A recent study by Altimeter/Wetpaint makes a solid case for a strong link between superior financial performance and deep engagement in social media…at least across the world’s leading brands. They conclude: “socially engaged companies are in fact more financially successful.” Some ardent advocates of social media have argued against trying to measure its value using traditional metrics – like financial ROI – but nevertheless this study fills an interesting gap in the debate.

Beyond the headline finding, there’s plenty of other good info in this report. Perhaps one of the most interesting conclusions is that social media is virtually a given among the top 100 brands – which surprised me – though the authors admit too many companies still dip their toes in without fully planning or sustaining their forays. The companies featured as the most “engaged” are the usual suspects – Dell, Starbucks, SAP and Toyota – and the study does a good job of quantifying engagement using an analytical model and even details 4 categories of engagement.  (Full disclosure, I was part of the social media team at Dell in 2007-2008 and directly involved in the work described in the study.) There’s also some good best practices and take-aways for communication and marketing professionals to leverage.

Now it remains to be seen if this study – along with other positive reports and testimonials driving the adoption of social media – are enough to convince skeptics and laggards…particularly those beyond the top 100 brands. In fact, I’m eager to find more evidence of how many organizations are truly engaged in social media – and not just in the U.S. or among the biggest organizations.