Twitter Still #1 Social Network for Fortune 500 Companies, Study Says

UMass 2013 social media study social media usage Fortune 500Companies in the Fortune 500 accelerated their use of social media tools in 2013, according to the annual study by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Twitter retained its #1 ranking among the Fortune 500 with 77% of companies having an account.

New Tools in the Mix

The Center has expanded the study over the last six years to include the fastest growing social media platforms and tools. This year’s study includes Instagram, Google+, Foursquare and Pinterest, although engagement on these platforms is well below the most popular networks.

LinkedIn wasn’t included in the study, because of feedback from companies that they use LinkedIn for talent acquisition rather than social media or customer engagement. With the introduction of company pages and groups, that may change next year.

The Center also studied the indicators of engagement, such as the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers.

Facebook – which made the Fortune 500 for the first time — has the largest number of fans on that social network. More surprising, Facebook has the largest number of followers on competitor Twitter.

Blogging Grows in Importance

The number of public facing blogs has more than doubled since the first study in in 2008, from 16% to 35%. The study posits that “adoption of this mature social media tool by these great companies signals the return of the online in depth conversation, thought leadership and original content development that was popular a decade ago with early corporate adopters of blogging like IBM and Ford Motors.”

In a conversation with Nora Ganim Barnes, Ph.D., co-author of the study, I asked why she thought blogging was on the increase.

“How exciting to see the steady march to adopt blogging by the wealthiest corporations in the world,” she said. “What respect for our most mature social media tool. It really says that blogging can do something different. Maybe it is an acknowledgement that all things might not be possible in 140 characters or a quick post.”

Key Findings

These were among the most interesting and surprising findings of the study for me:

  • Google+ has been adopted by 35% of the companies but 19% have not yet become active and this is the only social platform where there were a significant number of open, but inactive accounts.
  • 9% of the 2013 Fortune 500 have a corporate Instagram account, the increasingly popular social media tool. However, Ford Motors is the only top 10 company on Instagram. Other adopters include AT&T, Avon and Home Depot.
  • While blogging has increased in popularity, it is most used among the top 200 and less used in the bottom 300. This has been a consistent pattern over the years but the Center doesn’t know why.
  • 59% of the companies using social media link to their tools from their corporate homepages. All the others require additional searching to locate these engagement tools. It is surprising that these behemoths don’t have social media icons on their home pages so that visitors can begin to engage with them on social media.

The infographic below gives many more juicy findings from the study. Visit the 2013 Fortune 500 study of social media usage if you prefer to read the narrative version.

Leave a Reply


  1. Great infographic Jeannette.

    I’m really not surprised about Twitter. There are all kinds of tools available for it that make it so helpful and less time consuming to manage.

    What I am encouraged by is the growth of blogs in the corporate sector.

    Thanks for this valuable information worth studying a bit more.

    • Pat — I’m encouraged by the increase in blogging, too. I think companies are recognizing that they need a more robust social media tool to manage their brands and to establish their authority through lengthier and more nuanced content.

  2. Dan – I agree about social media overload. I think Google+ has a lot of advantages and will grow over time, but nearly as quickly as the early leaders like Facebook. However, Google has the money, the will and the social influence to be in this game for the long haul.

  3. I too think G+ will continue to grow in popularity. Facebook is what it is, and it’s hard to imagine anything being able to replace it. Although their changes related to trying to earn more revenue have really made my fondness lessen. Would I like to boost this post? Would I like to buy some a Starbucks card when I wish them happy birthday? Would I like to pay to get more likes for my author page? It’s just so in the user’s face…

    • Jeri — I have a very passive presence on Facebook. I distribute my posts there and post articles through Buffer. But it’s not my audience so I don’t spend much time there so haven’t been bothered by the advertising.

  4. Have to say that find the results of the study a bit strange.

    America is way ahead of other countries when it comes to social media. So why haven’t the largest companies in your country grasped how to benefit from social media? No company in the world is so big and important they don’t need to use all the tools at their disposal to earn more money.

    At least more of them have started blogging. Glad they have finally discovered the benefits of doing so.

    • Catarina — the thing that really surprised me is that more than 40% of the largest companies don’t even show their social media icons on their home page enabling people to follow the company and interact with it. Sort of boggles the mind.

  5. Social media platforms have gotten a lot more savvy at selling their value and producing useful metrics. Let’s hope this increase in use is a good indication that arguing the importance of social media to the CEO is becoming easier to do. The popularity of blogs makes total sense, aside from the annual report, when has the CEO had a greater opportunity to reach clients and employees. The value of the exchanges that can follow are incredible and the investment cost negligible.

    I think Google+ will catch up with Facebook eventually, but right now it’s still largely perceived as the site no one goes to. People will open an account so that they have a place holder, but not much point doing anything if you think no one can see it. Great post as always.

    • Debra — I agree that a lot of Google+ accounts are just place holders now. But over time no one will be able to ignore that having a Google+ account is going to influence your search results. In fact, it’s happening already.

  6. I know that a lot of people are on twitter, and a lot of people use twitter to broadcast their blogs, websites, promotions, etc. But is anyone actually LISTENING on twitter?

    • Grace — Yes, people are listening on Twitter. Especially companies are listening. As I wrote in last week’s post, more people are turning to the customer service Twitter accounts of companies with their complaints and getting faster service than if they call an 800 number and go through menu hell.

  7. I am not surprised about Twitter. I do think Google+ is going to grow. I don’t use Instagram much but I like it because it is one of the few that post to Instagram, Twitter & Facebook at the same time. One post = 3 social posts. Not bad…

  8. I think Google+ still needs needs a lot more growing. I still don’t think Facebook is all that great for businesses and I am not surprised about Twitter. I think it started when Obama tweeted something and then everyone started to get on the band wagon. I have been reading that blogging is one of the best tools for SEO which may account for its increase. Every time that someone makes a comment on your blog you are basically changing your content which Google loves. It also gives the person you left the comment a back link to their site which Google sees when they crawl your site.

    • Arleen — you’re right that Google does like blogs because they are dynamic. That is, there is fresh content consistently unlike static websites.

  9. I am not that surprised about Twitter because in many ways it is simple to be involved with and they can observe competitors and customers. The other thing about Twitter is it doesn’t have constant changes like Facebook. I also think many companies are still working out which platforms are the best for their brands.

    • Susan — I find Facebook confusing because, as you say, it seems to be always changing. Based on my own experience and others who commented on a recent post, I think more and more companies will be using Twitter to answer customer inquiries and complaints. It works so successfully and makes customers happy to get an almost instantaneous response.

  10. Jeannette, Twitter has been the best for my retail website and Pinterest has really cllimbed up as well. I use them together too. I love the infograph and interesting about Google+ , it seems mostly sites about blogging, SEO and social media are using it to date. I agree with Susan above on Twitter not making many changes often, makes it easier to navigate there 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by Lisa. Interesting take on Google+. When I think about it most of the people singing its praises are social media gurus. However, I have no doubt that being active on G+ will eventually increase your rankings. That’s Google’s intent. To force you into submission! Glad that Twitter and Pinterest are working for you.

  11. Great information Jeannette, thank you! Interestingly Twitter has been a great tool for me as well, especially in meeting experts who have contributed articles for my online magazine. I find conversations easy to engage in on Twitter. Facebook is a close second and I have met some phenomenal people there as well. I’m just getting into Pinterest…Loving it so far and having a lot of fun.. the challenge with all of these is to be efficient and nurture good relationships but don’t lose yourself and your day! It can be a real time suck! I try to allocate a certain amount of time each day to each platform and then focus on all the other aspects of my business 🙂

    • Valerie — you make a point that I have to keep telling myself. Limit my time on social networks. They can, indeed, be a real time suck. One way to allocate your time is to pick the social networks that are right for you. That’s why I’m not very active on Facebook and not at all active on Pinterest.

  12. It makes me feel good that I know more about social media interaction than the big mega companies. The fact they dont have something as simple as the icons to get people to interact is just mind boggling.
    They are a bit slow on the uptake, but I am starting to see more big brands interacting with bloggers, so possibly the results will be very different next year.

    • Yes, Becc, it it surprising that the big brands make it so difficult to interact with their customers — and potential customers. Maybe some companies just don’t think it’s necessary but I think a lot of companies — even the largest ones — are playing catch-up and don’t have the in-house staff yet that is top of social media.