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When it comes to social media and brand awareness, the Inc. 500 are glowing in their approval: almost all (96%) agree that social media is effective in building brand awareness, with 92% also agreeing that it’s effective in creating relationships with consumers/customers. These figures come courtesy of the latest annual study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, which also finds that the large majority (84%) agree that being active on social media is essential for business success – a figure that has climbed 10% points in just 3 years.

Virtually all (94%) of these privately-owned and fast-growing companies have a presence on at least one social media site, while half (50%) also use corporate blogs as a communications tool.

But the study also finds that the level of attention paid to social media policy varies. Despite the enthusiasm surrounding social media’s impact, only 1 in 5 (21%) now have a stand-alone social media plan in place, while a third (35%) have no written plan at all. The remainder incorporate social media plans within their wider marketing or business plans.

Concerns Lie Beneath A Positive Exterior

The study also revealed that underneath the optimism, there are a few issues bubbling away for Inc. 500 executives.

Return on investment comes top of the list – as it has in previous years of the study – with close to half (48%) citing it as a concern.

Privacy issues have also risen by 5% points to take second place among those concerns listed, with nearly 4 in 10 (38%) citing this. Other research confirms that privacy has been a particular concern for both consumers and marketers.

Other worries on the list include the amount of resources devoted to social media (37%), legal issues (35%), analytics (31%), and ethical issues (28%).

How Does Platform Use Compare?

Among the social media platforms themselves, the most used site is LinkedIn, followed by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

The adoption rates appear to illustrate a decline year-over-year, however it’s worth noting that as the Inc. 500 is not a static list – rather, it is simply a ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in America that have disclosed their financials to Inc. magazine – such a trend might not be representative of business as a whole.

LinkedIn has remained at the top of the list for each year of this study, though. Some 40% said it was this network that gave them the greatest potential for increasing sales.

Employee engagement through social media was also encouraged by 55% of respondents – a positive fact given that employees rank their employers more favorably than business as a whole.

The full study is available to read online here.

About the Data: Figures are based on a survey of 112 companies in the Inc. 500, representing all industries in the list. Respondents represent all 25 industries in the Inc. 500 list and have revenues ranging from $2M to over $400M with 46% of them falling between $3M-$10.9M.

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