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The Race for Speed

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.

Facebook Dominates, But May Not Satisfy

Facebook is still king of the social media universe, but its users are grumpy, which could open a door for a challenger that provides better customer satisfaction.Customer satisfaction ratings for Facebook continue to lag, which might afford an opening for a competitor such as Google+, according to survey results released last week by ForeSee Results.

"The social media market is primed for a new player that allows users to connect with friends," ForeSee Results predicts, based on customer experience analytics used in its American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). "Despite a small improvement this year, Facebook is the lowest-socring site, not only in the social media category, but of all measured companies in this report."

Wikipedia ranks highest among social media sites at 78, with YouTube at 74 as runner-up. Facebook's score is 66.

"An existing dominance of market share like Facebook," says ForeSee Results CEO Larry Freed, "is no longer a safety net for a company that is not providing a superior customer experience." Noting Facebook's even worse rating last year, Freed said some customers may be dissatisfied with the site's evolution as a commercial platform.

Tellingly, MySpace was dropped from the survey because of too few users. Google+ wasn't scored because it was just introduced.

Google scores a survey-topping 83 in the search engine and portal category. Bing follows closely behind with a score of 82, an impressive 7-point jump over last year.

"Last year, Google's customer satisfaction score was three points better than Bing's," Freed notes. "This year, that gap narrows to one point. Bing is showing it can challenge Google in terms of revenue, market share and the customer experience."

News websites also are ranked and FoxNews.com comes out on top with a score of 82. ABCNews,com is next with a score of 77 and HuffingtonPost.com debuts with a bottom-of-the-rung 69. NYTimes.com dropped four points this year to a score of 73.

Rethinking the Value of Digital Relationships

The rap on social networking sites is that they isolate people and substitute for in-person contact. New findings by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project suggest social networking sites breed closer relationships with deeper trust.

Facebook comes across in the Pew survey as the dominant player in this space, with 92 percent of the 2,255 adults interviewed saying they use the popular social networking site. Next closest is MySpace, which 29 percent of respondents say they use. Only 13 percent use Twitter, while 19 percent tap into LinkedIn.

Pew reports the number of people logging into social networking sites has doubled since 2008 and users are older.

How people use Facebook is revealing:

  • 15 percent of Facebook users update their own status;
  • 22 percent comment on another’s post or status;
  • 20 percent comment on another user’s photos;
  • 26 percent “Like” another user’s content; and
  • 10 percent send another user a private message.

Here are other excerpts from the report, which was released today:

Facebook users have more close relationships.

"The average American has just more than two discussion confidants (2.16) – that is, people with whom they discuss important matters. This is a modest, but significantly larger number than the average of 1.93 core ties reported when we asked this same question in 2008. Controlling for other factors we found that someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other internet users."