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New Research Shows Real-Time Companies are More Successful than their Fortune 100 Peers

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My first job was on a bond trading floor at a Wall Street investment bank. It's impossible to overstate the impact of innovations in computing and telecommunications on the financial markets in the 1980s. Within a decade finance was transformed from a clubby, old-boys' network to a 24-hour global trading system.

With that revolutionary shift a new currency of success emerged: the ability to gather, interpret, and react to new information in fractions of a second--real time. It has taken a quarter century. But in fields like customer service, marketing and public relations the impact of the real-time revolution is finally beginning to be viable for any organization.

I wanted to measure how America's largest companies are adapting to real time communications and what the result was. I began my research with one simple question - how much of an effect does real-time communications have on the most successful companies? To decipher this, I reached out to the top 100 of the Fortune 500 companies. Disclosing my credentials as a member of the media and an author, I sent an inquiry via e-mail to the communications departments of each of the top 100 companies asking each company to explain how it had adapted to the new realities of the real-time Web.

This morning I released an e-book titled Real-Time: How Marketing & PR at Speed Drives Measurable Success, in which I reveal the results of the research as well as a detailed look at the real-time engagement level of the Fortune 100 companies.

The ROI of real-time engagement

Interestingly, the Fortune 100 companies that engage in real-time communications beat the S&P 500 stock index on average while the companies that do not communicate at speed underperformed.

I found that only 28 percent engaged with me in real-time. Many of those 28 companies have comprehensive real-time communications programs in place, which I describe in the ebook.

"Real time" means news breaks over minutes, not days, and that ideas percolate and then suddenly and unpredictably go viral to a global audience. Sites like Huffington Post are important hubs in this new real-time world. Real-time engagement occurs when businesses see an opportunity, are the first to act on it and do not get caught up in old, time-consuming processes.

After collecting all of the responses, or the lack of, I noted which companies actively engaged in real-time communications, those that ignored the inquiry completely and those that delivered unhelpful, auto-responder messages. I then compared the closing stock price of each company on December 31, 2009 through its closing price on September 3, 2010 (the date that my new book Real-Time Marketing & PR: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business Now which released today, was due to my publisher John Wiley & Sons). I found that the stock prices of 67% of companies that operate in real-time were up, while only 42% of those that do not were up in 2010 year-to-date.

In the Real Time ebook I name each of the Fortune 100 companies that responded to me with helpful and relevant responses, such as State Farm Insurance and Boeing, the companies that did not respond at all, such as Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil, and those that simply sent automatic, canned auto-responses with irrelevant information, such as Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance and Walgreens.

We're living in a new world now, one driven by instant engagement. I find it fascinating that those companies that engage in real time, on average, outperformed the market as a whole and dramatically beat those Fortune 100 companies that do not engage. This is the ROI of real-time engagement.