The Race for Speed

Corporations are turning from blogs to faster social media platforms to keep pace with the instant appetite for news, content and response.New research shows major corporations rely more on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to convey their timely messages and less on blogging and podcasts. The reason is a race for speed.

Messages circulate faster on widely used social media platforms, especially Twitter, which has emerged as an essential tool for news aggregators and message advocates. Twitter and Facebook also are now mainstays in the toolkits of crisis communicators.

Blogs, video blogs, message boards and podcasts remain in the mix, but have leveled off in use and adoption because they typically take longer to produce and post. Wikis and MySpace have fallen into disuse by corporations.

These findings come from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. It began benchmarking corporate use of social media in 2007 and has conducted annual studies since then. Study results are compiled from telephone interviews with the top 500 companies in the United States as listed by Inc. Magazine. Researchers said 34 percent of the top 500 companies participated in the survey.

If there is a general reluctance among businesses to embrace social media, the research shows that hesitancy isn't shared by the larger, fast-growing companies.

Not surprisingly, corporate use of social media has changed, even in the last 12 months, as business has evolved and —perhaps more important — as use of mobile technology has exploded, giving users real-time access to news and other content.

Businesses and organizations, even when they do the right thing, can receive severe criticism for responding sluggishly or clumsily to a problem or incident. As leaders of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation discovered painfully, a video response and an ill-timed Twitter comment added fire to a controversy, not calm it.

The message here is not to dump blogs, videos or podcasts. They continue to play important roles in establishing thought leadership and explaining issues in more depth.

As social media usage matures, companies and PR professionals need to apply the same selective judgment as they have done on traditional communications tools. Use the right tool for the job. And make sure the job performed by the tools serves to advance your overall communications strategy.