Inc. 500 Increase Use of Pinterest and Instagram to Tell Stories

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?

Inc. 500 study social media U. MassachusettsThey 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.

rsz_infographic_2013_inc_500 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. 

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  1. I hope that just because Pinterest is now working for the big companies, it can continue to be a good place for small businesses with visual messages.

    Interesting about FourSquare: I find it fun at first, and then one forgets about it. I’m not surprised it’s not doing as well as it might.

    • Leora — I don’t see that Pinterest can’t work for small businesses, like yourself, who deal in the visual medium. I don’t use it myself because I can’t see pinning stock photos, although a friend does and he gets traffic. But that’s not traffic I’d want. I could never get into FourSquare. I’m not sure I want everyone to know where I am at any one time.

  2. I really enjoyed this post and have a lot of respect for Inc. 500. I do feel that YouTube is a powerful advertising media. We are putting up videos and do see an increase in hits. There is an increase in the use of mobile devices.

    • Arleen — I see a steady rise in my mobile traffic. Not nearly as many views as on my website but it’s important traffic.

  3. Wow! THAT is one of the most useful graphics I have ever seen. Too often these get overly detailed and I’d rather read the content. But this time, I went right to the graphic and filled in my questions with the content.

    It makes sense since mobile is on the rise, that platforms like Pinterest (already suited to mobile) will start to be used more.

    Great post! Thanks.

  4. Pinterest and Instagram are some of my largest traffic drivers. I believe this is partly due to the images that I present. YouTube is a great source for showcasing my story podcasts. I agree that we will start seeing tools that will allow for a visual connection with more companies and blogs and this will give them and us bloggers much faster results. Just my thoughts. 🙂

    • Susan — your drawings are so terrific I’m not surprized that Pinterest and Instagram send lots of visitors your way. No doubt visual imagery will become more important moving forward. Now we just need to remember to describe it in the alt tag!

  5. Dear Jeannette,
    Once again you have created a very thoughtful post on our research. Thanks for helping to share our findings! Your readers made great comments. I love that they can see these trends playing out in their own lives as well. I think we should keep our eyes on Pinterest going forward!!

    • Nora — thanks to you for your research which is always right on target. Now that Yahoo has bought Tumblr you may want to add that to your list for your next study. This network is especially popular among Millennials.

  6. Great information. I think the disparity between perceived revenue generation and the increase in use is an interesting one. It’s almost as if companies are jumping into social media because they feel they have to (maybe because everyone is doing it) rather than seeing it as a sound investment. Also glad to hear that blogging is expected to see a resurgence.

    • Debra — I agree that too many companies are jumping into social media without a real plan. I don’t see a “resurgence” in blogging. I think blogging has continued to grow in importance, it’s just not as sexy as the newest social media network. But I feel blogging should be the centerpiece of every company’s social media strategy, as you can distribute your posts to social networks while building an archive of content that establishes your authority.

  7. Pinterest is a great channel, provided you have something visual to show. What pictures can you and I post? Of ourselves, our customers or when we give a presentation?

    YouTube I’m sure will be a really powerful and important channel. But again, Jeannette, are we going to start posting videos of ourselves speaking at seminars or something like that?

    For me Linkedin works best followed by Facebook and Twitter. Would like to say that Google Plus is an exciting channel but it really isn’t and until it takes off it’s not that important to me. Having said that, if Facebook keeps on reducing exposure like pages get, unless the owner pays, Google+ may take over from them?

    • Catarina — I agree about Pinterest which is why I no longer have an account. YouTube could be a possibility if you are speaking at an event — to me, it would depend on the quality of the video if I posted it. Facebook just keeps more confusing. I think all the social media networks are gradually squeezing their non-revenue producing members and offering fewer free services. Time will tell how far they go.

  8. Thanks for the interesting post, Jeannette. As I’m such a visual person, I’m glad to see that Instagram and Pinterest are thriving. I also love Twitter, and think that is the platform on which I have the greatest influence (based on all that I’m on for my writing biz.) I’ve not heard of Vine before. Is it one that you work with?

  9. Hi Jeannette,
    The infographic is very informative. I think paying attention to the mobile audience is very important, as applications present many opportunities.

    Kind Regards,

    • Bill — mobile is growing in importance by leaps and bounds. More of my traffic comes from mobile view every day.