LinkedIn Use Rising Among Fast-Growing Companies

Fast-growing companies are still leading the way when it comes to social media usage, but LinkedIn is finding more favor than Facebook, a report finds.

Social networking site LinkedIn is the platform the 2012 Inc. 500—a list of the fastest-growing private U.S. companies compiled annually by Inc. magazine—use most, according to a report from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. In fact, 81 percent of the companies on the list employ it, the study shows.

LinkedIn replaced Facebook as the social media tool of choice for these fast-growing companies, according to the report. The use of Facebook has dropped 7 percent in the past year while both LinkedIn and Twitter have gained users, according to the report.

In 2011, 74 percent of the Inc. 500 used Facebook and 64 percent Twitter. In 2012, 67 percent of the Inc. 500 employed each of them. More than a quarter (28 percent) now use Foursquare and 18 percent use Pinterest, the report said.

However, the businesses surveyed indicated investing in social media would slow, with less than half (44 percent) now looking to spend more on social media, compared with 71 percent that said they were planning to increase social media investments in 2011. In the latest study, 41 percent (versus 25 percent in 2011) said their current level of investment would remain the same as the previous year, and an additional 15 percent were unsure how their social media investment might change.

While fewer companies are considering investments in social media, blogging—a more mature communications tool—seems to be enjoying a resurgence. The use of blogging among Inc. 500 companies jumped to 44 percent in 2012 from 37 percent in 2011. In addition, the report found 63 percent of CEOs are contributing to blog content.

"This research proves once again that social media has penetrated parts of the business world at a tremendous speed. It also indicates that corporate usage of social media within the Inc. 500 has changed in the past 12 months," a report summary explained. "We are now seeing the incorporation of new platforms and tools including FourSquare and Pinterest, an increased use of LinkedIn and Blogging, a drop in the use of YouTube and Facebook. Ninety-two percent of the Inc. 500 are using at least one of the tools studied."

The Inc. 500 companies appear to be growing less attentive to their monitoring activity, with the percentage of companies monitoring online conversations about their names, products or brands falling to 63 percent in 2012 from 68 percent in 2011 and 70 percent in 2010.

"This will have important consequences should they increase their investment in the social media area," the report noted. "Regardless of how they choose to converse with their constituents online, they will need to be aware of conversation about their company, their products and their brands."

In 2007, the center's first study of this group of companies' use of social media revealed that the Inc. 500 was outpacing the revenue-based Fortune 500 in their use of social media, a trend that has continued to this day.