We can get a glimpse of trends, though, from the work being done at the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
For the past four years, the Center has been tracking social media use among the Inc. 500, a list of the fastest-growing private U.S. companies compiled annually by Inc. Magazine. This survey is one of the few longitudinal studies that offer in-depth insight into corporate social media adoption and engagement.
Here are a few highlights from the latest Inc. 500 survey, conducted in October and November of 2010:
- Facebook and Twitter lead the social media pack. A whopping 87 percent of respondents said they are “very familiar” with the Facebook platform. Forty-four percent say Facebook is the single most effective social networking platform they use. Nearly three-fourths (71 percent percent) said they are familiar with Twitter –that’s up from 62 percent in 2009.
- Companies in the Inc. 500 are using blogs effectively. Fifty percent of the 2010 Inc. 500 has a corporate blog (up from 45 percent in 2009 and 39 percent in 2008), and according to the Center for Marketing Research, there is also clear evidence that companies are using blogs effectively. Inc. 500 companies are engaging consumers by accepting and replying to comments and providing a vehicle for subscriptions. In addition, 34 percent have developed policies to govern blogging by their employees.
- Most say social media is “very important.” More than half (56 percent) of the Inc. 500 said social media was “very important” to their business/marketing strategy. What’s more, 57 percent report using search engines and social networking sites to recruit and evaluate potential employees. Social media is not only used for communication between business and consumers, but for communicating with vendors and partners, as well.
- Social media adoption is skewed by industry. Even though 83 percent of the 2010 Inc. 500 use at least one of the social media tools studied, the survey showed that adoption continues to vary by industry. For example, government services companies make up 12 percent of the 2010 Inc. 500, but these companies comprise 27 percent of those who do not use social media tools. Likewise, energy companies comprise 3 percent of the 2010 Inc. 500, but 17 percent of the non-users. Financial Services companies represent 5 percent of the Inc. 500, but 10 percent of those who have not yet adopted social media.
For more details, see the executive summary of the data available here.