An interview with Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes, a Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The Center recently released its 7th Annual Benchmark Study of the Inc. 500.
Based on your Inc. 500 Study this year what is changing in how these companies use social media?
They have opened up their options to include lots of new tools and platforms. We see Pinterest on the rise with statements indicating the potential importance of that tool moving forward. Instagram debuted with 18% of these fast growing companies making use of the photo site. Google+ continues to have a high number of accounts open, but many are inactive. There is some lag while companies decide the best use of this tool.
What social networks are on the rise or losing traction?
The most obvious is Foursquare. It’s use dropped 5% in one year while every other platform showed an increase in use. This location based tool may not be as productive for this particular set of businesses as others might be. Pinterest and Instagram are clearly on the rise along with increased use of YouTube.
It was surprising that over half respondents believe social commerce accounts for less than 1% of sales. What do you make of that?
It does seem odd but that’s pretty consistent with the numbers coming in now. Social Commerce is a very small percent of the ecommerce sector. It is also plagued by problems with tracking and measurement. Very few studies have been done using actual tracking data. Those are pointing towards Pinterest as the top tool for social commerce partly due to it’s one click set up that moves a member to the original vendor website.
Besides providing visual eye candy/catalogs in the form of boards, they make it easy to purchase what you see. Social Commerce will explode when Facebook and Twitter find a way to emulate Pinterest (or Amazon) and make buying a one click process.
How are companies using mobile?
Businesses are realizing that smart phones are the preferred mode of interfacing with products and services. If it can not be done via cell phone, the purchase may be lost. Mobile is being used to move people through processes previously only available via computer like directions, purchasing, viewing catalogs, leaving comments, customer service chats etc. Everything you could do with the full corporate site online now has to be accessible through mobile devices.
What do you see as the next trend in the use of social media by the Inc. 500?
I believe there will be a move toward visually based tools like Pinterest, Vine, Instagram, YouTube and others that allow companies to tell a story. Connecting with consumers through photos and video is powerful and allows for much great range of emotion than possible with written content and posts. I suspect we will see tools that not only allow for a visual connection with a company but one where results are faster.
All of this will be available for mobile. At the other end of the spectrum will be blogging which will continue it’s slow and steady resurgence. It has the unique advantages of complete autonomy and ownership, depth and personality.
The study was co-authored by Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes, and Ava M. Lescault, Senior Research Associate and Associate Director of the Center for Marketing Research.