In the United States, the Inc. 500 is a list published every year by Inc. Magazine of the 500 fastest growing private companies in the country. Business people, investors, analysts—they all want to know what makes these companies tick. In 2007, the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth launched the first of its annual reviews of the use of social media by the Inc. 500. Now, the results for 2013 are available.
For the second year in a row, Inc. 500 executives ranked LinkedIn as the preferred platform with usage growing to 88% of companies in the Inc. 500. Facebook ranked second (84%) followed by Twitter (74%), Google+ (58%), blogging (52%), YouTube (50%), Pinterest (33%), Foursquare (23%), and Instagram (18%). Overall, 95% of Inc. 500 companies are using at least one social media platform.
Results of the study revealed surprises in three areas: social commerce, mobile, and reputation monitoring. Let’s take a closer look at each.
While LinkedIn is the preferred social media platform for the Inc. 500, 61% believe that Twitter has the most potential for social commerce and actual sales growth. Facebook ranked second (55%) followed by Pinterest (31%). Despite the belief that social commerce is growing, only 45% of Inc. 500 companies are tracking social sales. Companies that are not currently tracking social sales are unlikely to do so in 2014. Not even one out of three (29%) of those companies plan to start tracking social commerce in the next year.
Although mobile web traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time earlier this year, only two out of three Inc. 500 companies have added mobile features to connect with mobile consumers. While 92% have optimized their company websites for mobile audiences, only one in four (25%) offer mobile apps and just 19% are using text message marketing.
Online reputation monitoring is extremely important today. Consumers turn to social media to complain, ask questions, and make purchase decisions. They expect brands to be present, and social media is becoming the go-to place for customer service for more consumers every day. However, only 39% of Inc. 500 companies have a plan in place to monitor brand reputation attacks and disasters online. In 2012, 54% of Inc. 500 companies had social media disaster response plans in place! In fact, only 59% of Inc. 500 companies monitor their brand, product, and company names online, which is down from 70% in 2012.
Furthermore, the number of Inc. 500 companies that have social media policies in place to guide employee online behavior related to the companies, brands, and products is also down. In 2009, 36% of Inc. 500 companies had social media policies, but in 2013, that number dropped to 31%.
Based on this lack of concern and prioritization of brand reputation management online, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that one out of five Inc. 500 companies don’t have social media plans of any kind in place. Of those companies that do have social media plans, more than one out of two include social media efforts as part of the company’s overall marketing and/or business plan. Just 13% have standalone social media plans.
The Inc. 500 might be the fastest growing companies in the United States, but they’re balancing precariously close to brand reputation problems that could escalate into full-scale disasters by failing to prioritize social media and to develop appropriate policies and procedures to advocate the brand, monitor it, and effectively respond to threats (and opportunities).
What do you think?
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