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CtrMktingRsrch-Social-Media-Contribution-Inc500-Growth-Feb201392% of the 2012 Inc. 500 companies use social media, ranging from popular tools such as LinkedIn (81%), Twitter (67%) and Facebook (67%) to emerging ones, such as foursquare (28%) and Pinterest (18%), according to a study released in January 2012 by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Interestingly, though, when executives from these fast-growing companies were asked how necessary social media has been for their growth, about 4 in 10 responded that social had been “somewhat” (24%) or “very” (15%) unnecessary.

The flip side of that, of course, is that a solid majority believes that social has been “very” (27%) or “somewhat” necessary (35%) for their company’s growth. But when other research finds 8 in 10 marketers pointing to social as a strategic imperative, or 6 in 10 senior marketers saying that social is key to their company’s survival, it’s worth noting that not everyone is quite as enthusiastic.

Another significant finding from the 2012 study is that compared to the 2011 survey, far fewer respondents were planning increases in social media investments. Among the 2012 Inc. 500, just 44% said they would be increasing their social media budgets in the upcoming year, down from 71% in the 2011 survey. That may not necessarily be an indictment of social media marketing, but rather a reflection of it becoming more mature. Indeed, 41% of respondents planned to maintain their level of social media spend, and just 1% said they would decrease it.

Still, as seen in other surveys, measuring ROI remains a challenge, possibly hindering budget growth. 58% of the Inc. 500 executives responding to the survey said that they do not have a way to financially determine the ROI of their social media efforts.

Other Findings:

  • Adoption of LinkedIn grew from 73% in the 2011 survey to 81% in the 2012 edition. The use of blogging (44% vs. 33%) and foursquare (28% vs. 13%) also grew, while fewer used Facebook (67% vs. 74%) and YouTube (30% vs. 45%).
  • 63% of respondents said their company tracks online conversations about their brands, products, or industry from a monitoring tool such as Google Alerts or a monitoring service. That’s down from 68% in 2011 and 70% in 2010.

About the Data: The 2012 study, under the direction of researchers Nora Ganim Barnes, and Ava Lescault is the result of a nationwide telephone survey of those companies named by Inc. Magazine to the Inc. 500 list for 2012. All interviews took place in the fall of 2012. The list was released in the September 2012 issue of Inc. Magazine. In this sixth iteration, 34% percent (170) of the Inc. 500 participated, making this research statistically valid at +/- 6%.

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