The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research has recently released research on the use of social media by the Inc 500, which are the 500 fastest growing privately owned companies in the US as ranked by Inc. magazine. This is one of the first longitudinal studies, showing changes in adoption of social media tools from one year ago. The topline results are shown below.
The researchers point to the significantly higher usage of social media by these companies compared to the Fortune 500. A few thoughts on this point and the research findings generally:
Fast growth vs large companies. Fast growing companies by necessity are open to new tools and approaches, and tend to have a culture of adoption and innovation, meaning they’re more likely to experiment with social media tools. There are no studies I’m aware of comparing growth rates of companies and their use of social media, and the causality would be very difficult to unpick, but I believe that consistent rapid growth will be hard to achieve without social media tools to facilitate effective collaboration in the organization.
Private vs public companies. There is probably also a correlation with social media uptake and private ownership. The scrutiny attracted by public companies has led to a high degree of risk aversion in many organizations, to the point of sometimes not adopting high value approaches (see my Enterprise 2.0 Governance framework). More generally this may have an impact in relative performance in public vs private companies.
Social networking most prominent tool. Since organizations create value largely through the networks and collaboration of their employees, it seems to me obvious that social networking tools, used well, will enhance organizational performance. This seems to be recognized by fast growing companies in their use of social networks.
Online video uptake in organizations is strong. The extraordinary rise of YouTube and similar tools since the beginning of 2006 have allowed almost everyone to see the potential value of online video. Video is becoming a very common tool inside organizations, ranging from site reports to internal communication and many other applications.
Corporate blogging is now commonplace. As the report points out, only 12% of Fortune 500 companies have a public blog. It will take a while for blogging to become a standard external communication tool. However a large proportion of organizations are using blogging internally, either as part of sanctioned corporate plans, or by individuals or teams for specific projects. As people become more familiar with internal blogs, they are being used more effectively and objections from executives and line functions such as HR are fading.