Are marketers like myself in a bubble when it comes to social media? I think so. We read and research so much about the topic that we naturally think every company is involved in some way.
I just tried a little experiment that says that’s not true — not by a long shot.
I took the Boston Business Journal’s 2013 Book of Lists and looked at the home pages of the top 20 largest public companies and the top 20 largest private companies in Massachusetts (measured by revenue). I looked for social media icons on the home pages, and only the home pages. I understand some of these companies are “parent” companies of well-known brands, but still, I wanted to see what their home pages presented to the world. After all, if you’re not promoting your social media accounts on your home page … where would you?
The results: 65% of the 20 largest public companies had no social media presence at all on their home page.
Do you find that astounding? I do. And these are companies with 2011 revenues between $1.85 billion (Waters Corp.) and $25 billion (Staples).
Private companies fared much better: 30% had no social presence on their home pages (which I still find fairly high).
Almost universal to both public and private company home pages, too, was the hidden nature of social media icons and links. In almost all cases, the social media account links or icons were located at the very bottom of home pages — and very nearly invisible (low contrast icons).
After looking at a few of these accounts, I understood why: a large number (I didn’t tally specific results) showed very poor sharing habits. They might have many followers, but in turn followed precious few other Twitter accounts in return. This screams to me they are using Twitter as a broadcast platform only — and don’t seem much interested in sharing content or listening to others.
I will look deeper into the top lists and report more later when I’ve tallied results, but I think this cursory look says a lot: Big companies, private, and especially public are prone to ineffective and superficial use of social media.
A good counter argument is that these successful companies are not engaging social media much because they effectively engage in customer feedback in more traditional ways. That’s fair enough.But these days, I’m surprised at the very cold, impersonal “front face” these companies show to the public.
Look at Nstar’s Twitter account in this image above. Do you think — especially to younger customers — that this says anything about their responsiveness to their customers? Yes, I understand they are a regulated utility. Does that really prevent them from “Following” others? Really?
Even if it’s a holding company, doesn’t it say something when a company uses social media only for its brand properties only? Doesn’t it seem to communicate a kind of “facelessness” that seems cold, impersonal — not really human?
At least that’s my impression. I’ll report more data when I’ve looked at more companies, so stay tuned.