Contrary to what one might expect, not all US companies excel on the social networks. In fact some are actually not very active at all on social media platforms.

Major US firms still have room for improvement on social networks

Are all large US firms bang up to date when it comes to community management and social network activity? Apparently not. A study published by Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), which was co-authored by Marcia DiStaso, Associate Professor of Advertising and Public Relations at the Penn State College of Communications, shows that many leading companies are lagging behind when it comes to use of the social networks. For their stock-taking exercise, the researchers scrutinised 417 companies from Fortune Magazine's list of America's most admired companies. While 95% of them had a Facebook page, 51% of these pages were nevertheless merely fed from Wikipedia content.

One example is US multinational oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil, one of the most powerful companies in the United States


At the other end of the social media spectrum, Coca-Cola stands out as an exponent of social network best practice. The soft drinks giant is one of the companies that handles tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to best effect. It should be recognised however that it is general easier for a consumer packaged goods industry brand to communicate attractive content, partly because its packaging is immediately recognisable by millions of consumers worldwide.

Twitter rather than Facebook

The Penn State research reveals that large firms have a better grip on Twitter and YouTube than Facebook: 82% of the brands investigated have a Twitter account, while 72% have a YouTube account.

This trend is perhaps not very surprising.  A recent L’Atelier article highlighted the fact that using Twitter was proving more effective for marketing campaigns, as the microblogging platform fosters viral communication and consequently promotes a higher level of consumer engagement.

Health industry: could do better

The Penn State study indicates that large firms in the healthcare industry are the least active on social networks. These companies are not currently taking advantage of the opportunities social networks can bring – i.e. enabling healthcare brands to go beyond sales of products and services and allowing them to establish personal relationships with their customers. However, one reason why this industry is hesitating over social media exposure may be that it is heavily regulated, the authors point out.

Having scrutinised the 417 companies, the research team was able to draw up a list of best practices to recommend to major US firms. Adopting these practices, with approaches that vary from network to network, could help propel these companies into the 2.0 world, say Professor DiStaso and her colleagues. 

By Anthéa Delpuech