The latest study into social media activity among Fortune 500 companies, fresh from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts, is remarkable mainly for revealing the unexpected.
While 23% of the F500 companies now have a public-facing corporate blog against 16% when the study first came out in 2008, it’s only a 1% increase on last year’s figure, suggesting a slowdown in the battle of the blogs.
And while a third of all blogs among the F500 fall within the top 100 companies, this group has also seen the biggest decline in blog usage, down from 39% to 32% year on year.
While the study hailed blog activity across the F500 as a truly interactive exercise, its companies lag behind the occupants of the Inc.500 list of the fastest growing US private companies, 45% of which have an active corporate blog.
However, blogs aside, corporate adoption of other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook paints a very different picture: 60% of the F500 have an official Twitter account (up 35% on last year) with – according to the study – a high level of interaction with other users. Meanwhile, Facebook now features 56% of corporate America’s leading businesses.
So, what does it mean? This decline in blog activity could reflect the sometimes Herculean effort it takes to maintain a flow of compelling and hard-working (i.e., richly-linked and optimised) blog content. If blog content creation is not an effective mixture of planned posts plus material reacting to a breaking sector topic, it can quickly lose its way and its audience. And if internal ownership of the blog is vague, stasis tends to result.
But is this wrong?
Online marketing consultant, Chris Kieff, seems to think so: in his Social Media Today blog post he asserts that this is a “lack of commitment of these Fortune 500 companies to become engaged, transparent and authentic with their communities in social media” because “blogging also naturally promotes a deeper discourse with comments of substance that would have to be addressed. In simple terms it’s harder to hide when you blog, compared to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.”
While you would expect PR Media Blog to concur with the value of blogging, I think Chris Kieff is wrong to suggest that working in other social media platforms is less “engaged, transparent and authentic”. On the contrary, Twitter and Facebook have the potential to engender a dialogue that many blog comment sections would kill for. Equally, Twitter and Facebook don’t require the posting of new content by a brand for customers to kick off a conversation, whereas a blog needs that regularly refreshed content to inspire engagement. Without it, discussion dries up quickly.
And as far as transparency goes, a blog-based discussion will often remain within its digital walls, unless either owner or commenter has the desire to take it beyond. Meanwhile, the highly versatile sharing capabilities of both Twitter and Facebook mean a debate can literally go viral in seconds.
Clearly, there’s room for all methods of social media interaction. And if the F500 has decided to scale back its blogging, you’d hope it was done on the basis of analytical evidence that the return on effort wasn’t worth it. It might suggest that less is more in the depth of editorial content required by social media consumers.
Whatever the reasons, you can be sure any marketing method failing to provide a tangible return for business will not last long.