2015 Fortune 500 Social Media Use [Research]

Social Media: What You Can Learn From The Fortune 500

Father and son learning to ride a bike! | Flickr - Photo Sharing!2015 Fortune 500 social media use research yields insights into what’s working and what’s not for the big companies.

But don’t assume your small firm can’t benefit from this research as well.

Unlike smaller, less well-funded firms and organizations, the largest publicly owned US corporations have mega marketing budgets and headcount for existing marketing programs as well as the resources to test the newest innovations.

Instead look for the opportunities that smaller, nimble “David” type companies can take advantage of.

Since 2008 the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (aka UMass Dartmouth) annually analyzes Fortune 500 and Inc 500 social media activity.

Social Media Use by Fortune 500 in 2015 -Research by UMass Dartmouth

Social Media Use by Fortune 500 in 2015 -Research by UMass Dartmouth

UMass Dartmouth social media presence definition: a Fortune 500 company has a social media presence if the primary corporation had an active account (i.e. activity within the past 30 days).

  • Only focused on public facing social media as an indicator of using social media to engage with the public and others.
  • Excluded internal, divisional, product line or brand specific social media use.

This definition limits research complexities associated with tracking corporate structures and clarifying subdivisions.

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9 of the 2015 Fortune 500 didn’t use social media platforms based on this definition.

  • A-Mark Precious Metals
  • Berkshire Hathaway
  • CenterPoint Energy
  • Franklin Resources
  • Icahn Enterprises
  • Liberty Interactive
  • Old Republic International
  • PBF Energy
  • Wynn Resorts

Although a quick Google search revealed that Geico, an insurance company owned by Berkshire Hathaway and Wynn Las Vegas, a hotel owned by Wynn Resorts, both have Facebook pages.

Active Facebook Page for Wynn Las Vegas

Active Facebook Page for Wynn Las Vegas

Get the 2015 Social Media Checklist


2015 Fortune 500 Social Media Use

Here’s what you can learn from the way the Fortune 500 use social media in 2015.

Just as fathers teach kids to ride bicycles, you can learn social media from what the Fortune 500 do.

Just as fathers teach kids to ride bicycles, you can learn social media from what the Fortune 500 do.

93% of the Fortune 500 corporations use LinkedIn, down from 97% in 2014.

LinkedIn remains the most popular business social media platform. (Here’s LinkedIn’s roundup of tips.)

This shouldn’t be a surprise. LinkedIn is only social media network focused on professionals. It’s where business connects. LinkedIn is like putting your rolodex (does anyone still own a traditional one any more?) and resume on steroids.

Most businesses and individuals don’t take advantage of this network’s power.  (BTW, here’s my actionable LinkedIn tips .)

Further, LinkedIn Slideshare which changed its branding earlier this year, wasn’t mentioned. It’s a business powerhouse that can take any type of content, collect leads, and provide analytics.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Write content for LinkedIn publishing. Don’t take my word for it; Convince and Convert’s Jay Baer includes it as one of his 8 ways to re-imagine content.
  • Share your firm’s presentations on LinkedIn Slideshare, at a minimum. Dip your marketing toe into this social media powerhouse.

Get the 2015 Social Media Checklist


78% of the Fortune 500 corporations use Twitter, down from 83% in 2014.

Twitter is where companies listen to and engage with their target audiences. It’s also useful for monitoring your competition and watching trends!

  • 8 of the Top 10 corporations consistently post on their Twitter accounts. Further, 85 of the Top 100 corporations have an active Twitter account.
  • 41% of Twitter accounts belong to Top 200 corporations and 37% of Twitter accounts come from corporations ranked in the bottom 200 of the Top 500.
MetLife Is helpful and human on Twitter

MetLife Is helpful and human on Twitter

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Be present on Twitter to monitor the conversation. Listen to and engage with your prospects and customers, influencers, competitors and the public. (Here are 27 Twitter tactics.)
  • Don’t just shout me, me, me. Curate useful information for your followers.
  • Post time-sensitive information, where appropriate. This works well for businesses where late-breaking information is critical such as airlines and customer service.

Get the 2015 Social Media Checklist


74% of the Fortune 500 corporations use Facebook, down from 80% in 2014.

The decline in Fortune 500 Facebook shouldn’t be a surprise. Facebook is where everyone from teens to grandma goes to communicate and engage with family and friends. Your content must be contextually appropriate since you’re competing with personal VIPs.

McDonald's uses work relevant humor to attract attention on Facebook

McDonald’s uses work relevant humor to attract attention on Facebook

While previously Facebook may have been an organization’s only way to reach a global social media savvy audience, that’s no longer the case as sites like LinkedIn continue their global expansion.

For most businesses to maintain Facebook reach, Facebook advertising is required. Depending on the organization, Facebook may not be the best marketing investment.

The upside: Facebook advertising offers a lot of data. To delve deeper into Facebook advertising, read Jon Loomer.

UMass used the number of people who “like” the company as its main measure of engagement. This is relatively passive form of interaction.

Top Fortune 500 Companies on Facebook Based on Likes

Top Fortune 500 Companies on Facebook Based on Likes

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Make sure your Facebook presence is relevant to your followers.

Get the 2015 Social Media Checklist


64% of the Fortune 500 corporations use YouTube, down from 63% in 2014.

Underestimate YouTube at your peril!  

2015 is the year of video. Expect that growth to continue as video takes a bigger chunk of time per day, especially on mobile devices.

Average Time Spent With Video in the US By Device-2015

Average Time Spent With Video in the US By Device-2015

Facebook’s expanded use of video enabled it to pass YouTube. Look deeper at the data and you’ll find that part of Facebook’s video growth is attributable to the fact that Facebook videos start as you scroll by and YouTube requires that the user start them.

Facebook video vs YouTube Video 2014

Video: Facebook VS YouTube

YouTube isn’t just video! YouTube is the second biggest search engine after Google (yes it’s owned by Google!)

Cisco’s Tim Washer has proven that video works for a big, boring company.


Jay Baer transformed his short Jay Today videos into 8 pieces of content. (Here’s the low down on how to create the video and atomize it!)

How Jay Baer Creates His Jay Today Videos

How Jay Baer Creates His Jay Today Videos

Still not sold on YouTube?

Consider that YouTube rockstars create brands and businesses using this platform. Check the 5+ millions of views for Squatty Potty where a unicorn poops rainbow ice cream. It was created by Jeff Harmon, of Orabrush fame.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Add text to your video posting. Maximize search findability.
  • Test different types of video. Try talking heads (like Jay Baer), presentations, man-in-the-street interviews and highly produced ones.

Get the 2015 Social Media Checklist


33% of the Fortune 500 corporations use Google+, down from 38% in 2014

Google+ has languished as a social media platform among Fortune 500 companies. 23% of Fortune 500 firms haven’t activated their Google+ corporate accounts. It’s the only social media network with a significant number of inactive accounts among Fortune 500 organizations. 

This isn’t a surprise since Google isn’t putting resources into the platform.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Stake your Google+ turf. While you should focus your organization’s social media efforts based on resources and results against your goals, make sure that a competitor or angry customer doesn’t squat on your name.

Get the 2015 Social Media Checklist


33% of the Fortune 500 corporations use Instagram, up from 20% in 2014

Instagram was the big winner for Fortune 500 social media platforms. It increased while most of the other social media declined.

Since GE (which tests every new social media platform) was one of the first companies to stake out its turf on Instagram and show the beauty in its products, it’s difficult to claim that your offering doesn’t have a photographic angle.

GE’s Instagram Presence – Almost 200k Followers

GE Instagram Photo of Locomotive By Vincent LaForet

Instagram lets you spotlight your organization’s products, employees, customers and events.

At a minimum, Instagram builds your brand. It’s a mobile-only app and owned by Facebook.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Use hashtags appropriately to enhance your Instagram reach.
  • Encourage your customers to show your product in context. It acts like a product endorsement.

Get the 2015 Social Media Checklist


23% of the Fortune 500 corporations use Pinterest, down from 36% in 2014

Interestingly, UMass didn’t add any commentary on Pinterest. It’s still considered a female ghetto but don’t let that deter you.

  • 85% of all US consumer purchases are made by women.
  • 50% of products marketed to men are actually purchased by women.

Pinterest drives revenue for consumer goods since it’s where women turn for purchase inspiration. (Here’s Pinterest research to help you appreciate how to use it.)

B2B companies like IBM have very active presence on Pinterest.

How IBM Uses Pinterest To Provide Multiple Entryways To Their Company

How IBM Uses Pinterest To Provide Multiple Entryways To Their Company

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Test Pinterest, depending on your target audience.
  • Organize and post your content on Pinterest. It’s the second biggest driver of social traffic for BuzzFeed.

Get the 2015 Social Media Checklist


21% of the Fortune 500 corporations use blogs down from 31% in 2014

Since the 2008 study, Fortune 500 rank is an indicator of blogging. Companies in the top 200 consistently out blog those in the bottom 200. 44% of 2015 blogs belong to the top Fortunate 200 and 38% belong to the Fortune 300 to 499.

Fortune 500 Public Facing Blogs via UMass (Chart)

Fortune 500 Public Facing Blogs via UMass (Chart)

While the percentage of Fortune 500 remains about the same as in 2009, this data is inconsistent with other current research. For example, according to 2016 US Content Research by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs (BTW, here’s a fuller analysis of the 2016 US Content Research with charts!)

While some portion of these respondents may work for smaller, non-Fortune 500 organizations, the difference in reporting is attributable to key 2 reasons:

  • UMass research only examined top-level corporate blogs. The other research includes marketers involved in divisional, product or brand level blogs.
  • Corporate blogs may not be identified specifically as a blog.

73% of active corporate blogs (based on comments, email/RSS subscriptions and last post date) allowed comments on posts down from 78% in 2014. With high profile blogs like Copyblogger closing blog comments, this activity is surprising since senior executives tend to be wary about negative comments.

Actionable Social Media Tip:

  • Start or re-evaluate your firm’s blog to make sure it supports your key business goals. Integrate your blog strategy into your overall marketing and content plans. (Check these 40 actionable blog tips to drive revenues!)

Need blogging help?

Download The Definitive 2015 Blog Checklist


8% of the Fortune 500 corporations use Foursquare in 2015

The extreme decline from 51% in 2014 is attributable to a change from “created” pages to pages businesses have “claimed”. Most likely, these businesses have physical stores or locations that need to attract shoppers.

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What does UMass’s Fortune 500 social media research mean for your organization?

To be competitive your organization needs a LinkedIn presence at least at a top level. LinkedIn is strategically important, not only for attracting social media followers but also for positioning your company among your peers and employees (past, current and future).

Don’t assume declines in social media use mean companies are using less social media in their marketing mix. This research only looks at the top entity of each Fortune 500. As Berkshire Hathway and Wyatt Hotels show, social media use is associated with specific brands, not the holding company.

Social media use is becoming more focused. As this happens, companies and brands will adapt their usage based on platforms that help achieve specific goals with measurable results.

More and more social media investment requires related paid advertising and human investment to maximize results.

Which platforms work best for your organization and why?

Get the 2015 Social Media Checklist

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Photo Credit:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/sahdblunders/8644936719/

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  • Like any marketing tool, if you can prove up an ROI, you can get management to allocate resources to it. It is just difficult sometimes to get the ROI on a “like” or a “share”.