Inc. 500: LinkedIn Replaces Facebook as Top Social Tool By: Lenna Garibian

LinkedIn is the most popular social media tool among the nation’s  fastest-growing private companies, according to a study by the University of  Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Center for Marketing Research, under the direction  of researcher Nora Ganim Barnes, PhD.

More than 8 in 10 companies listed on the 2012 Inc. 500 (81% of them) use the  professional networking site, up from 73% a year earlier. Meanwhile, the  proportion of Inc. 500 companies using Facebook has declined, from 74% in  2011, to 67% in 2012.

Other findings related to social media  adoption among the 2012 Inc.  500:

  • Blogging gained momentum in 2012: 44% of Inc. 500 companies  now publish a blog, up from 37% a year earlier.
  • Software, advertising/marketing, and media companies were the most likely to  blog in 2012, whereas government services organizations were least likely  to do so.
  • Foursquare use has doubled, from 13% of companies  in 2011, to 28% in 2012.
  • The proportion of companies using YouTube has fallen,  from 45% in 2011, to 30% in 2012.
  • 18% of 2012 Inc. 500 companies use Pinterest.

Below, additional findings from the 2012 Inc. 500 study of social media  use, conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Center for  Marketing Research.

Importantly, nearly two-thirds (63%) of Inc. 500 CEOs are contributing  content or taking ownership of some social media outlet.

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Investments Leveling Off

Fewer companies are increasing investments in social-media marketing.

Only 44% of the 2012 Inc. 500 companies plan to spend more on social media in  the coming year, compared with 71% of companies that planned to do so in  2011.

Some 41% of 2012 Inc. 500 companies say their investments in social  media will stay flat in the coming year (vs. 25% of Inc. 500  companies that reported the same a year earlier).

Monitoring Social Buzz

Inc. 500 companies are growing less attentive to social-media buzz: 63% of  2012 Inc. 500 companies now monitor social conversations about their names,  products, or brands, down from the 68% that did so in 2011 and the 70% that did  so in 2010.

Value to Business Growth

Despite increased use of social media, Inc. 500 companies are somewhat  mixed on how central social marketing is to their growth: 6 in 10 (62%) say  social tools have been very necessary (27%) or somewhat necessary (35%) to the  growth of their company. By contrast, 4 in 10 (39%) disagree, saying social  media is very unnecessary (15%) or somewhat unnecessary (24%) for business  growth:

Return on Investment

Only one-third (34%) of the 2012 Inc. 500 report having the ability  to determine financial return on social media investments. Among  that third, 19% say social media has helped them cut recruiting costs.

About the data: The 2012 study, under the direction  of researcher Nora Ganim Barnes, PhD, is based on a nationwide phone survey of  companies named by Inc. Magazine to the Inc. 500 list, conducted in October and  November of 2012. The 2012 list was released in the September issue of Inc.  Magazine. In this sixth iteration, 34% (170 out of 500) of Inc. 500 companies  participated. Interviews were conducted with the highest-ranking marketing or  communications executive at each company. In many cases, the company CEO or CMO  provided the information.

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