Fortune 500 use of blogs 2017

When Is a Blog No Longer a Blog?

Blogs are staging a comeback among the largest companies, according to the latest study of Fortune 500 social media usage. In its annual review, UMass-Dartmouth found that blog usage by the F500 has doubled in just two years to 42% from a low of 21% in 2015.

What constitutes a blog, has changed, though, and not necessarily for the better. It’s also troubling to find that more companies are closing off comments, thus eliminating an important channel for engagement with customers and prospects.

Blogs as Product Plugs

The study found that many companies are simply using their blogs interchangeably with press releases in their newsrooms. These releases tout the company’s products and services.

Nora Gaines Barnes, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and co-author of the study told me, “Blogs are the most mature social channel and the only social media tool under the complete control of a company.

“Yet creeping in are stories of the latest product, probably to get a larger audience. I think that is diluting intention of the tool. This is moving away from the mission of the blog, which is about thought leadership.”

Also troubling is that only about half of the F500 continue to allow comments.

Fortune 500 not allowing blog comments

While the study didn’t explain why it’s easy to speculate that companies don’t want to invest the time and resources that it takes to engage with readers.

Too many organizations still view social media specialists as an expense. Often the task of managing a blog and responding to comments is one more responsibility for an already over-burdened marketing staff.

Once again, LinkedIn is the most favored social media channel with 98% usage. Twitter ranks second. In spite of Twitter’s struggle to monetize its platform, it is the favored medium for fast-breaking news and commentary.

Fortune 500 social media usage 2017

Instead of blogs, the F500 are turning to other platforms for customer engagement. Twitter recently announced that it was doubling the number of characters for a post from 140 to 280, thus enabling companies to more fully engage with their followers on this microblog.

The trend towards the use of more visual social channels is also growing. Although the top social networking platforms of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter remain strong, other social networking platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat are becoming a growing part of the mix.

Key Study Findings

  • Three-quarters of the F500 are now using YouTube as a social networking platform
  • Instagram continues to grow rapidly, jumping up another 8% this year
  • LinkedIn remains the number one most used social networking site since the study began recording its usage in 2014, currently at 98%
  • Active Google+ usage was cut in half
  • Blogging increased 6%, going from 36% to 42%

Just as last year, these successful companies are adopting Instagram at a record pace, and are active in posting, using hashtags and replying to comments. They are using Snapchat in the same ways as Instagram: to inform consumers and promote products, as well as to make a name for themselves, especially if they are a newer or lesser known company.

The F500 continues to experiment with new social channels, adapting their communications strategies to go online where their customers are.

That’s all to the good, but without a true corporate blog, where will the company showcase its thought leadership?

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Comments

  1. Great post, Jeannette. I agree that too many companies are just using their ‘blog’ as a place to feature products. No stories or conversation involved. I don’t like that.

    And it’s very interesting to learn that G+ usage has been cut in half! I’ve noticed that my own G+ traffic and interactions have dropped and I was thinking it was my problem. Now I know I’m just part of the trend. 🙂

    • Doreen — Blogs have a special place in a company’s communications strategy. I hate to see their importance diluted by over-commercialization.

  2. Fascinating Jeannette! Considering the number of mainstream bloggers who have shut off comments in the past couple of years I can’t say I’m surprised that it wouldn’t be embraced in the corporate world. It is interesting to see the trends in which platforms are being used. Like Doreen, I’ve seen a drop in Google+ activity though surprisingly Pinterest has grown for me. It’s never been a priority for me but it seems my images are being pinned enough to attract followers.

    As far as the content on blogs, the number of people using blogs to promote products has surely continued to grow. I attempted to read a blog post this morning and finally gave up because there were so many moving ads, pop-ups, and no less than 3 ads inserted into the post. Bah humbug! 🙂 Thanks for the interesting read.

    • Marquita — it is unfortunate that the pure blog is disappearing. It’s one thing for a corporation to shut down comments, but it is sad when the leading bloggers do the same thing. A blog is designed to elicit strong feelings about a topic and jumpstart a conversation with readers. Alas, I guess that doesn’t seem important anymore.

  3. Interesting article, Jeannette. Most likely Twitter will be used more now that it’s possible to use 280 characters. Can’t help reflecting that a lot of companies with a blog are not thought leaders. For my university studies I read an article about how mission/vision statements are used i.e. to protect the image a company wants to project. If what they write is true or not is another matter. The same can be said about blogs showing thought leadership.

    • Interesting point, Catarina. Unfortunately, too many people (one shall remain unnamed) don’t believe that facts are facts. So maybe companies feel they can get away with stretching the truth when they see other companies and people getting away with it.

  4. Communication is required in a blog – not only graphics and photographs. A blog is a tool for connecting with people therefore words are most appropriate. In my organisation the CEO circulates regular blogs to employees. It makes employees feel valued and included in changes which are will impact on their lives in one way or another.

    Interesting to know LinkedIn is the most popular form of social media. I spend more time on LI than FB and Instagram.

    • Phoenicia — I agree, that a blog is for connecting with people and not trying to sell them something. I admire your CEO — you’re lucky to work for someone so enlightened!

  5. Interesting stats, Jeannette. We’re already so overwhelmed with social media that the idea of companies invading blogs–without accepting comments–is too much. I cry: Ugh. And will be watching to see what happens next.

  6. With this ever changing internet, and everyone competing for customers and audiences, you cannot ignore any aspect of promotion. If you miss one aspect, someone else will replace you.
    As for me, I used it to provide educational information, but when my novel is available, my blog is a vital part of that promotion.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • William — blogging to educate is a noble undertaking, in my view. Look forward to reading your posts about your novel.

    • Bola – yes, blogs are a perfect tool for interacting with customers and to promote new ideas. Sad, if companies to start to use them simply for promoting their products and services.