Who’s really using all these tools?

Nov 3 2008

Social Media in the Fortune 500

I find myself frequently checking Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki – the wiki that catalogs which of the Fortune 500 are blogging – and links to each blog. I feel like the fact that 61 (12.2%) of this group are blogging is some kind of barometer for the status of the web.

But is it?

Fortune 100 on Twitter

I found another interesting article on how many of the Fortune 100 are Twittering.

Taking into account that the list came from the 2008 rankings and some of these companies don’t exist anymore, 35 of the Fortune 100 have Twitter accounts. That’s a 35% usage rate – almost three times the rate of blog usage.

Or is it?

Reserving a free account is definitely less effort than creating a blog. A good portion of these accounts aren’t being used frequently. Of the 35, 12 don’t have a single tweet.

It reminds me of the early days of the internet – when companies would buy up the URL of their name, and just stick a logo up on a static site to mark their territory – until they figured out exactly what they were going to do with this new technology. A good sign for Twitter in the long run? Probably.

It seems that the Twittering Fortune 100 fall into two distinct categories: they are either using Twitter frequently (and generally successfully), or they’ve just reserved the name and are in the process of figuring out the best way it can benefit them. In looking at the 20 or so who are Tweeting “successfully” – I’ll define success as posting frequently to a sizable audience (a few hundred or more) and ideally collecting/responding to feedback using Twitter – there are a few buckets that the Twitter feeds fall into. The major two are that the purpose of the tweets are to supplement a community that already exists (a blog, forum, event, etc.) or that the Twitter feed stands alone as its own subcommunity.

Supplemental Feeds

A fair amount of the Fortune 100 are using Twitter primarily to post updates to their corporate blog, and then using those tweets to generate conversation about the brand as a whole. A good example is GM, who uses Twitter to collect feedback and announce posts from its various blogs (there are seven total). Similarly, Allstate posts links to notable discussions in their customer Forum.

AT&T, HP, and Wachovia are using a similar, but interestingly different, strategy – AT&T doesn’t have a blog. AT&T uses Twitter to announce its press releases when they are posted on its website. It’s interesting to me because I typically think of corporate social media tool adoption as a stepping stone approach. Start with a blog – a fairly established tool that many successful companies are using effectively – and then build on it with auxiliary, more experimental tools like Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. This is another example where the low barrier to entry comes into play to Twitter’s advantage.

There are also Special Event Twitter feeds – like HP‘s feed on the 2008 Blogher conference and IBM’s Pulse event feed, which update event goers on the latest news surrounding an event, and are an easy way to provide live updates during an event.


Then there are those like State Farm, Disney, and Sprint, whose Twitter feeds are there own subcommunity (instead of an offshoot of another tool). These feeds share video, news stories, and latest updates with links on and off the corporate site.

Another example of this type are Twitter feeds that focus primarily on responding to customer feedback – Like Home Depot, Verizon, and Tyson.

Then there are the feeds that focus on even smaller, niche groups, like Motorola, who posts Deals and Tips for the tech savvy Motorola user. IBM and Dell have multiple Twitter accounts for multiple promotions, events, audiences.

What does it mean?

Because there is such a low barrier to entry, the Fortune 100 are at least considering Twitter as a possible tool more often than corporate blogging. The “toe in the water” approach to get started with Twitter is to set up a Twitter feed as a supplement to an existing community – to quickly add another way for the community to interact with your brand. More sophisticated approaches include using Twitter to spark a subcommunity that lives and breathes on Twitter, and reaches others who might not otherwise get your message.

Only the beginning

Twitter is just the start. What about Digg? Delicious? LinkedIn? Facebook? Each of these tools could be considered separately – and by the time we got through the list, we would have to start over because of the amount of innovation surrounding these tools every day. But those are other blog posts for another day.

Who do you think is using Twitter best? Is there a common theme or industry among successful corporate users? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

3 Comments to “Who’s really using all these tools?”

  1. As with any company, it’s a matter of figuring out how you’re going to measure your success. For the most part, I believe social networks are important but they do not supersede how our company gets leads and retains our current employees. As such, I don’t value our time as much on a social network as I would blogging about our products and services.

    By Douglas Karr on November 3rd, 2008 at 2:03 pm
  2. I agree completely. It’s not about social media for social media’s sake – it’s about using these tools to supplement your business and unique business goals… whether that means selling more widgets or getting more customer feedback or maintaining more current customers.

    By Caitlin Kaluza on November 3rd, 2008 at 2:27 pm
  3. The great thing about having so many options is that not everyone participates naturally the same way. Some may naturally think in terms of short comment/micro-blogging and some may best express themselves in photos. Then, there are some of us who don’t mind writing in a more lengthy and narrative form. The bottom line is that there’s something for everyone….and for some, there are multiple facilities — Then aggregation brings the power of subject matter specificity to the forefront. This is only the beginning!

    By Chris Ronan on November 15th, 2008 at 2:52 pm

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