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Social Media Levels Off in the Inc 500 in 2012

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Nora Ganim Barnes at the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has released another very useful report, 2012 Inc 500 Social Media Settles In. This time it was co-authored by Ava M. Lescault who is also at the center as Senior Research Associate and Associate Director.  Here are some recent other reports (Social Media Continues to Increase in the 2012 Fortune 500 and The Enduring Nature of Blogs and Blogging.

The latest study looks at the Center’s work on the Inc. 500 social media usage for the sixth consecutive year. This longitudinal data makes it a valuable study of corporate use of these new technologies. The new study compares social media adoption among the 2012 Inc. 500 with previous years.  For example, the Center’s first study of this group in 2007 showed that the Inc. 500 was outpacing the based Fortune 500 in their use of social media. In those early years of social media, 8% of the Fortune 500 companies were blogging compared to 19% of the Inc. 500. This difference continued in all subsequent years and the 2012 data suggests that pattern holds with 44% of the 2012 Inc. 500 blogging and just 23% of the Fortune 500.

In addition, the study found the incorporation of new platforms and tools including FourSquare and Pinterest, an increased use of LinkedIn and blogging, along with a drop in the use of YouTube and Facebook. Now 92% of the Inc. 500 are using at least one of the tools studied.  The research questions continue to evolve with the market. For example, they dropped wikis as they are used more as a collaboration tool than a communications/ engagement tool and divided the social networking category into specific tools and platforms.

Some of the key 2012 findings include the rise of the Marketing department as the group responsible for social media and a continued increase in blogging by the Inc. 500. The rate moved from 37% to 44%. I like to see this trend as blogging remains very relevant for anyone wanting to get a substantive message out and start conversations. My own work with AppFusions and the AppGap brings this home to me.

There are other tools with an even stronger usage base. The platform most utilized by the Inc. 500  in2012 is LinkedIn. With 81% usage it replaced Facebook as the tool of choice for these fast growing companies. The use of Facebook has dropped 7% in the past year while both LinkedIn and Twitter have gained users. In 2011, Facebook was being used by 74% of the Inc. 500 and Twitter by 64%. In 2012, 67% of the Inc. 500 used each of them. Looking at some new tools, 28% are now using Foursquare and 18% use Pinterest.

Spending on social media seems to be leveling off. 2012 found 44% now looking to spend more on social media vs. 71% in 2011. At the same time 41% (vs. 25% in 20122) say their level of investment will remain the same as last year. It was interesting to see that the Inc. 500 appears to be growing less attentive to their social monitoring activity with 63% engaged in it compared to 68% in 2011 and 70% in 2010. I find this puzzling as part of the real value of social media is making conversations in the market more accessible to companies.

Looking at ROI remains less of a priority with only 33% reporting the ability to financially determine the return on their social media investment. Of those, 19% believe they have cut recruiting costs due to their social media investments. This may be tied to the increased use of LinkedIn.  There is much more in the free report and I highly recommend looking at it.

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