The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth recently conducted its annual in-depth study on the usage of social media by the fastest-growing corporations in the US. This new study revisits the Center’s work on the Inc. 500 social media usage for the eighth consecutive year, making it a valuable and rare longitudinal study of corporate use of new communication tools.
The Inc. 500 comes from the list of the fastest-growing private US companies compiled annually by Inc. Magazine. For details about the 2014 Inc. 500 and the complete directory of the included companies, please visit Inc. Magazine’s website at www.Inc.com.
As in the earlier studies, the 2014 study, under the direction of researchers Nora Ganim Barnes and Ava Lescault, is the result of a nationwide telephone survey of those companies named by Inc. Magazine to the Inc. 500 list for 2014. All interviews took place in the fall of 2014. The businesses on the list include a wide range of industries from IT Services to Health as well as Environmental Services.
The research presented here was conducted using two approaches. First, every company named to the 2014 Inc. 500 list was examined in order to determine which social media tools they were using. Each homepage was reviewed in addition to the entire website (since some did not link to their accounts from the homepage). Search engines were also utilized to find an online presence if none was obvious after reviewing the website. All of the 2014 Inc. 500 were included in this part of the process.
Our second level of research involved interviewing a random sample of executives from the Inc. 500 list to ask questions with a specific focus on issues such as social commerce, mobile, online crisis management and social media policies. One hundred ten interviews were conducted representing 22% of the Inc. 500. All issues in this study were also examined using the same methodology in the 2013 study, allowing us to provide trend data.
The responding executives represent a diverse group, which consists of 21 of the 26 industries on the 2014 Inc. 500 list. Eighteen percent of the companies surveyed made the top 100 on the list (9 are ranked in the top 25). Respondents reported annual company revenues ranging from under $3M to over $150M with 46% of them falling between $3m-$10m. Approximately two-thirds of the sample has 1-50 employees and 64% were founded between the years 2008-2011.
This latest iteration proves once again that social media has penetrated parts of the business world at a tremendous speed. It also indicates that corporate usage of social media within the Inc. 500 has changed in the past 12 months.