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LinkedIn (92%), Facebook (90%) and Twitter (79%) remain the most commonly-used social media platforms by Inc. 500 companies, according to the latest annual study of this topic from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. But Instagram is showing rapid increases in adoption, overtaking YouTube, which seems to be moving in the other direction.

About half (49%) of Inc. 500 companies used Instagram as of Fall 2017, when the data was analyzed, up from 46% in 2016 and 32% a year earlier. By comparison, just 38% used YouTube as of the latest edition of the report, down from 48% the year prior.

The results are interesting light of a new study from the Pew Research Center, which found YouTube to be the most widely used social platform by US adults. The same study also found Instagram usage to be growing among the adult population.

The reason for the decline in YouTube usage by the Inc. 500 may be due to its effectiveness – or lack thereof. Whereas LinkedIn and Facebook are considered very effective, Twitter and YouTube are perceived to be among the least effective, according to a survey conducted among Inc. 500 executives for the report.

By contrast, Instagram was among the more effective platforms identified by responding executives, as was blogging, which has increased in popularity in recent years among Inc. 500 firms.

Other Survey Highlights

In other notable findings from the survey:

  • Some 44% of Inc. 500 executives surveyed said they track online conversations about their brands, products or industry using a monitoring tool, down from more than 6 in 10 in last year’s study;
  • The vast majority of executives agree that social media is effective in building brand awareness (95%) and creating relationships with consumers and customers (86%);
  • While 71% feel that their company’s efforts in social media have been effective, that represents a decline from 83% last year;
  • About 8 in 10 believe that being active on social media is essential for their success (78%) and that social media is effective in generating leads and sales (78%);
  • Just 12% of respondents have a standalone social media plan, down from 21% last year;
  • Three in 10 have a strategy in place in the event of an online crisis, down from 39% last year; and
  • While fewer respondents this year identify a range of concerns with social media – including, somewhat surprisingly, privacy issues – ROI continues to be the main concern.

About the Data: The study describes its methodology as follows:

“The research presented here was collected in two stages. The first stage investigated which social media tools are being utilized. These tools include: blogging, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. The number of followers and likes were also recorded where appropriate. This data was collected primarily via the company’s website where most companies provide a link to the platforms they use. If no link was found on their website, search engines were used in an attempt to capture all accounts. The Inc. 500 ranking, revenue and industry were recorded from the Inc. 500 website. This data was collected on all 500 companies.

The second stage of research involved interviewing a random sample of executives from the Inc. 500 list to gather information about their specific focus on issues such as their concerns regarding social media use, perceived effectiveness, and the relationship between social media use and potential sales. One hundred and twenty companies (24%) were interviewed in this stage.

The 2017 Inc. 500 executives responding are a diverse group, representing 25 industries. They have annual company revenues ranging from under $3M to over $100M with 60% of them falling between $3M-$10.9M. Fifty percent of the companies were launched between 2012 and 2017 while 39% were launched between 2008 and 2011. The most prominent industries were, Business Products and Services (9%), IT Services (9%) and Advertising and Marketing (8%).”

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