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Social Media Performance Linked to Financial Success

December 1, 2009

A new study shows that companies that are significantly involved in social media efforts have consistently experienced strong financial growth over the past 12 months and offers advice for organizations (including nonprofits) on growing social media engagement.

Organizations that were measured to have the greatest depth and breadth of social media engagement grew company revenues by an average of 18 percent of the past 12 months. Companies that showed little engagement or interest in social media experienced an average decrease in company revenues of six percent.

The study, ENGAGEMENTdb: Ranking the Top 100 Global Brands, reviewed how the top 100 most valuable brands (as identified by the 2008 BusinessWeek/Interbrand Best Global Brands rankings) use more than 10 different social media channels, including blogs, Facebook, Twitter, wikis and discussion forums. The study examined the width and breadth of each organization's social media use, and scores for overall brand engagement ranged from a high of 127 to a low of 1.

The top ten brands with their social engagement scores are:

  • Starbucks (127)
  • Dell (123)
  • eBay (115)
  • Google (105)
  • Microsoft (103)
  • Thomson Reuters (101)
  • Nike (100)
  • Amazon (88)
  • SAP (86)
  • Tie - Yahoo!/Intel (85)

What Does It Mean for Nonprofits?

While the study focused solely on for-profit entities, the findings from the study can be easily applied to nonprofit organizations. For example, companies that scored well in the study generally have dedicated teams, however small, active in the social media channels they utilize. The study found that the most successful teams evangelize social media across the entire organization to pull in a broad range of stakeholders. These companies view social media as an indispensable tool to help them achieve results, and their approach is conversational. This mode of operation differs from the approach of traditional communications and early corporate blog experimentation, which emphasizes messaging and talking points.

In addition, the study offered four key tips for organizations just beginning to find their way in the social media arena:

Emphasize quality, not just quantity. The report shows that engagement is more than just setting up a blog and letting viewers post comments; it's more than just having a Facebook profile and having others write on your wall. Rather, it's keeping your blog content fresh and replying to comments; it's building your friends network and updating your profile status. Don't just check the box; engage with your customer audience.

To scale engagement, make social media part of everyone's job. The best practice interviews have a common theme--social media is no longer the responsibility of a few people in the organization. Instead, it's important for everyone across the organization to engage with customers in the channels that make sense--a few minutes each day spent by every employee adds up to a wealth of customer touch points.

Doing it all may not be for you--but you must do something. The optimal social media marketing strategy will depend on a variety of factors, including your industry. If your most valuable customers do not depend on or trust social media as a communication medium, or if your organization is resistant to engagement in some channels, you will have to start smaller and slower. But you must start, or risk falling far behind other brands, not only in your industry, but across your customers' general online experience.

Find your sweet spot. Engagement can't be skin-deep, nor is it a campaign that can be turned on and off. True engagement means full engagement in the channels where you choose to invest. Thus, choose carefully and advocate strongly to acquire the resources and support you will need to succeed. If you are resource-constrained, it is better to be consistent and participate in fewer channels than to spread yourself too thin.

Comparing Your Efforts to Others

Organizations can also see how their current social media program compares to those of the world's most valuable brands. After taking a quick survey, respondents will receive an email evaluation of their social media efforts compared to the companies in the list of the top 100 brands. Additionally, companies can detail their social media efforts for inclusion in future ENGAGEMENTdb reports through the website. This data will be used in future research and study of the benefits of social media.

The full report, along with the survey and comparison tool, is available at the ENGAGEMENTdb website (

The report was published in partnership by Wetpaint and the Altimeter Group.

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