Blogs rise, social media investment levels off among the fastest growing companies2013-02-19
The Inc. 500 is not an alternative to the venerated Fortune 500. While the Fortune listing is home to the biggest companies, the Inc. 500 focuses on the businesses that are growing the fastest. It’s no surprise to see these companies behaving more progressively and taking some risks more typically shunned by larger organizations.
Ninety-two percent of the Inc. 500 employ at least one social media tool, according to a study released earlier this week by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Nora Gamin Barnes has been producing the annual study since 2007, providing a longitudinal view of social media adoption among fast-growing businesses. LinkedIn is the platform used by most companies. At 81%, it has displaced Facebook; 7% fewer companies have dropped the world’s biggest social network since previous year, while LinkedIn and Twitter added Inc. 500 companies to their roster of users.
For the first time, the study (co-authored by Ava Lescault) asked respondents about future plans for social media. While 22% reported no social media plan at all, 12% have a discrete social media plan and 59% integrate it into the marketing or business plans, demonstrating a consolidation of social media in marketing departments. “Given the multifaceted use of social media for engagement across the enterprise,” the report ponders, “it will be interesting to see how the marketers coordinate that effort.”
The rise of blogging as a corporate tool after years of stagnation is a big story. The number of companies producing corporate blogs jumped 7 points from the 37% adoption in the 2011 report. That’s also 16% more than the Fortune 500, which rose from 23% in 2011 to 28% in 2012. “The data indicates that blogging, with its unique qualities of being locally owned and operated, free from restrictions of length and content and a great platform to establish thought leadership, is gaining in favor,” according to the report. Tech and media companies were the most likely to have a blog, while those in the government services category were at the other end of the scale, least likely to blog.
Maintaining a blog and other social media channels doesn’t mean every company finds social media essential to business. Thirty-nine percent don’t agree that these tools are necessary for growth, compared to the 62% that do. Only 9% hire staff specifically to handle social media responsibilities, up just 2 points from 2011. About the same number use social media consultants or outside content providers. Instead, 65% of Inc. 500 companies shuffle the roles of existing employees, most often assigning social media to Marketing, an intern or part-timer, or (surprisingly) it’s handled by the CEO.
“The staffing of the social media function may also be related to a considerable decline in planned investments in the social media area,” the report suggests. 28% fewer companies plan to increase their investments, a drop from 71% in 2011 to 44% in 2012. While few of the Inc. 500 plan to decrease their investments, the report concludes that the surge of spending on social media could be leveling off. “Businesses now feel it is less imperative to make new investments in this area,” the report says.
About a third of the respondents say they can measure the ROI of their social media spending, 19% of which can link cost reduction to social media, notably in the cost of recruiting, attributable in part to the rising use of LinkedIn.
Surprisingly, the number of companies that monitor for real-time references to company and brands is also down, from 70% in 2010 to 63% in 2012. While the report argues all companies need to know what people are saying about them, these conversations “may be less relevant for B2B or industries like Government Services.”
Other interesting findings:
- More than half of the Inc. 500 have established a strategy to address an online crisis.
- The Inc. 500 is more interested in establishing networks with other professionals than in communicating with target audiences via now-traditional channels like Facebook and LinkedIn.
- CEOs at 63% of Inc. 500 companies contribute content of some kind to their organizations’ various content portals. This is a dramatic difference from Fortune 500 companies, where CEOs tend to be more removed from social media activities, according to a Conference Board/Stanford Business School report.