Posted in Trends

Social Media in the Inc. 500: The First Longitudinal Study

Conducted by:
Nora Ganim Barnes, Ph.D. (nbarnes@umassd.edu)
Eric Mattson (eric@ericmattson.com)

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research recently conducted one of the first statistically
significant, longitudinal studies on the usage of social media in corporations.

The new study compares corporate adoption of social media between 2007 and 2008 by the Inc. 500, a list of the fastest-growing private U.S. companies compiled annually by Inc. Magazine. For details about the 2007 Inc. 500 and the complete directory of the included companies, please visit Inc. Magazine’s website at www.Inc.com.

In 2007 (using the 2006 Inc. 500 list), the first study of this group and their use of social media was released and revealed that the Inc. 500 was outpacing the more traditional Fortune 500 in their use of social media. For example, at that time, 8% of the Fortune 500 companies were blogging compared to 19% of the Inc. 500.

This study revisits the Inc. 500 approximately one year later (using the 2007 list) in the first longitudinal study on corporate use of these new technologies. Given that previous research now shows that just 11.6% of the Fortune 500 currently having a public blog, it is astounding to see that 39% of the Inc. 500 are blogging. The addition of 3.6% more Fortune 500 companies to the blogosphere pales in comparison to the addition of 20% more of the Inc. 500 companies after the same time period.

Like the original, the new study is the result of a nationwide telephone survey of those companies named by Inc. Magazine to the Inc. 500 list under the direction of researchers Nora Ganim Barnes and Eric Mattson. All interviews took place in March and April of 2008. Forty-two percent (209) of the Inc. 500 participated, making this research statistically valid at +/- 5%.

Given this statistical significance, this research proves conclusively that social media has penetrated parts of the business world at a tremendous speed. It also indicates that corporate familiarity with and usage of social media within the Inc. 500 has nearly doubled in the past 12 months.

The respondents in this study, as in the first study, are diverse in industry, size and location. They include 3 of the top 10, 11 of the top 25, and 44 of the top 100 companies from the Inc. 500 list. The 209 companies who responded were asked the same detailed questions concerning their usage and measurement of social media that were asked of the Inc. 500 approximately one year earlier. Questions probed familiarity of respondents with six prominent social media (blogging, podcasting, online video, social networking and wikis). In order to maintain the integrity of all comparisons, only those tools studied in the first study were included in this follow-up research.

The social media that continues to be the most familiar to the Inc. 500 is social networking with 57% of respondents in 2008 claiming to be “very familiar with it” (compared to 42% in 2007). Familiarity is related to usage. It is interesting to note, however, that even those forms of social media less familiar to the participants are still used by at least 20% of them. Just over one quarter of the Inc. 500 reported social media was very important to their business/marketing strategy in 2007. That number has increased to 44% just one year later.

the complete article and report can be found here:
http://www.umassd.edu/cmr/studiesresearch/blogstudy5.cfm

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