More than seven in ten (71%) of the nation's fastest-growing private companies now use Facebook and, among them, 85% say their efforts are proving successful, up 36 percentage points from the 54% that said so a year earlier, according to a study by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth's Center for Marketing Research

Inc. 500 companies are still ramping up their use of social channels. For example, 59% of those listed on the 2010 Inc. 500 ranking now use Twitter, up from the 52% who did so in 2009. Interestingly, that 2010 level is comparable to the 60% of Fortune 500 (F500) companies that reported using Twitter in 2010. However, F500 companies were later adopters: Only 35% used Twitter in 2009.

Blogging is an increasingly important tool for Inc. 500 companies: 50% have corporate-facing blogs, up from 45% a year earlier. Meanwhile, only 23% of 2010 F500 companies had a corporate-facing blog in 2010, nearly equal to the 22% recorded in 2009.

Inc. 500 companies are also leading from a policy standpoint: 34% of Inc. 500 companies have developed policies to govern blogging among their employees, compared with 20% of the F500 companies.

Below, other findings from the 2010 Inc. 500 study of social media use, conducted by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Inc. 500 companies are reporting success with the social media tools they're using:

  • 93% say their online video efforts are successful, compared with 87% that said so in 2009.
  • 86% report success with blogging, down from 88% in 2009.
  • 81% of those using Twitter rate their efforts as successful, compared with 82% in 2009.

Although only 5% of Inc. 500 companies are using Foursquare, already an impressive 75% say those efforts are proving successful.

Looking for great digital marketing data? MarketingProfs reviewed hundreds of research sources to create our most recent Digital Marketing Factbook (May 2010), a 296-page compilation of data and 254 charts, covering email marketing, social media, search engine marketing, e-commerce, and mobile marketing. Also check out The State of Social Media Marketing, a 240-page original research report from MarketingProfs.

Social Media Familiarity

Facebook ranks highest in overall familiarity, followed by Twitter and blogging:

  • 87% of Inc. 500 companies say they are very familiar with Facebook.
  • 71% are very familiar with Twitter, up from 62% in 2009.
  • 61% are very familiar with blogging, down from 67% in 2009.

Though familiarity is generally related to adoption, there are platforms where that does not apply: 44% of Inc. 500 companies say they are familiar with MySpace, but only 6% use it. Similarly, 19% are familiar Foursquare, and only 5% report using it.

Strategic Importance

Social media is taking on a more important role in Inc. 500 businesses:

  • 83% of Inc. 500 companies report using at least one social media channel.
  • 56% say social media is very important to their business strategy, compared with 44% that said so in 2009, and 26% in 2007.
  • 70% say they actively monitor their brand via social media channels, up slightly from the 68% reported in 2009, 60% in 2008, and 50% in 2007.
  • Social networking sites (57%) as well as search engines (57%) have become important channels for recruiting and evaluating potential employees, up slightly from 2009.

Facebook, in particular, is a key player: 44% of Inc. 500 companies cite Facebook as the single most effective social networking platform they use. Among those not using Facebook, 34% say they plan to.

Vendor, Partner Communications

Social media is also being used more to communicate with vendors and partners: 31% of Inc. 500 companies say they connect to partners and vendors via Facebook and 27% do so via Twitter, up from 26% in 2009.

About the data: The 2010 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 2010. The 2010 list was released in the September issue of Inc. Magazine. In this fourth iteration, 34% (171 out of 500) of the Inc. 500 participated.

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