LinkedIn and Blogging Social Media Tools of Choice for Inc. 500

Companies in The Inc. 500 rank LinkedIn and blogging as the social media tools they use most often, according to the 6th Annual Benchmarking Study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, the Center for Marketing Research.

Inc. Magazine compiles the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing private U.S. companies annually. An infographic at the end of this post provides a visual summary of key findings.

More Active than Fortune 500

Of particular interest, a majority of CEOs (63%) are contributing content or taking ownership of social media, and believe new communications tools have been essential to the growth of their companies.

The current data documented that smaller companies (with $1 million – $3 million in revenues) are using social media more than the largest companies. For example, 44% of the 2012 Inc. are 500 blogging vs. just 23% of the Fortune 500. Blogging among the smaller companies also increased by a healthy 7% over 2011.

The use of Facebook and YouTube has dropped in the past year while both LinkedIn and Twitter have gained users. New platforms including FourSquare and Pinterest are inching up in usage. Ninety-two percent of the Inc. 500 are using at least one of the tools studied. 

Investment in social media will drop in 2013, according to the study. The researchers posit that is a natural evolution of companies having invested heavily in social media over the past year, but more companies than in the last study say they will continue investing at their current levels.

Among the Key Findings

The study found:

  • CEO takes ownership. The study found that almost two-thirds of CEOs are contributing content or taking ownership of social media outlets. 62% of CEOs believe that new communications tools have been necessary for the growth of their companies.
  • Marketing Departments are assuming responsibility for the social media function. The social media function had been housed in PR, HR, Marketing, Communications, or independently, since its emergence in business.
  • Blogging jumps among the Inc. 500. Thirty-seven percent of the 2011 Inc. 500 had a corporate blog. In this new 2012 study, the use of blogging jumped to 44%.
  • LinkedIn leads the way. LinkedIn is the platform most utilized by the 2012 Inc. 500 with 81% of companies using it. It has 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.
  • Fewer companies will increase investments in social media. Seventy-one percent of the 2011 Inc. 500 planned to increase their investment in social media. The latest data shows a dramatic drop to 44% now looking to spend more on social media vs. 71% in 2011. Forty-one percent (vs. 25% last year) say their level of investment will remain the same as last year.
  •  ROI Linked to Reducing Costs for Recruiting. One third of the Inc. 500 reports the ability to financially determine the return on their social media investment. Of those, 19% believe they have cut costs in their recruiting efforts due to their social media investments

This infographic describes in visual terms how the Inc. 500 were leveraging social media in 2012.

Inc 500 Infographic 2012 UMass

The study was co-authored by Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes, a Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and Ava M. Lescault, Senior Research Associate and Associate Director of the Center for Marketing Research.

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    • Pat — I agree. I think Facebook is settling into the social network for B2C companies and personal friendships. I think LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ are favorites of B2B companies, except for consumer companies who use Twitter for customer relations.

  1. That was really interesting. It doesn’t surprise me that LinkedIn and blogging continue to increase where Facebook has declined. I believe LinkedIn and Blogging fit an overall corporate model better. BTW: I love the Infograph. 🙂

    • Susan — I agree. The infographic was one of the best I’ve seen for simplicity and clarity. I can’t even read some infographics they are so complicated!

  2. Cheryl — I just returned from a Social Media Week panel on Social Brands and I couldn’t agree more. Just think, less than 10 years ago there were no social networks.

  3. Definitely one of the better infographics I’ve seen in quite some time. On many fronts, LinkedIn is simply more useful, even to a lone start-up such as myself. I choose to think of it as Facebook for grown-ups 😉

    • Jeri — love your description of LinkedIn as the Facebook for grown-ups. True, FB does have a preponderance of personal users. But consumer products companies have leveraged Facebook to great effect. I just don’t think it has proved as useful to B2B businesses.

  4. Interesting statistics Jeannette and it is good to see CEOs getting involved as I think it makes a big difference for employees, customers and other stakeholders. Also I think it makes sense to have marketing take ownership so consistency is maintained. The only thing is they need to make sure all other departments are involved closely.

    • Susan — if the CEO isn’t involved in social media then s/he is signalling a lack of commitment that will filter down to the employees of the company who are already active on social networks. If they are Millennials they will soon find other places to work. Social media is engrained in their DNA.

    • Catarina — good question about Google+ that I asked Nora Barnes about myself. She is the co-author of the study and she said they had not included G+ but would in their next study. Stay tuned for a Q&A I’ll be doing with Nora in an upcoming post.

  5. Dan — I think you’re right about people waiting for the next big thing. But also companies have invested heavily in social media, so it would make sense that the incremental growth now that they have established a social media presence, makes it appear companies are doing less. But when you think that 1 x 1 = 2 is 100% growth, when you grow from 100 to 120 it’s a more difficult mountain to climb for only a 20% increase.