Here is the latest in the very useful series of longitudinal studies on social media use by The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth led by Nora Barnes. This one covered Social Media Usage in the Inc. 500. In contrast here is their most recent one on Blogging and Twitter by the Fortune 500. In this case, there was a nationwide telephone survey of those companies named by Inc. Magazine to the Inc. 500 list. All interviews took place in October and November of 2010 and obtained 34% participation.
Of course, this sample represents a moving target as the companies included continue to shift and this may effect the data. In 2010 there were more government services and financial services firms than the years before. Since companies in these two areas under use social media compared to others, this shift has the effect on reducing growth numbers.
We can see this effect of shifting market niches in the numbers reported in the study. In 2010 83% of the Inc. 500 reporting using at least one of the social media tools studied (see below). However, government services companies make up 12% of the 2010 Inc. 500, but 27% of those not using social media tools. Energy companies comprise 3% of the 2010 Inc. 500 but 17% of the non-users. Financial services companies make up 5% of the Inc. 500, but they comprise 10% of the companies who have not yet adopted social media.
The study appears to be focused on market facing uses of social media but then this is the Center for Marketing Research. It looked at blogs, online video, message boards, podcasting, and the specific social networking tools: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linkedin, and Foursquare. Two of the biggest gainers in 2010 are Twitter and Facebook. Twitter is used by 59% of the Inc. 500 use it for business purposes, up from 52%. Twitter is perceived as a useful tool as 81% of users consider it a success. Facebook growth was higher with 71% using it for business up from 61% in 2009 and it had a 85% success rating.
Next in percent of usage were blogs. Looking back over the past three years there was a steady increase in company blogs with a rise from 38% in 2008 to 45% in 2009 to 50% in 2010. In addition to the growth in usage the report noted that firms are using them more effectively, “There is a strong propensity to engage consumers through accepting and replying to comments and providing a vehicle for subscriptions.” Company blogging was also considered successful by 86% of adopters. In addition, 34% percent have developed policies to govern blogging by their employees. In the Fortune 500 only 20% report such policies. Both numbers are too low. The Fortune 500 also are less likely to use blogs with only 23% reporting have a company blog in 2010, a one percent increase over 2009.
Within the Inc. 500 the majority (56%) feel social media is important for their success online. They also look at what others are saying about them through social media. Seventy percent report they actively monitor, up slightly from 68% last year, 60% in 2008 and 50% in 2007. In addition to using social media to communicate to their markets, there is a rise in use for communication with partners, vendors, and suppliers. Blog use in this category rose form 18% in 2009 to 22% in 2010. Facebook is used by 31% of respondents and Twitter is used by 27%.
I have only addressed some of the highlights. The complete executive summary is available at the Center for Marketing Research site.