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Research: Fastest-growing companies accelerated social media usage

January 25th, 2011 · 2 Comments · All Posts, MarkSchaefer

Research released yesterday from The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth indicates fast-growing U.S. companies continue to out-shine the Fortune 500 on deployment of social media marketing initiatives.  The research effort, now in its fourth year, studies a compilation of the fastest-growing private U.S. companies compiled annually by Inc. Magazine.

Social networking continues to lead the way. The platform most familiar to the 2010 Inc. 500 is Facebook with 87% of respondents claiming to be “very familiar” with it.  Another noteworthy statistic around familiarity is Twitter’s amazing “share of mind” with 71% percent (up from 62% in 2009) reporting being familiar with the relatively new micro blogging and social networking site. Forty-four percent say Facebook is the single most effective social networking platform they use.

In terms of actual usage, Facebook also leads the way:

Blogging remains an important tool for the Inc. 500. Fifty percent of the 2010 Inc. 500 has a corporate blog, up from 45% in 2009 and 39% in 2008.  Beyond the actual adoption of this tool, there is clear evidence that companies are using blogs effectively.  There is a strong propensity to engage consumers through accepting and replying to comments and providing a vehicle for subscriptions. Thirty-four percent have developed social media policies to govern blogging by their employees. Approximately 20% of the Fortune 500 has such a policy and only 22% of the Fortune 500 have an active blog.

New communications tools are changing the way successful businesses operate. Forty-three percent of the 2009 Inc. 500 reported social media was “very important” to their business/marketing strategy.  That number jumps to 56% in 2010.   In addition, 57% report using search engines and social networking sites to recruit and evaluate potential employees (also an increase from 2009).

Diverse B2B uses of Twitter, Facebook and blogging. This year, 31% reported using Facebook for B2B communications with vendors, suppliers and business partners and 27% use Twitter for that purpose.  The researchers note that this could signal an important change in the popular conception of both platforms and how they are being used.  Blogging also appears to be growing as a means of communication with vendors, suppliers and partners.  In 2009 18% used blogs for this purpose, while 22% are using them to reach an external B2B audience.

Social media adoption varies by industry. Despite the fact that 83% of the 2010 Inc. 500 use at least one of the social media tools studied, adoption is skewed by industry.  Government Services companies make up 12% of the 2010 Inc. 500, but 27% of those who do not use social media tools. Energy companies comprise 3% of the 2010 Inc. 500 but 17% of the non-users.  Financial Services companies follow the same pattern holding 5% of the Inc. 500 slots, but 10% of the companies who have not yet adopted social media.

Watch out for Foursquare. Although only 5% of the respondents use Foursquare, of those who do, 75% regard it to be successful as a marketing vehicle.  Online video and message boards are deemed the most successful of the primary social platforms:

This statistically-valid research would indicate the use of social media among fast-growing companies has taken hold and is showing some returns.  What are your thoughts on this study?

Mark Schaefer

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