Fortune 500 Social Media Research: How To Make Your Business Succeed

fortune 500 social media researchWhen 496 of the Fortune 500 companies have a social media presence, your organization should too!

Before you tell me that you’re a solopreneur or part of small business team, save your breath.

While the size of your business may keep you from spending money on the latest cutting edge trends since they may leave you in the red…

But, for your business to remain visible and viable, you must follow key business practices. 

If you’re part of a small organization, substitute time and social media planning for deep pockets.

With more financial and headcount resources, Fortune 500 companies can test the power and uses of social media networks. Learn from their investments to maximize your business success.

UMass Dartmouth research fills this need. They have tracked  Fortune 500 use of social media since 2008. This longitudinal study provides insights for businesses of any size.

So let’s examine this data to understand how your business can improve its social media.


Fortune 500 Social Media Research

For Fortune 500 companies, social media use is a must-have!

According to UMass Dartmouth’s 2018 Fortune 500 Social Media Research, less than 1% of Fortune 500 companies have no social media presence. These 4 companies rank in the bottom quarter of the Fortune 500.

As industry directories have transformed into other options, business recognition requires at least one social media presence.

Based on the UMass Dartmouth’s 2018 Fortune 500 Social Media Research, companies use a mix of 7 social media networks.

2018 Fortune 500 Social Media Use – Chart via UMass Dartmouth Research

Here are the social media platform specifics:

  • 98% of Fortune 500 companies use LinkedIn. As the only professional social media platform, LinkedIn remains a business must-have. Beyond marketing, LinkedIn supports human resource, sales and business development.
  • 91% of Fortune 500 companies use Twitter.
  • 89% of Fortune 500 companies use Facebook. Over time, organizations have accepted Facebook’s value beyond B2C.
  • 77% of Fortune 500 companies use YouTube.
  • 63% of Fortune 500 companies use Instagram. Although use of Instagram increased 10 percentage points from 2017, recent management departures are expected to add uncertainly and costs.
  • 52% of Fortune 500 companies have at least one blog. Overall blog usage increased 11 percentage points from 2017. Further as organic shares and referral traffic continue declining, blogs gain traction as owned media.
  • 32% of Fortune 500 companies use Pinterest. Based on the low usage, Pinterest provides astute businesses with a social media opportunity. Further it has search implications.

Fortune 500 social media use by platform remained consistent between 2017 and 2018, except for blogs and Instagram.


Fortune 500 Social Media Research: Follower Caveat

UMass Dartmouth’s Fortune 500 Social Media Research tracks easily observable data. Among the factors the research includes are follower counts and likes.

From a business perspective, these vanity metrics reveal little useful information. Further, they’re vulnerable to both internal and external manipulation.

To provide trustworthy information, we ignored UMass Dartmouth’s follower counts in this analysis.

Despite Twitter’s removal of fake accounts earlier this year, Twitter followings remain questionable based on Rand Fishkin of Sparktoro’s study of Twitter accounts of high profile US politicians. He found issues with bots and fake accounts. Sparktoro’s tool uses 7 to 10 different attributes.

Sparktoro’s analysis of the Twitter accounts of top US politicians- Chart

BTW, you can use Sparktoro’s Fake Follower tool for free.


Fortune 500 Social Media Research: 5 Ways To Make Your Business Succeed

Regardless of your business size and number of employees, you can improve your social media use based on UMass Dartmouth’s Fortune 500 Social Media Research.

Based on this research, here are 5 ways your business can use social media to succeed.


1. Think social media location, location, location

To be competitive your business needs a social media presence on key platforms to: 

  • Be visible where your competitors and substitute offerings are. Otherwise, you’re out of sight, out of mind!
  • Enter into the consideration set for prospects, customers, purchase influencers, end users and past customers.

Face itOnly 4 Fortune 500 businesses LACK any social media presence.

Since Americans 18+ spend an average of 45 minutes per day on social media according to Nielsen, your business must be present to be findable.Click To Tweet


Social Media Research Chart

Amount of time per day American adults spend on social media – Nielsen Chart


Actionable Social Media Tips:

  • At a minimum, claim your business name and related page across platforms. Remember your business name is a key element of your branding. Therefore keep it consistent across platforms, where possible.
  • Additionally use your business’s social media location as a billboard. To route visitors to other contact points, include your name, physical location, URL, business hours and phone number. Bear in mind that people who use social media expect timely responses!


2. Produce social media content

Most social media platforms provide tools for creating one or more content formats. For example, Instagram added IGTV.

Regardless of business’s size, take advantage of social media’s content creation opportunities to:

  • Attract audience attention. To expand your business visibility, include non-text formats such as visuals, video, audio and presentations.
  • Support search visibility. Both social share and social media content aid visibility. Some platforms, namely YouTube and Pinterest, act like search engines.
  • Build thought leadership. By creating content on social media, your business becomes known for key topics.

By platform, use these content formats:

  • Facebook: Provides real time video creation. Additionally Facebook allows members to share text, links, visuals and video. Also it offers one-to-one communications.
  • Twitter: Supports short text content creation with the addition of links, visuals and video. Additionally it offers one-to-one communications.
  • LinkedIn: Provides a platform for long form text and allows text, link, visuals and videos sharing. (Note: Presentations can be shared via Slideshare. But its future remains unclear.) Also members can communicate one-to-one.
  • YouTube: Remains video-based.
  • Instagram: Allows photo and video sharing.
  • Pinterest: Allows shared visuals including photos.
  • Blogs: Fuels creation and delivery of long form text, visuals, videos, audio and presentations.

Actionable Social Media Tips:

  • Make your social media content contextually relevant. One size fits all doesn’t work on social media. Instead re-envision your content to aligned it with each platform’s specifications.
  • Create related content formats at the same time as your major content efforts to minimize costs by creating this content at one time.


3. Use social media to support marketing promotion

Like other media, you can use social media to support marketing promotion. (BTW, to help you, here’s how media is defined.)

  • Extend content distribution to ignite, fuel and spread your content over time. To maximize your distribution success on social media, use tracking such as UTMs to provide granular information.
  • Supplement marketing promotion with paid social media advertising. With reduced organic social media reach, supplement your social media activity with paid advertising.
Maximize your social media reach by earning your audience’s attention since social media fly-bys for content distribution are a no-no. #socialmediaClick To Tweet


Actionable Social Media Tips:

  • Batch create social shares for content distribution tailored by platform. Specifically this refers to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Where appropriate augment existing content with new tailored share content as Aaron Orendorff did on LinkedIn. 

    Aaron Orendorff increased social sharing by adding new LinkedIn Video to promote republished article

  • Schedule social media shares for at least the first month following publication as recommended by CoSchedule. Also use tools like AgoraPulse, Hootsuite and Buffer.

    Sample of CoSchedule’s first month post-publication social media calendar

  • Republish content on LinkedIn Publishing and Medium to expand your reach.
  • Spotlight your product offering. Use photos, visuals and video to provide detailed information on your products. Where possible use Buy Now buttons.
  • Invest in advertising to augment organic reach. For platforms like Facebook, it’s one of the key ways to gather insights into their user data.
  • Allocate budget to test different presentations and platforms.
  • Always include at least one call-to-action. Don’t miss an opportunity to drive readers further into your content or offering.


4. Communicate with social media to support your business

Unlike other forms of media, social media allows participants, both people and businesses, to communicate in 3 directions:

  • One-to-Many Communications. A single source broadcasts a message to a broad audience, for example, broadcast television.
  • One-to-One Communications. This is the basis of most personal exchanges such as face-to-face. Further, direct marketing uses this approach when a company sends a personally tailored message to a prospect or customer.
  • Many-to-Many Communications. Social media allows communications to go from many people to many people at the same time. Twitter Chats are a great example.

Further, social media allows both real time and asynchronous communications.

From a business perspective, use social media communications to:

  • Distribute brand messages. But avoid using social media to only plaster promotions and self-serving communications!
  • Provide real-time and time-sensitive messages. Since social media provides real time media, it’s the first place people turn for news from gate changes in an airport to emergencies.
  • Respond to individual requests. Customers and prospects use social media to ask questions and find information. At a minimum, be prepared to provide timely answers since participants expect real-time responses. 

Actionable Social Media Tips:

  • Provide social media training to ensure that employees understand how to communicate on social media as well as how to escalate problems. At a minimum, include customer service representatives and other front line employees.
  • Set visitor response expectations. Since social media operates 24/7 globally, let visitors know when you’re available by timezone.
  • Monitor social media to provide quick responses when necessary.
  • Have procedures for escalating problems. Include the ability to provide relevant decision-making authority before you have a full-blown PR crisis. Remember everyone with a smartphone can capture video and upload it.


5. Builds community with social media

While engaging on social media remains a key goal, without focus or a plan, connecting with participants yields limited measurable results.

From a business perspective, your social media activity supports the following:

  • Build communities. These can be private or public. Also, they can consist of peers or customers.
  • Develop influencer relationships. By interacting with influencers in your category, you can deepen your business relations with the key thought leaders in your field as well as with micro-influencers who sway purchase decisions.

Among the top social media platforms for building community are:

  • Facebook Groups
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Secondary content sharing platforms like Reddit and Growth Hackers
  • Slack

Actionable Social Media Tips:

  • Provide resources to support and manage your social media communities. Communities don’t just develop. They require on-going caring and feeding. For example, Susan Moeller and Nayda Khoja’s Facebook Group, Women In Content Marketing, requires a few hours per week to manage.
  • Define the key mission and guidelines for your community. Ideally your community should stand for more than just a place where you can post your marketing promotions.
  • Extend real life relationships online. Create private groups to keep the discussion going. This can be part of a paid product.
  • Get your community to contribute to your content marketing. For example, Spin Sucks’s Gini Dietrich uses Slack Groups to drive Friday’s Big Question column. Note: They link out to their members.

    Spin Sucks asks a question in its Slack group and then compiles it into a post.


Fortune 500 Social Media Research Conclusion

If 99% of the Fortune 500 use social media, your business should too.

Regardless of your business size, this means you! 

Yes, even if you’re a solopreneur where every penny and minute count.

Even though social media no longer provides David versus Goliath advantages, you can no longer risk being invisible to potential prospects and other business opportunities.

To minimize your resource use while yielding maximum benefit, include these 5 ways to succeed on social media in your marketing and business plans.

Even better, document and distribute them across your organization to get everyone on the same page. Doing this will streamline processes and reduce one-off efforts.

Go on take these steps.

Remember–If you don’t your competitors and potential upstarts will infringe on your opportunity.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and Google+.


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