Big firms teach small businesses an online lesson

Big business loves TwitterSir John Rose had to square up to the media yesterday in his role as the Chief Executive of Rolls-Royce. His company’s engines had been found to have a fault which led to the explosion on a Qantas flight earlier this month. Sir John admitted that the issue would cause financial problems for the company, but his honesty saw his company’s share price rise. The fact of the matter is, Rolls Royce has done the right thing. It has been heavily involved in the investigation and is clearly determined to put things right. You don’t get to be a company with the worldwide reputation and importance of Rolls-Royce without doing the right thing most of the time.

Indeed, big businesses – in spite of the problems caused by being big – tend to do the right things from a commercial perspective. Yes, they do things wrong morally sometimes, yes, they don’t always understand things from a human perspective, but the reason they are big and successful is largely because they do the right things commercially.

So, it is interesting to see that the Fortune 500 – the top companies in the USA, mostly in the world – have almost doubled their use of Twitter in the last year. Interestingly, the biggest increase in the use of Twitter has been in the Top 100 companies in the Fortune 500 listing. They now represent the biggest slice of Twitter users in the list. There is a theme here. The most successful companies, from a financial perspective, are the ones putting most effort into Twitter. Amongst their peers of the Fortune 500, the companies that are doing the best financially are the ones using Twitter the most. Perhaps there is a connection?

Meanwhile, research on small businesses has discovered a different trend. Small companies – by their very nature less commercially successful than the Fortune 500 – are investing most of their effort on their own websites. Indeed, the study shows that for small businesses most of the investment they make in their online presence is to merely publish a website which contains information about them.

So, here we are at two extremes. Big, financially successful companies are investing their online time in using Twitter. Small, comparatively poorer companies, are investing their online time in their own websites. Do you notice a connection? Big business gets rich by doing the right thing. If they clearly think that Twitter is the right thing, why are so many small businesses ignoring it? Don’t they want to make money?

Sometimes small business fails to learn from big business – and the trend for big companies to use social media more and more, while small business remains scared of it, is just such an example. It is time for small business owners to look at what the Fortune 500 is doing with social networking and social media and to learn from them. There is now an established link between Twitter use and financial success.

However, not every big business thinks Twitter is a good thing. One of the companies who expect a fall in profits this year is none other than Rolls-Royce themselves, who recently declared that “social media is a waste of time“. Perhaps they too should learn from their big business colleagues!

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