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.
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.
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?