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13 Statistics from an Inc. 500 Social Media Study

by Frank Strong

UMASS Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research is out with new research as part of its long standing study of business and its relationship with social media. The Center has been publishing research focused on either the Inc. 500 or the Fortune 500 since 2006.

I’m partial to the Center’s research because it includes some academic rigor – that is more or less absent an agenda. The current study focuses on the Inc. 500 and is a two-step methodology of reviewing use-cases and later conducting surveys by random sampling.

Key findings from the UMASS study

In their own words, the researchers conclude:

While LinkedIn is the most utilized platform among these exceptional businesses, they have increased their involvement with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.  The use of blogging continues to grow as companies look to provide thought leadership in their industry.

Twitter is seen as having the most potential for increasing sales growth.  The sites 140 character limit, promoted tweets based on conversation and interest and growing popularity among young consumers are all attractive to the 2013 Inc. 500.

Here are 13 statistics that stood out for me:

  1. 88% use LinkedIn – 6% gain over the previous year.
  2. 84% use Facebook – 17% gain over the previous year.
  3. 74% use Twitter – 7% gain.
  4. 52% blog – 8% gain.
  5. 50% use YouTube – an astonishing 20% gain.
  6. 23% use FourSquare – a drop of 5%.
  7. 33% use Pinterest – 15% gain.
  8. 58% use Google+ – no baseline as this is the first time it has been included in the study.
  9. 18% use Instagram – again no baseline in this study; eMarketer reported a surge.
  10. 61% said Twitter had sales potential; 55% for Facebook and 31% for Pinterest
  11. 52% said social media accounts for >1% of sales; 27% reported between 1% and 5%
  12. 43% (most) said online advertising present the greatest potential for sales.
  13. 92% optimize sites for mobile; just 25% offer dedicated apps

UMASS -social advertising

Four takeaways to incorporate 

In reading through the study, considering previous reports, and my own experience four key takeaways came to mind.

1. Social sites ebb and flow. Despite the media compulsion to label Google+ a ghost town, a majority of Inc. 500 companies are on the social network – there are more Inc. 500 companies on Google+ than there are Inc. 500 companies blogging.  Contrast this with just about one-fifth of these companies on FourSquare, which a few years ago was a media darling and a must have social site, especially for businesses with brick-and-mortar retail locations. Most socially savvy marketers will advise engaging on the platforms where your customers already exist – that’s still good advice – but don’t pin all efforts to just one platform:  It may not be here tomorrow, or at least, it might be a less popular site.

2. Blogging remains an untapped opportunity. The benefits of corporate blogging are well documented. Does every company need a blog?  Probably not.  However, any company with growth plans, like those on the Inc. 500 would be better served by blogging:  Blogging is the center of the corporate social media framework.

3. Social sales objectives still misaligned. There’s a pervasive misconception that social media sales is simply a matter of showing up. It’s as absurd an idea as thinking one can show up to a physical networking event and close a deal with first meeting people, getting to know them and understanding their needs. It’s not going to happen because people don’t like to be sold to — especially when we’ve barely even said “hello” yet. Social media is just one way to talk to people – to facilitate conversations between brands and customers. Offer something smart and prospective customers might begin to trust a brand enough to consider their products.

4. Advertising blurs social media.  One question I had as I read the study, was how many of the 43% who said online advertising had the most sales potential, were using social media advertising. Are these companies distinguishing between traditional banner ads, search ads and social media ads? I doubt that they are – and further for most companies – I’m willing to be social media ads haven’t even entered the idea white board yet. Like native advertising, social ads are blurring the lines yet, this may be an opportunity for some companies to get a solid head start on the competition.

* * *

What would you add?

I’ve followed the research produced by UMASS for some time; here are some of related posts stemming from previous studies:

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4 Responses

  1. Agree there’s untapped potential in blogging and really the rest of social media, as brands put emphasis on sales. Like you said Frank, people don’t like to be sold or networked; treating SM like a broadcast sales channel is a mistake IMO when it’s real power and potential is in connecting and helping people. See so many benefits in CRM and support, HR and of course PR. The other stat that surprises me is the mobile vs. app; tons of surveys about this but IIRC, most users would prefer a well-designed app to a stripped down mobile site — provided that app has real function and benefits. FWIW.

  2. 3HatsComm  Geat observations Davina.  I do wonder about apps vs. mobile web — everything is headed toward mobile and the entire infrastructure of the web will be geared towards mobile so I wonder if an app isn’t a sunk cost. A few years ago Wired called apps the death of the web, but things increasingly look like they’re coming full circle.

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