. Specialty Retail industry has the most twitter accounts followed by Food production and services. The least is the Telecomm. industry. 49% of the Twitter accounts come from companies in the top 200 which 34% come from those in the bottom 200.

Google has the highest number of followers on Twitter among the 2011 F500 followed by Whole Foods Market, Starbucks, and Southwest Airlines. The Washington Post has quickly grown to almost 600,000 in just over a year.


Corporate Facebook Pages

58% of F500 are on Facebook and the pattern of Facebook page usage mirrors the pattern of adoption by rank as blogs and Twitter. Insurance companies are most likely to be on Facebook followed by those in Specialty Retail and Food. Utilities companies on the other hand have the least presence.

Coca-Cola has the greatest number of Fans, ~32M, followed by Starbucks at 24M. Wal-Mart, the #1 F500 company, is in 4th place with 7M Fans.


The adoption of blogs, Twitter and Facebook in the 2011 F500 appears to be leveling off with a lack of significant change in the past year. Twenty-three percent (114) of the 2011 F500 have corporate public-facing blogs. There has been a slight increase in both Twitter use (60% in 2010, 62% in 2011) and use of Facebook (56% in 2010, 58% in 2011).

These results may signal a possible retrenchment when it comes to the adoption of social media among the F500. There is also evidence of change in the adoption of these tools by industry and a clear sign from some companies that these are not part of their communications efforts. Given that the F500 are the titans of American business, we may be seeing the slowdown in business adoption of social media. At the very least, this group appears to have slowed or stopped its adoption of the three most prominent tools – Blogging, Facebook and Twitter.