Inc. 500 Companies Increase Their Use of Instagram, See Value in Paid Social

February 28, 2020

UMassDartmouth Inc500 Use Social Media Platforms 2015 2019 Feb2020Fully 95% of Inc. 500 companies used at least one social media platform in 2019, largely consistent with the year prior (94%). And although LinkedIn and Facebook remain the social media platforms of choice for these fast-growing companies, Instagram adoption is on the rise, per recent research from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research.

Slightly more than half (52%) of the 2019 Inc. 500 used Instagram last year, up from about one-third (32%) just 4 years earlier. While most of the social media platforms studied did see increased usage by the Inc. 500 in 2019 (with the exception of Twitter), Instagram is the only social platform that saw its highest-ever adoption rates among the fastest-growing private companies in the US. The Inc. 500 companies seem to be in line with most marketers: recent research has found that 7 in 10 marketers believe that Instagram will be an “essential” platform for their future. It’s worth noting though, that the growth in Instagram users in the US appears to be leveling off.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn enjoys the distinction of being used by nearly 9 in 10 (87%) of the Inc. 500, retaining its position as the social platform most used by these top companies. Although the research notes that LinkedIn has been used to facilitate business networking as well as recruitment, it has not had as much of an impact on sales. However, this may soon change, with recent data from eMarketer showing that close to half of US companies with at least 100 employees are now using LinkedIn for marketing purposes.

Although most Inc. 500 companies have increased their use of social media platforms, almost half (46%) of the executives surveyed believe that the value of free social media has leveled off. This has led almost two-thirds (64%) to consider alternatives to free social media, and a slight majority (53%) of executives say they are likely to spend more on paid social in the next year as part of their efforts to increase sales. Indeed, MarketingCharts’ own research has found that social media ads are one of the top purchase influencers for US adults.

While most executives say that social media is effective in building brand awareness (94%) and creating relationships with customers (91%), fewer are tracking conversations and sales on social media than they have in the past. Only two-fifths (40%) of Inc. 500 executives say they are tracking online conversations about their brand, product or industry using a monitoring tool.

Notably, Inc. 500 companies are getting behind employee advocacy. With consumers often putting more trust in regular employees than executives in a company, 3 in 5 (57%) Inc. 500 companies encourage their employees to discuss the company on their own private accounts.

Finally, concerns about privacy issues remain for Inc. 500 companies (40% in 2019 vs. 38% in 2018). However, somewhat surprisingly, fewer executives surveyed are concerned about legal issues (29% in 2019 vs. 35% in 2018) and ethical issues (19% in 2019 vs. 28% in 2018).

You can read more about social media and the Inc. 500 here.

About the Data: Results for 2019 are based on data collected during Fall of 2019, including a survey of executives from 149 Inc. 500 companies. The Inc. 500 list represents the fastest-growing, privately-owned companies in the United States.


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