Umass Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research Blog

New Study!

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

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.

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Social Media Killing Industries Part 2

One of the hardest-hit industries since the invention of modern day technologies (laptops, cell phones, mp3 players, and tablets running social media) is the Music Industry. YouTube, Pandora, Google Play, and many other music-streaming services have taken the place of CD and MP3 Albums. The year 1999 saw 4 Diamond albums release. Diamond status is awarded to an album that sells at least 10 million copies. The most recent diamond album was Adele’s 21 in the year 2011. Taylor Swifts 1989 was the only platinum album of 2014. Platinum status is awarded to an album which sells at least 1 million copies. Some artists such as Kanye West have stated they cannot make serious money solely on album sales any longer. Click the link below for music sales since the 1970s.

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Social Media Killing Industries Part 1

Does the mention of the steadily decreasing demand of the postal service even need to be brought up now? Who even mails letters or sends post cards anymore? In the 21st-century we’re all sending emails or text messages right? The postal service has for years been struggling to respond to the decline in demand.

Emails and texts are a faster, cheaper method of communication. Of course, there is still something special about receiving a heartfelt post card from family and friends on vacation or business trips. A hand written letter on loose-leaf paper is a thoughtful personal touch. But emails and texts allow for the inclusion of pictures and videos. Who wouldn’t want instant digital media that is readily sharable?

As a more formal aspect, more and more businesses are favoring online services over hard copy mail. These days everything is about speed and profit. What could be better then a bill instantly sent to a customer via the Internet who can then instantly pay their debts online? Also, no one can pitch a case against environmentalists who argue the digital methods save paper from trees and gas from the postal service vehicles. Let’s not forget about the frequently rising price of stamps. Take a look at this article by the Washington post.

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Is Social Media Only Social Anymore?

Million-dollar question: is social media only social anymore? In reality, there is a very simple answer to that question…no! Let’s take a minute to remember how social media came to be. During the mid to late 1990s, the Internet’s explosion was just gaining momentum. If you were to ask current undergrad students (who were most likely born around that time period) they’d likely all say they couldn’t really remember a time when the Internet wasn’t a lifeline. Google itself was born in 1996 as a research project between two Ph.D. candidates. Yes, that was less than two decades ago. Initially social media was a way for individuals to connect to each other through the Internet. People were able to keep each other up to date on recent life events, share pictures, and simply get to know each other more. But now, social media is used for much more.

Educational Media:

Teachers, instructors, and professors alike have taken to media as a new aspect of conducting their course. Here at UMass Dartmouth our students use to complete homework, download study guides, as well as connect with their classmates and instructors. Click the link below to find a list of a handful of similar sites.

Political Media:

Careful, its easy to lose a friend or two with this type! (pun intended) Media media has become a very important tool in campaigns for office. Hey, it’s even a bragging right among some politicians. Many have used their accounts to notify their followers of progress they’ve made and also upcoming projects they have planned. US President Barack Obama boasts 54.4 million followers.

Business Media:

The most widely disliked form a media out their today…business media. Gone are the days of logging onto your platform of choice and only seeing your friends. Now you must endure an influx of advertisement cluttering your screen. Let’s be honest, sometimes you do find good deals, which leaves both customer and business happy. So let’s not roll our eyes too much!

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Sports Perspectives

If you’re a New England Patriots fan…the words “deflate gate” have surely become a thorn in your side. Sorry. From the newspaper articles, the to the television segments, and yes of course social media you’ve been experiencing some frustration haven’t you? What is your perspective on the matter? Any ideas of what events actually took place before (and possibly during) the January 18th huge defeat of the Indianapolis Colts 45-7? Football fans the country over have taken to their social media accounts to add their on the issue.

Outside of New England, the general mood IS NOT in the Patriots’ favor. Let’s be honest, did we really expect that? People have made statements touching upon many aspects. Understandably, some have questioned the team’s honor and integrity while slamming its reputation. Others have called for the team to be disqualified from the Super Bowl. Although, some people and oddly enough some Colts players themselves have defended the Patriots saying it wasn’t anything abnormal and the outcome of the game wasn’t severely effected.

Within New England, the perspective is that there’s no big deal and that the story have been blown out of proportion. Some even accuse the NFL of purposely dragging their feet on the investigation in favor of more viewers for SuperBowl 49. Most individuals have loyally supported Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady. Quite interestingly (yet predictably) hypotheses of sabotage and secret payoffs have surfaced. Nevertheless, this is sure to be a very exciting game.

What an occurrence! Take to your accounts and have a look for yourself!

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Longevity of Social Media

Ever made a comparison between social media platforms? And while making those comparisons, did you ever consider the length of time they’ve managed to stay on top? AOL, AIM, MySpace…all beloved platforms that have, let’s face it, been downgraded to not much more than a fond memory in our personal galleries. But let’s give them their credit for once ruling the Internet and acting as pioneers for social media.

On a different note, Facebook is widely beloved to have been the nail in the casket for MySpace. In its early stages many assumed it too had a limited (thought not known) life expectancy. Boy were we wrong. Many new platforms have been introduced but haven’t claimed the lives of others. Isn’t that something? Social media has progressed from a select few sites on the Internet to upwards of a dozen prominent platforms on the Internet AND in mobile app formats.

How did such a rise come to be? There are a number of obvious reasons. The invention of the smart phone is one that you cannot forget. Another element that is incredible is the use in all levels of education. You also have to consider the more open mind of adults; all to often you see business beg for you “like” of their page, and an obscene amount of advertisement. What other reasons can you attribute to the explosion of social media?

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Social Media and the Olympics

In honor of Boston, capital of our beautiful state, being named the American Bid for the 2024 Olympics…

What does social media have to do with the Olympics? Well, almost everything at this point. With last year’s Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and London 2012 Summer Olympics you’re forced into a social media crossroads when the iconic cauldron is lit. Option #1: Use it heavily! During the Olympics you can obtain real time results and to show support of your country. But with all good things it carries a risk of backfiring. Option #2: avoid at all costs! You might bump into results before their aired on TV. After all, the shiny new stadiums can’t do much to evade the time difference.

Now let’s come back home to beloved Boston, Massachusetts. Before the US Olympic Committee gave it the nod, it was highlighted that Boston had the most supports across its social media platforms. What a great help that was! Also, the International committee will be taking notes on how the Boston committee interacts with its citizens and supporters. That is a great opportunity for the city to stand out from its competition. Another great thing is the vast amount of information including venue plans, financial statements, and political discussions.

Congratulations to all of Massachusetts and New England!

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Preferred Social Media Platform

Let’s face it, nowadays at the end of 2014 we have umpteen options when it comes to social media. It has come a long way from the AOL we (that are old enough) all affectionately remember. Options include Instagram, a photographical driven platform in which users publish their own pictures and view those uploaded by other users. Then you have Twitter, a place where you can find short, but frequent snippets of information 140 character in length. Don’t you for a second dare to forget about your hashtags! LinkedIn is another great option which markets itself as “a business-oriented social networking service. Founded in December 2002 and launched on May 5, 2003 it is mainly used for professional networking”. Say hello to your boss and colleagues for me! YouTube has long time been the #1 video streaming site, even responsible for launching millionaires’ careers. Anybody ever heard of Justin Bieber or Carly Rae Jepson? A newcomer to the playing field in Pintrest, which is a great place to share your ideas and also see ideas published by others. Of course, you cannot forget social media flagship Facebook. We all know and love the site. This is the Center for Marketing Research, below is a link to an article of platforms are marketers should be familiar with. Which is your platform of choice?

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Social Media and Indictment Verdict Protests

See anything about the verdicts regarding the #MikeBrown and #EricGarner indictment verdicts on your social media accounts recently? If you haven’t…exactly which social media platform are you accessing on your laptop, tablet, or mobile device? Nevertheless, #icantbreathe has been treading in the top 3 on Twitter for over a week now; a very usually extended period of time. Users have armed themselves with social media to achieve of number of objectives regarding the recently influx of high-profile racial discrimination cases. Immediately following each verdict going public, social media usage soared! Many users expressed their satisfaction of the Grand Jury’s decision not to charge each officer. Some continued to describe some of the details such as errors in the processes. Meanwhile others of the opposite opinion opted to show their disapproval, and describe their grief. They decided to highlight the mistreatment of each victim. The protesting that would immediately follow also found itself a way onto social media. Both sides of the argument reposted articles supporting their views. Many reposted statements made by public figures, and even ordinary citizens they did not even know. Understandably emotions ran high, but it served as a great platform for individuals to join to together for what they believe in. What do you think of social media and social-political debating?

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New study: Millennials Transform Social Commerce: Hashtag “Buy” Buttons?

Social commerce is a term used to describe a form of commerce mediated by social media that facilitates the sharing of information about products and services for both online and offline purchases.  Yahoo first used the term in 2005 in a launch of a new online shopping store.  Social commerce is shaping emerging commercial channels and marketers are taking advantage of social technologies to expand their businesses.  Given the potential of social commerce and the size and buying power of Millennials, along with their propensity to make social inspired purchases, a study on this group is invaluable in developing new strategies for selling to this tech savvy and always connected cohort.

It is estimated that Millennials will have a combined purchasing power of $2.45 trillion worldwide by 2015.  Forrester Research estimates social commerce in the US to reach $30 billion by 2015.  This buying will be carried out online and in stores.  At this time, tracking meaningful social commerce conversions tied to user behavior is at its early stages.  While we can assume that social interactions in the form on online reviews, posts, forums and recommendations is driving some purchasing, documenting the scope of this activity and final channel for purchases is difficult. This is further complicated by the race of the most popular platforms to add “buy” buttons and new payment options to encourage buying while remaining on the platform.

The driving force behind social commerce can be attributed to the Millennial generation’s penchant for social media.  Numbering 76 million strong, Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are defined as the demographic cohort born between 1980 and 2000.  Their size and combined purchasing power make Millennials a valuable market segment for the future success of most companies.

However, unlike past generations, Millennials are not influenced by traditional ‘push’ marketing strategies.  Born and raised in the age of technology, Millennials consume information when and how they want to.  This has grave implications for companies who cannot adapt their marketing strategies quickly enough to capture and capitalize on their intermittent attention.  Social media has provided companies with valuable tools to attract and engage Millennials on their own terms.  However, despite the prevalence of social media, social commerce remains a relatively new phenomenon.  It will demand a new understanding of the power of sharing and its impact of consumption patterns.

In September 2014, ShareThis released one of the first studies focusing on Millennials and social commerce gathering data by observing online browsing and social patterns of Millennials.  They conclude that for these young consumers, interactivity and discussion are central to purchase decisions.  The study did not report on behaviors for any specific platforms and reported findings only in relation to the non-Millennial population, for example saying Millennials are “3x more likely” to behave in a certain way.

This study, conducted by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, is an in-depth look at current purchasing habits and trends of Millennials using three of the most widely used social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest).  Last year, the Center conducted its first study on this topic, which served as the basis for this 2014 longitudinal look at Millennials and social commerce. Changes over the past 12 months will be noted.

In an effort to discern what turns a like, follow or pin into a sale, this study, like the 2013 study, explores and analyzes lead conversion tactics as identified by Millennials themselves.  Also included is a look at mobile technology and its role in online purchasing.  The potential for “buy” buttons is explored for the first time along with specifics on what products Millennials are buying on the most popular platforms. 

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