Posted April 4, 2011 8:45 am by with 5 comments

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Social media is a strange animal at times. Everyone is very willing to talk about it. It’s become like all other aspects of the Internet marketing puzzle where it is accepted and now marketers are at the least required to have what I call a ‘cocktail party level’ of knowledge regarding social media. In other words, if you can’t say “Oh sure, we are on Facebook, Twitter and are exploring our mobile opportunities” type brush off that says “I know we have to be there but I don’t know a darn thing about it” kind of talk.

Well, Advertising Age reports that maybe the Fortune 50 are indirectly saying they have this same level of knowledge because only 40% of the them even mention their social media presence on their homepage. The article notes

Surely, as we head into the second quarter, the Fortune 50 — if not all big companies — are now at least involved in social media and want us to find them everywhere they have an online presence.

Nuh-uh! Only 44% of the Fortune 50 have any social media icons on their home pages, and 60% hide their Twitter streams. Call Inspector Clouseau if you want to find the rest. Kind of amazing considering the prevalence of social buttons of all types all over the web.

The article is the first in a series that will look at this elite group and their social media practices. I suspect this will be interesting in that it seems like the biggest companies are usually the last to catch on to what many of the rest of us see as ‘business as usual’. Possibly, since they are bigger and much better known the assumption could be that there is less need for brand recognition.

What is more likely though is that bigger companies have a fair amount of fear around the idea of transparency. These days it doesn’t take much to find a story about large company practices that would curl your toes (take the story from 60 Minutes last night about how banks have been forging mortgage documents). When stories like this break the amount of negativity that could flood a social media channel like Twitter can be something that no company, regardless of their size, can manage.

Social media poses a problem that many big companies have been able to avoid in a less connected environment. You’ve heard the saying, “With great success comes great responsibility”. Well, before the social media age these companies were reaping rewards and often without any scrutiny or attention from the larger population. They like it that way because they can generally get away with more. If they decide to become more transparent through social media they are exposed to the results of some of their less than ethical activities. It’s a bit of a quandary.

So the greater question that comes from all of this is “Can social media demand and eventually create more social responsibility for companies?” In theory, yes. In practice, that remains to be seen.

What do you think? Are they hiding because they have something to hide or are they just not catching on yet?

  • dean

    C’mon, this is silly. Yes, Fortune 50 companies are well aware of social media, and No they are not “hiding because they have something to hide” Maybe, juuuuuust maybe these companies spend millions to get people to their websites where there is a sales proposition – you know – the thing that keeps them in business. So riddle me this Batman – why would you spend millions of dollars to attract visitors and then immediately send them away to a social media presence where there is typically no sales mechanism in place??? Would this be any different than going to a Best Buy store and having an associate at the front door telling you that you should leave and go to their Facebook site?

    Just as a reminder, companies are in the business of making money, and one tactic in doing that is setting up a web presence where a product is sold and promoted, and then spending gobs of money to attract an audience to that content. I have yet to see any research where attracting visitors to a website and then inviting them to leave increases the online (or offline) sales conversion (in fact here is one thats says it isn’t When it does, I can assure you that the Fortune 50s will have FB and Twitter icons plastered all over the home page. In the meantime, those savvy and interested enough in social media are smart enough to find the social media presense of those companies they are interested in and I don’t see any real problem listing your SM presence on interior pages.

  • Only 5% with a blog link?

  • There’s plenty of ways people can spread bad pub for large companies if they did something bad, it doesn’t have to be on the company’s own social media accounts. So, I see no reason for this conspiracy theory of sorts to be true. This study talks about social media on the company’s “homepages.” That doesn’t mean they don’t take part in it, they just don’t feel the need to plaster it front and center.

  • @Dean – Man it is fun getting you fired up!

  • Hi – I’m the author of the AdAge post, which I also ran on my blog, What’s Next Blog, htttp://, and I did the study.

    I am working on the second post, and the third, and will publish them soon.

    The bottom line as I see it is that companies are concerned that they are unsure who should handle social media interaction, and how. So they have the Facebook and Twitter pages, but they don’t really use them for more than broadcasting their “messages.”

    And yes, only 5% have links to their blogs on their homepage. Sometimes, if you dig down several layers, you’ll find links to social media. Big companies and their agencies have a LONG way to go in optimizing the integration of social media into their marketing in a meaningful way!