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Inc. 500: LinkedIn Replaces Facebook as Top Social Tool

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LinkedIn is the most popular social media tool among the nation's fastest-growing private companies, according to a study by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Center for Marketing Research, under the direction of researcher Nora Ganim Barnes, PhD.

More than 8 in 10 companies listed on the 2012 Inc. 500 (81% of them) use the professional networking site, up from 73% a year earlier. Meanwhile, the proportion of Inc. 500 companies using Facebook has declined, from 74% in 2011, to 67% in 2012.


 
Other findings related to social media adoption among the 2012 Inc. 500:

  • Blogging gained momentum in 2012: 44% of Inc. 500 companies now publish a blog, up from 37% a year earlier.
  • Software, advertising/marketing, and media companies were the most likely to blog in 2012, whereas government services organizations were least likely to do so.
  • Foursquare use has doubled, from 13% of companies in 2011, to 28% in 2012.
  • The proportion of companies using YouTube has fallen, from 45% in 2011, to 30% in 2012.
  • 18% of 2012 Inc. 500 companies use Pinterest.  

Below, additional findings from the 2012 Inc. 500 study of social media use, conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Center for Marketing Research.

Importantly, nearly two-thirds (63%) of Inc. 500 CEOs are contributing content or taking ownership of some social media outlet.


Investments Leveling Off

Fewer companies are increasing investments in social-media marketing.

Only 44% of the 2012 Inc. 500 companies plan to spend more on social media in the coming year, compared with 71% of companies that planned to do so in 2011.

Some 41% of 2012 Inc. 500 companies say their investments in social media will stay flat in the coming year (vs. 25% of Inc. 500 companies that reported the same a year earlier). 

Monitoring Social Buzz

Inc. 500 companies are growing less attentive to social-media buzz: 63% of 2012 Inc. 500 companies now monitor social conversations about their names, products, or brands, down from the 68% that did so in 2011 and the 70% that did so in 2010.

Value to Business Growth

Despite increased use of social media, Inc. 500 companies are somewhat mixed on how central social marketing is to their growth: 6 in 10 (62%) say social tools have been very necessary (27%) or somewhat necessary (35%) to the growth of their company. By contrast, 4 in 10 (39%) disagree, saying social media is very unnecessary (15%) or somewhat unnecessary (24%) for business growth:

Return on Investment

Only one-third (34%) of the 2012 Inc. 500 report having the ability to determine financial return on social media investments. Among that third, 19% say social media has helped them cut recruiting costs. 

About the data: The 2012 study, under the direction of researcher Nora Ganim Barnes, PhD, is based on a nationwide phone survey of companies named by Inc. Magazine to the Inc. 500 list, conducted in October and November of 2012. The 2012 list was released in the September issue of Inc. Magazine. In this sixth iteration, 34% (170 out of 500) of Inc. 500 companies participated. Interviews were conducted with the highest-ranking marketing or communications executive at each company. In many cases, the company CEO or CMO provided the information.


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Lenna Garibian is a MarketingProfs research writer and a marketing consultant in the tech industry, where she develops engaging content that builds thought leadership and revenue opportunities for clients. She's held marketing and research positions at eRPortal Software, GAP Inc., Stanford University, and the IMF. Reach Lenna via Twitter @LennaAnahid and LinkedIn.

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  • by Steve Lubahn Wed Feb 27, 2013 via web

    Lenna, thanks for a great article that shows the practical side of what is working for businesses in their social media efforts. I was surprised to see the drop in YouTube from 2011 to 2012.

  • by Stephen Hart Thu Feb 28, 2013 via web

    Excellent article with a great summary of the winners and losers in the social media field. Very interesting to see more companies blogging rather than less. It seems I've read a lot about blogging being old hat but clearly that is not the case. I certainly believe it's the corner stone to online marketing certainly at the smaller business level.

    Also I was surprised to see the drop in YouTube usage. Again this goes contrary to some discussions I have had recently with marketeers who were saying that video messages were the 'in thing'. I wonder if that is still correct but the videos are being put somewhere other than YouTube?

  • by Lenna Thu Feb 28, 2013 via web

    Hi, Steve.

    I was surprised by the YouTube finding too (15 percentage points in one year is huge). Overall, I'd say it's not typical of what I've seen in other surveys conducted over the past year. Even so, this survey has been running since 2007—and it's pretty solid. Something to watch...

    Thanks,
    Lenna

  • by anne-marie kovacs Fri Mar 1, 2013 via web

    Interesting. Many of these numbers certainly go against the trends that we are seeing as a marketing services company in the social media area and against the reports of other recent studies on the topic. The most suprising number is the 39% that states that social media is VERY unecessary to add value to business growth. It has me question whether these businesses understand the meaning of social media, that is, even outside of the channels that the study mentioned (e.g. commenting, social bookmarking, reviews....). I'm pretty sure that social media is here to stay! ;-)

  • by anne-marie kovacs Fri Mar 1, 2013 via web

    And, here would be some contradicting news on social media spending by CMO's: http://www.cmo.com/articles/2013/2/26/the_cmo_survey_socia.frame.html. This jives more with what we have been experiencing.

  • by Patrick Allman Fri Mar 1, 2013 via web

    Lenna, My company was #163 on the 2012 Inc500, and although we did not participate in your study (sorry), we can validate your findings. We are spending much more time & money on LinkedIn than facebook. We sell a B2B product (enterprise social networks) and are having success distributing our educational blogs (blog.mangoapps.com) through LinkedIn. And yes, our CEO is very active on LinkedIn. Thanks for the great article, was nice to see the numbers.

  • by Melissa Wildstein Mon Mar 4, 2013 via web

    Thanks for the article - I honestly can't say that I'm surprised. I started my own biz two years ago and well meaning friends have been after me to start a Facebook page. I'm sorry, but medical device marketers aren't looking for strategy on Facebook! I do think that it's interesting to see that Twitter usage is also increasing although to a lesser degree.

  • by Massimo Allen Mon Mar 4, 2013 via web

    These are impressive numbers, needless to say I believe that so far the Internet marketers are making money from the Social media including the Social media providers themselves such as Linkedin. I like to see a more robust analytics on the subject, can Linkedin the Social Media Mogul provide similar analytics to Google's Adwords? I venture to say they can not, until then this is all Hype and good for a few first and foremost the venue in this case Linkedin. True that you could use it as a means to find New Talent, can you make money from this venue is another question.

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