The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is out with this year’s edition of their annual look at social media by the Inc 500.
From a high level, 93% of companies in this group are using social media in some way, shape or form, a number that’s actually down 2% from 2013.
Facebook – This could be because of all the changes Facebook has made in the last year, changes that have almost uniformly been aimed at reducing the number of “overly promotional” posts, which at least to some extent has created an environment that’s not conducive to marketing messages.
Foursquare – With all the changes Foursquare has gone through, it’s likely fast-growing retail businesses are seeing more usefulness from its renewed focus on local search and recommendations, having spun-off check-ins to Swarm. But this is kind of a question mark since the current buzz around Foursquare is minimal.
YouTube – It’s likely this has lots to do with companies being encouraged to put video anywhere else, particularly Facebook and now Twitter. So having a video hub on YouTube, while still something we recommend clients do because of how it works with almost all other platforms, may be seen as less essential to some companies.
Pinterest – Perhaps the biggest surprise here is that Pinterest adoption is down. This is supposed to be the hot new platform for corporate usage.
Instagram – A spike of ~40% here means businesses are seeing real value from a platform that is *not* focused around conversions (yes, there are workarounds) but instead a pure play engagement channel. That’s encouraging since it means channels aren’t being discounted entirely simply because you can’t link to a “read more/purchase now” page.
Only 34% of companies have a social media strategy in place
It is disappointing to see blog usage slip for the Inc 500 in the same way a previous showed for the Fortune 500. That means fewer and fewer companies are seeing the very real value in a hub and spoke content marketing strategy, a strategy that’s important not just for whatever is being published today but also, down the road, having a trove of archived posts that can be called upon at anytime and which form a rich vein of search results.
Another major finding involves social media and commerce. Most Inc 500 execs think there is potential for sales growth on Twitter (58%), but that’s down slightly from 2013. Also down is Pinterest, while Facebook’s perception of being a sales growth channel is steady from 2013, despite the aforementioned changes. Perhaps that’s because many of the execs know they can still buy Facebook ads and keep propping up sales on that channel.
Surprisingly – and disappointingly – only 34% of companies surveyed have a social media strategy in place, a number that has dropped steadily since 2012. While the idea that social media is just a subset of marketing or other departments isn’t entirely wrong, it’s also not close being right. Without strategies you don’t know how you’re achieving goals (going backward up the chain of things that need to happen) and can’t decide on tactics (going down the chain of things that need to happen) and so are left with a “well, we’ll just keep trying things” scenario. That means not only is harder to decide what’s working and replicate those actions but also harder to nail down what isn’t. And it can lead to Shiny Object Syndrome, where every new toy is tried because there are no goals to map to when evaluating a tool’s potential effectiveness.
The rest of the study can be read here to see how these companies are approaching mobile, how many have publicly-accessible social media policies and more.