Sunday, December 2, 2012

Social Media Presence Tops Fortune 500 Company Goals.

Partial List of Fortune 500 Companies with Active Twitters
With the new networking capabilities that the internet offers, businesses are focusing their efforts toward portraying their corporate goals to the public online through social media. A  2012 survey confirms this trend; 73% of all Fortune 500 companies now have an active twitter. Companies have been catching on and realizing that the internet offers an innovative venue for public relation offices to discuss corporate practices and their role for a better society because when the public perceives the company as ethical, the company gains many advantages: more customers, better reputation, reduced employee turnover, and avoidance of lawsuits.

Companies and public relation offices are increasing their presence in the virtual world.

Dr. Donald Wright and Michelle Hinson performed a three-year long survey of public relation practitioners, which examined the impact of social media on public relations. This survey was published in the Public Relations Society of America’s Journal in the spring of 2008. The publishing includes several excerpts from companies such as Microsoft, Dell, and Sun that describe corporate blogs as “sticky [because] readers check back several times a day. And posts get linked to other sites amplifying their impact.” Other quotations highlight the benefits of blogs because they are free and efficient for communicating externally, but internally with other employees. The final conclusions determined that the percentage of employees that thought blogging should be allowed during work hours jumped 6 percent from the previous year from 38% to 44%. There was a 4% increase in companies conducting their own research on blogging since the previous year. To update the information found in The Public Relations Journal, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth conducted a study in 2012 that discovered that companies in the Fortune 500 are switching from individual corporate blogging to more social networking venues such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In terms of how much corporations are investing in social media, 71% of the Fortune 500 companies plan on increasing their budget and 25% will keep it the same.

The “Blogosphere” is a great opportunity for companies to promote their social responsibility.

Corporate social responsibility, a crucial part to an ethical business, is “the concern businesses have for the welfare of society, not just for their owners” (Understanding Business). “Corporate Social Responsibility in the Blogosphere,” a study published in the Journal of Business Ethics (2010), analyzed the “structural embeddedness of a prototypical blog in a virtual community [to show] the potential of online platforms to document corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.” The study analyzed the corporate blog of McDonald’s, a company already known for its philanthropy from programs like the Ronald McDonald Houses for critically ill children. The analysis consisted of the links to the blog (which perform as a network), the recording of the followers and guests, and counts of posts with word counts. McDonald’s “Open for Discussion” blog had approximately 11 authors and 53 posts with an average word length of 375 words. Each post received about 3 comments in response. The network analysis came to the conclusion that the blog had about 228 nodes (other websites linked to the blog and posters). With more in depth analysis of the blog and its networks, the study was able to identify its most influential stakeholders and where their interest lies.  The study concluded that blogs “provide a new means of access to stakeholders” and “blogging about sustainability issues takes patience and openness, and interaction should be sincere and transparent in order to be fruitful.” Blogs, in a sense, offer the ability for a company to receive constant feedback, which can call for beneficial changes in operations.

The Internet makes companies more “transparent.”

Business transparency, as Professor Richard Hutchins defines, is “when the company has nothing to hide.” Thus, transparency means ethical. All publicly traded companies must send in their financial statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Hutchins states that many financial statements are easily available online at and recommends Yahoo Finance as a site with valuable information that the average citizen has access to. With a little background knowledge of financial sheets, citizens are able to view where a company is spending their money and how much it is profiting. The public financial filings act as one of the deterrents of unethical practices in the accounting field, which Dr. Gary Bulmash—Professor at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland—identified in the video.

Being an ethical business is more than just following the laws and regulations set forth by the United States government. 

Understanding Business, a textbook used for introduction to business courses at the University of Maryland, defines ethics as “society’s accepted standards of moral behavior.” This moral behavior is perceived as “right” compared to the “wrong” or unethical behavior.  The new social media that has evolved in the past years has opened a new venue for public relations. Companies can take advantage of the new domain for instant communication with customers that voice their opinions and feedback.

Fellow students prefer corporations that use social media.

 A freshman at the University of Maryland, Brian G. likes the idea of business tweeting.

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