Global giants still adapting to the digital age: study

01 March 2010

NEW YORK: A majority of the world's largest companies are now using social media to engage consumers, but almost all could do so more effectively, Burson-Marsteller has found.

The PR specialist's Global Social Media Check-up covered the top 100 organisations in the Fortune Global 500, equating to 29 firms in the US, 48 in Europe, 20 in Asia Pacific and three in Latin America.

It found that 65% of these businesses had established a presence on Twitter, a total that stood at 54% for Facebook, 50% for YouTube, and 33% for writing in-house blogs.

By region, half of the Asian sample had a corporate blog – making an average of 14 entries a month – compared with 34% in America and 25% in Europe.

In contrast, 72% of US conglomerates were active on Twitter, as were 71% of their counterparts in Europe, and 40% in Asia Pacific.

These figures reached 69%, 52% and 40% respectively for Facebook, and 59%, 52% and 35% in turn with regard to YouTube.

Overall, 79% of the businesses analysed were present on at least one of these platforms, but just 20% used all four to connect with stakeholders.

More specifically, 82% of companies that had a feed on Twitter added a minimum of a "tweet" a week, while the typical account had 1,489 "followers".

Some 59% added fresh material to Facebook in the same timeframe, while 68% had added a clip to YouTube in the last month

When looking at corporations in China, Burson-Marsteller said China Mobile, the telecoms giant, is currently "the most aggressive at using the internet as a marketing tool".

"However, it tends to use its own website and is even constructing its own social network for customers," it added.

Many Japanese firms are also "hesitant", typically employing "traditional" online marketing at home and social media elsewhere, an approach adopted by Sony, Panasonic and Nissan.

Despite this, Sony's PlayStation feed on Twitter was one of the most popular among those analysed, with more than 115,000 followers.

The report concluded that the rise of social media had resulted in "communications anarchy", as control shifted from companies to consumers.

Most of the featured enterprises had "dipped their toes" in social media, some making a "big splash", others a "timid ripple", it continued.

Co-ordination was one key challenge, with the typical firm operating 4.2 Twitter accounts, 2.1 Facebook fan pages and 1.6 YouTube channels, which could confuse netziens.

As such, the study advised that clarity, and producing guidelines for employees, were essential, particularly given incidences of "brand-jacking" by unauthorised users on sites like Twitter.

Data sourced from Burson-Marstellar; additional content by Warc staff