A profile of social media use by Fortune 500 and Inc. 500 Corporations.

Author:Ratliff, Janet M.
 
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INTRODUCTION

Social media, a general term for Web 2.0 technology, which allows consumer-generated content include blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, as well as social network sites (SNS) such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, or YouTube (Stuart, 2009). Early social media included blogs, RSS feeds and wikis and provided the means/technology for companies to communicate to and with customers and consumers quickly. Later social network sites "recruited" consumers to create personal profiles and share information with friends and family. Since inception, social network sites (SNSs) have attracted millions of users and become a part of their everyday life (Boyd & Ellison, 2008). What is unique for SNSs is the public posting of consumer information, including likes, dislikes as well as comments on brands, products and companies for other SNS members to view. From the corporate perspective, social media and SNS are effective in building brand awareness, generating word of mouth, and providing opportunities for specialized promotions (Hoffman & Fodor, 2010). The power of social media is in generating engagement and the opportunities to develop links with customers that has led to company and corporate participation in social media.

Different social media and social network sites may be more applicable for different consumers, industry, and corporate goals and strategy. For example, Cohen (2009) identifies LinkedIn as a social network site (SNS) and sees it as a good networking tool, while he views YouTube a good social media website. Furthermore, Cohen identified Twitter and Facebook as Web 2.0 sites with the whole package, as they have characteristics of both general social media, as well as being considered SNS. In fact, he goes on to explain that Facebook is primarily a networking site, but because it devotes so much of its layout to a space that allows individuals to include their own materials, it is perfect for media as well. Older social media, such as blogs and RSS feeds were originally used to provide news and frequently updated information. Today, these media are still appropriate for many corporate applications, such as news feeds (RSS) to financial customers. YouTube has long been a common source of video instruction, humor, special-interest subjects, as well as archived video content. This also provides a platform for corporate education and information broadcast which is enhanced using video content.

The purpose of this study is to examine the adoption of social media and social network sites (SNS) of major corporations appearing on the Fortune 500 and Inc. 500 lists of 2011. For the purposes of this study, the term social networking sites will be utilized to identify the following social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, RSS Feeds, Blogs, and YouTube. Four of the social network sites mentioned in the study, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn are considered among the top social networks (Kumar & Sundaram, 2012).

CORPORATE BENEFITS OF SOCIAL NETWORK SITES

Social media and social networks are driven by discussions and conversations. Thus social media provide a good venue for supporting the classic goal of corporate marketing and communication (Edosomwan, Prakasan, Kouame, Watson, & Seymour, 2011). Social media can support brand building as well as company reputation. Furthermore, the use of social media supports collaborative communication between current and potential customers, receiving customer feedback, and providing customer service and support. The key factor for success of social media is conversations. The fact that social media provide the ability to reach customers at multiple touch points, rather than through one channel (Quinton, 2011), is the most often cited benefit of social media adoption, according to 85% of the respondents to a survey conducted by Chief Marketer (chiefmarketer.com). Survey respondents indicated their target customers are spending increasing amounts of time in these channels. One significant aim for social media is to drive traffic to a brand website, with 15% of the survey respondents acquiring their web traffic from social media. The use of social media seems to be especially advantageous for small and medium-size enterprises (Pentina, Koh, & Le, 2012), due to moderate costs, and the flexibility with which smaller organizations can adapt social media for both marketing and new product development.

GROWTH AND ADOPTION OF SOCIAL NETWORK SITES

In 2011 Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs were the top four social media tools used by marketers, in that order (Stelzner, 2011). Larger businesses were more likely to use YouTube or other video platforms, and less likely to use blogs. For companies employing SMM for twelve months or less, Facebook and Twitter were the top two choices, while only three-percent indicated they did not plan to use Facebook. The continued recent growth of Facebook might be termed a phenomenon. eMarketer estimated that US growth for Facebook users was almost 39% in 2010 ("Facebook's US User Growth Slows but Twitter Sees Double-Digit Gains," 2012). However, it is predicted this growth will plateau, with 116.8 million US internet users logging on to the site at least once a month. Predictions for 2012 indicate the growth rate for Facebook will fall to single digits. However, Facebook is by far the most common channel for social marketing (Quinton, 2011), with over 90% using Facebook for marketing campaigns, either on their brand page or via Facebook apps. Facebook had reached nearly 133 million US internet users by the end of 2011, with predictions it will surpass 150 million by 2014.

Quinton (2011) reported a large increase in the use of Twitter from 2010 (50%) to 2011, with more than three-fourths (77%) of companies surveyed using the platform to reach their audience, while another 15% planned to incorporate Twitter in 2011. Twitter growth remains strong, in fact recently overtaking Facebook growth ("Facebook's US User Growth Slows but Twitter Sees Double-Digit Gains," 2012). In 2011, the growth rate reported was almost 32%, with expectations it will remain nearly four times greater than Facebook's growth rate in 2014. The percentage growth rate is based on Twitter's current small base of users, with a US user base of less than 24 million the end of 2011. eMarketer predicts that Twitter will double its US user base between 2010 and 2014, reaching more than 37 million microbloggers. Twitter may have tipped beyond the point of early adoption, (Pentina et al., 2012), since the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report indicated that large businesses are the most likely to increase Twitter activities (Stelzner, 2011). Given recent growth trends in social media, the question arises, is there a difference in the adoption of specific social networks by Fortune 500 versus Inc. 500 companies, since Fortune 500 corporations are older, larger and more financially mature, whereas Inc. 500 corporations are younger, rapidly growing and developing?

B2B marketers are slightly more likely to use LinkedIn (86%) than Facebook (85%) (Quinton, 2011). This is also supported by Stelzner (2011), with 71% of B2B more likely to increase their use of LinkedIn, as well as 68% of those who were self-employed (Stelzner, 2011). Dyrud (2011) reported that in business, primarily LinkedIn was used to manage professional images and network with one another as professionals. YouTube and video marketing may have more importance for B2C companies, rather than B2B, (Quinton, 2011) while it is currently used by almost two-thirds (61%) of those surveyed. Stelzner (2011) in the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report indicated that more than three-fourths of those surveyed, planned to increase their use of YouTube and video marketing and that...

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