Latest Study: How The Fortune 100 Are Using Twitter

Originally written by Jeff Bullas

I have recently been reviewing social media in a general sense so a new study by Weber Shandwick on Twitter that I came across was an opportunity to provide a more specific social media channel review about Twitter, that looks at the current use by the Fortune 100 and how they are currently implementing Twitter across their companies.
Twitter is quite often dismissed by a lot of people as a platform that broadcasts inane pointless babble and conversations about, “what you had for breakfast” or “your weekend activities”. Most people are starting to realise that Twitter can be used for your business or brand in ways that are only limited by your creativity. Two other recent studies showed that the Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies and the Top 200 Non Profits in the USA were the leaders in their use of Social Media and Twitter as compared to the Fortune 500.
The major finding in essence, was that the Fortune 100 are really not utilizing Twitters full potential to engage, communicate, promote their brand and promote and drive a position of being a thought leader in their industry amongst many other shortcomings. So here are some rather telling statistics, facts and figures that show their sins of omission rather than a compelling example of best practice.

  1.     73 percent of Fortune 100 companies registered a total of 540 Twitter accounts.
  2.     About three-quarters (76 percent) of those accounts did not post tweets very often.
  3.     More than half (52 percent) were not actively engaged (This was measured by engagement metrics such as numbers of links, hashtags, references and retweets.)
  4.     50 percent of the Fortune 100 accounts had fewer than 500 followers, a small number in relation to the size and reach of a major corporation.
  5.     15 percent were inactive; of those,11 percent were merely placeholder accounts — unused accounts to protect corporate names against so-called brand-jacking on Twitter — and 4 percent were abandoned after being used for a specific event.
  6.     26 percent of their Twitter accounts were primarily used as a one-way flow of information (either by RSSnews feeds or manual tweets) that offered no engagement with followers.
  7.     Tweets did not provide opinions or encourage discussions.This contradicts the value of Twitter as a two-way dialogue to build relationships with customers and advocates.
  8.     A sizeable 24 percent of the Twitter accounts were primarily used for brand awareness.
  9.     Many appeared to be on Twitter simply to have an online presence.
  10.     They did not use the platform to reach out to the community and demonstrate that their brand is a trusted source of valuable information, a business that not only talks but also listens to customers.
  11.     Surprisingly, only 16 percent of the Fortune 100 accounts were used mainly as sales vehicles for company products and services.Other companies did not appear to understand that sales growth can be achieved by posting special Twitter offers, coupons, limited bargains and sales prices, or by searching for customers who mention a company product and reaching out to them to build a relationship.
  12.     Customer service was the focus of only 9 percent of the accounts; it is highly likely that these companies are worried about corporate reputation — posts that might be damaging to a brand.In addition, success requires a commitment to respond “quickly to customer queries, suggestions or complaints. Note: According to Twitter’s own best practices, “your reply should come within a day, if not within hours”.
  13.     “Thought leadership appeared to be the least prominent Twitter strategy by Fortune 100 companies, with only 8 percent focused on it. Corporate reputation and authority can be extended onto Twitter, but are most effective only after thought leadership is demonstrated in newspapers, trade publications or recognized by analysts and bloggers. This I think demonstrates the blog and website as your  “home base” and Twitter as your one of your “Outposts”
  14.     Finally, another 14 percent of accounts were used for other reasons such as recruitment or employee-specific information, or their accounts were locked and not visible.These companies were unable to build relationships with interested communities.

It was interesting to observe that best practices were not followed by most of the Fortune 100 accounts examined by Weber Shandwick study with the following being the major Twitter sins.

  •     Few followers: Half of those accounts had fewer than 500 followers, while
  •     More than half did not meet engagement metrics that were analyzed in Twitalyzer (e.g.numbers of links, hashtags, references and retweets)
  •     Three-quarters (76 percent) of those accounts posted fewer than 500 tweets.This indicates either a lack of engagement by many companies with their followers, or newly established accounts that haven’t yet started using the platform to build relationships.
  •     Twenty-four percent of the Twitter accounts were primarily used for brand awareness; however many of them appeared to be on Twitter simply to have an online presence

This falls short of the opportunity that Twitter offers as a valuable communications channel and strategic social network.For those companies what are the activities that they should pursue?

Create a companywide engagement strategy; a set of guidelines with best practices
Demonstrate a consistent and comprehensive brand presence
Build a dialogue that paves the way to new relationships with customers and advocates
Generate loyalty among new and existing communities
To maximize the benefits of Twitter, companies should
offer opinions and encourage discussions
reach out to their communities of customers and advocates
build relationships with new customers and look for untapped supporters.

Weber Shandwick prescribed five essential steps as a starting point for Fortune 100 companies to create true engagement and market interaction on Twitter:

1.Listen to conversations

2.Participate in conversations

3.Update frequently with valuable information

4.Reply to people who talk about issues that are important to your company

5.Retweet relevant conversations

So here are “7  Twitter Best Practices” from the study revealing that in the majority, the Fortune 100 were not implementing

Listen to and monitor conversations
Participate in conversations instead of just listening
Provide frequent updates with valuable information that can demonstrate thought leadership.
Have a large number of followers
Reply to people who talk about issues that are important to them rather than sit on the sidelines
Retweet those conversations which can help promote the brand
Reply or refer to other accounts with @username, and in turn, they are referred to by other accounts.

By following the best “7 Best Practices”, Twitter can be used by businesses for many purposes, as its value differs for each company. If best practices are followed, businesses can

Promote and distribute their news in a very cost efficient manner “World Wide” or “Locally”.
Broadcast their products and services offerings with a wider audience
Increase brand awareness,
Gain new customers
Boost sales
Provide customer service.
Demonstrate “thought Leadership

Conclusion

For the majority of Fortune 100 companies, Twitter remains a missed opportunity. Many of their Twitter accounts, examined by Weber Shandwick, did not appear to listen to or engage with their readers, instead offering a one-way broadcast of press releases, company blog posts and event information.

The number of active Twitter users in the United States already exceeds 20 million and can be expected to continue to grow.This is a massive human database to tap, companies that understand the value of Twitter can benefit from its potential as a viable engagement platform. A majority of Fortune 100 companies are not using Twitter for its intended benefit: to create meaningful connections and relationships with customers, potential advocates, media and other business contacts.

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Posted October 10, 2011 by Ben Martin - Social_Ben in category Social Media, Twitter

About the Author

I am a gadget man, a film lover, Husband and proud father and not least proud to be an IBM'er. Currently working across the globe helping seller to create better connections with clients through the use of Social Media. Please feel free to contact me if I can help I will. (my opinions are of course - my own)

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