Higher education has retained a dramatic lead when it comes to the use of social media for public communication and service. A recent study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research shows that 100% of responding colleges and universities utilize social media (primarily Facebook) for student recruiting, student communications, and alumni and public outreach. Of the higher education institutions surveyed, 98% have a Facebook page.
Yet a similar November 2011 study by the Center for Marketing Research shows that for the past four years, Fortune 500 companies have lagged behind higher education institutions, charities and Inc. 500 companies when it comes to the adoption and use of social media. According to the study, just 58% of 2011’s Fortune 500 companies have a Facebook page.
Adjusting to the Learning Curve
Recent efforts by many Fortune 500s show that they are working to catch up when it comes to the adoption and management of social media for communication, sales and customer service. This year, retail giant Walmart purchased the social media technology company Kosmix to form the core of Walmart Labs, a new division focused on rolling out technologies around social commerce and media.
On December 1, WalMart launched its first social-networking application called Shopycat which uses Facebook data to recommend gifts to customers. (Click here to read the related TechCrunch article.)
This year, Chevron used LinkedIn to execute a new social media strategy aimed at energy industry influencers and decision makers. The result is a growing target audience of 70,000+ followers and approximately 20,000 group members on the professional networking venue.
Building Awareness through Blogs
Despite the rapid rise of content marketing, only 23% of the corporations on the 2011 Fortune 500 have a public-facing blog with a post in the past 12 months. Higher education earns top honors with 66% of colleges and universities offering an active blog.
The Majority Tweets
Higher education also showed a higher average of participation on Twitter, with 84% of colleges and universities tweeting regularly to followers. Of the Fortune 500, 62% have corporate Twitter accounts, according to the study. This represents just a 2% increase since 2010.
Research shows that the Fortune 500 companies who do invest in a public-facing blog gain and retain avid followers, garner more visits to their websites, and receive increased RSS feed and e-newsletter subscriptions. Of the Fortune 500s, those in the computer software and office equipment industries are most likely to have an active blog.
Learning from Higher Education’s Success
When asked how successful social media tools and communication have been, higher education respondents have consistently reported an extremely positive experience, especially on Facebook. The flourishing use of social media by colleges and universities appears to be a case study in the timely adoption of new technology for communication, with other sectors learning from their social media success.
What do you think are the reasons many Fortune 500 companies are slow to adopt social media? We’d love to hear your thoughts!