Does a Fortune 500 company need a social media strategy?

By March 10, 2014 No Comments

Start-up founders and small business owners will recognise the importance of having a savvy social media strategy in place in order to help promote their brand. Without it they’ll be lacking some much-needed online fire power within their marketing arsenal. And the same goes for any Fortune 500 company.

In the dark, dark days before the internet – you know, the 80s – many of the Fortune 500 companies were just establishing themselves as economic big hitters, or had already done so years before. So when it came to addressing the growing relevance of an online presence in the 21st century, many of them might have questioned the need for it. They’d come this far without it, so why change now?

Place in the pecking order

Businessman Bert Lance popularised the saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, which we can all agree is a catchy phrase. Thing is, he said it back in 1977. Adopting this kind of approach towards online content marketing these days is just going to see your company take a significant slip down the pecking order.

Reaching Fortune 500 status might mean a multi-national corporation distances itself from its customer base, but a well thought-out and neatly implemented social media strategy can bridge that gap and give a faceless business a more approachable, human quality.

Marketing theories of late place larger significance on improving unprompted brand awareness and boosting conversion rates through regular high-quality engagement with audiences. Rejecting social media means rejecting customer interaction. Now, this is something undoubtedly detrimental to any business, but more so a disconnected corporate giant.

ROI from social media

To be fair, the majority of the Fortune 500 businesses have by now cottoned on to social media’s significance (as of 2013, over two thirds of all F500 companies maintain active Twitter accounts, and almost as many have Facebook pages) and have begun utilising it with impressive results. Walmart’s Facebook page has a whopping 34 million likes – even if just a fraction of this audience takes notice of any content posted, it represents a fairly hefty viewership they might have otherwise been missing out on.

The best thing their Facebook page does is strike a clever balance between customer interaction and product pushing – ultimately a gentler approach to marketing that has gained a remarkable amount of ROI. Stephen Quinn, Walmart’s head of marketing, claimed during the ANA Masters of Marketing conference in October 2013, that the company was getting a marketing equivalent of 10X ROI via social media compared to its other advertising spreads. Their promotions routinely get thousands of likes and an Easter-inspired competition last year prompted 11,000 comments from an eager fan following.

Walmart’s social media team (which must be quite a substantial one) also handles seven separate Twitter accounts, each one assigned to a specific branch of the business. This allows them to tailor content and share it with the right audience, as well as enabling customers to talk directly to a particular department. This is ideal considering the rather robust editorial calendar most Fortune 500 companies will have, but it’s particularly useful for dealing with disgruntled consumers.

Social media has become a fashionable outlet for customer complaints and we’re often seeing people take to Twitter or Facebook to let their feelings be known. Believe it or not, having people say opprobrious things about your company in such a public domain isn’t necessarily a bad thing – taking real-time reaction to criticism lets you protect, defend and enhance your company’s reputation in a more trustworthy fashion. Indeed, it’s common practice for businesses to hold live Tweet-ups in an effort to be more transparent about contentious issues and solicit open and unfiltered feedback.

Shared thanks

Another great example of how to engage with customers using social that we’ve heard is about the hotel chain Kimpton; they responded to one guest’s tweet about feeling under the weather by delivering a bowl of soup, warm tea and a get well card to her room. The guest wasted little time in sharing her thanks and kind words about the hotel via Twitter, which promoted the hotel chain far more effectively than they could have done themselves. Indeed, what better testament of customer trust could one conceivably hope for?

Walmart and Kimpton, along with many other businesses, have demonstrated the unique benefits of having a social media strategy as part of an overall marketing and customer service plan, as well as how important it is for any Fortune 500 company without one to get on board fast. We’ve discussed previously that content marketing for a Fortune 500 company is a necessity. A budget dedicated to a focused social media strategy will not only bring you in line with 21st century needs, it can actually pay dividends.

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