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Report: Twitter still 'missed opportunity' for Fortune 100s

They might be the world's largest companies, but that doesn't mean they understand how best to use the popular microblogging tool, according to a new study.

A new report from global public relations firm Weber Shandwick has found that when it comes to Fortune 100 companies, they just don't get Twitter...not yet anyway.

According to the study (PDF), which looked at how the world's 100 top companies used Twitter between late August and early September, the companies have a grand total of 540 Twitter accounts owned by just 73 companies; 27 firms don't participate in the microblogging tool/social network. Some 76 percent of those 540 accounts weren't "updated often" and 52 percent were not actively engaged, as measured by the accounts' use of hash tags, links, references, and retweets.

Weber Shandwick contends that in order for a company to be successful on Twitter, it needs to engage users through five basic activities: listening to followers, participating in conversations, updating accounts frequently, replying to questions, and retweeting useful messages. The PR firm says that if companies perform those activities, they will have a large number of followers. But its research found that 50 percent of Fortune 100 Twitter accounts had fewer than 500 followers.

And companies that had active Twitter accounts weren't making their tweets appealing to followers, the firm found. Fifty-three percent of the accounts did not "display personality, tone, or voice" in their messages. Only one-third of all the researched accounts featured personality "in addition to names and/or photos of those who posted tweets." Seventy-six percent of accounts surveyed posted 500 or fewer tweets on the account. As Weber Shandwick points out, the more tweets of value, the more likely the brand will engage customers.

Big companies aren't doing enough on Twitter. Weber Shandwick

In the end, Weber Shandwick was concerned about company use (or lack of use) of the Twitter. The organization wrote that "for the majority of Fortune 100 companies, Twitter remains a missed opportunity." The firm said "many of their Twitter accounts, examined by Weber Shandwick, did not appear to listen to or engage with their readers, instead offering a one-way broadcast of press releases, company blog posts, and event information."

Weber Shandwick also offered a word of caution. The firm said that "the number of active Twitter users in the United states already exceeds 20 million and can be expected to continue to grow. This is a massive human database to tap; companies that understand the value of Twitter can benefit from its potential as a viable engagement platform."