How The Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies Are Using Social Media

This is quite an interesting study due to the fact it looks at the 500 fastest growing companies in the USA and how they are using Social Media.

 The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth recently conducted a new in-depth and statistically significant study on the usage of social media in fast-growing corporations. 

 The new study compares adoption of social media over three years (2007, 2008 and 2009) by the Inc. 500, a list of the fastest-growing private U.S. companies compiled annually by Inc. Magazine. For details about the 2009 Inc. 500 and the complete directory of the included companies, please visit Inc. Magazine’s website at

In 2007, the Center’s first study of this group and their use of social media was released and revealed that the Inc. 500 was outpacing the more traditional and larger Fortune 500 companies in their use of social media. For example, at that time, some research showed

  •  8% of the Fortune 500 companies were blogging compared to
  • 19% of the Inc. 500.

This difference continued in 2008 with

  • 16% of the Fortune 500 blogging vs.
  • 39% of the Inc. 500.

And it appears the Inc. 500’s lead in blogging will continue in 2009 with the Inc. 500 now blogging at a rate of

  • 45%. (The update on the Fortune 500 is expected soon.).

Note: There has been a 237% increase in blogging by the USA’s 500 fastest growing companies,it is also interesting to note that significant 41% of those who don’t have a blog are intending to implement one.

This research proves once again that social media has penetrated parts of the business world at a tremendous speed. It also indicates that corporate familiarity with and usage of social media within the Inc. 500 has continued to grow in the past 12 months. 

Questions probed the familiarity of respondents with six prominent social media (blogging, podcasting, online video, social networking, message boards and wikis). In order to maintain the integrity of all comparisons, all those tools studied in the first two studies were included in this followup research.

In 2009, several new tools were added including the popular microblogging service Twitter and other popular social networking sites like Linkedin, Facebook, and MySpace.  

7  Highlights

  1. Social networking continues to lead the way. The technology that continues to be the most familiar to the Inc. 500 is social networking with 75% of respondents in 2009 claiming to be “very familiar with it” (compared to 57% in 2008). Another noteworthy statistic around familiarity is Twitter’s amazing “share of mind” with sixty-two percent of executives reported being familiar with the new microblogging and social networking platform.
  2. The adoption curves for different social media technologies are not all the same. Interestingly, while social networking and blogging have enjoyed growth in actual adoption, the use of message boards, online video, wikis and podcasting has leveled off or declined. The addition of Twitter (considered by respondents to be both a microblogging site and a social networking site) in the latest study shows that an amazing 52% of the Inc. 500 companies are already using this tool for their business.
  3. Regardless of the particular technology, social media matters and is here to stay. Forty-three percent of the 2009 Inc. 500 reported social media was “very important” to their business/marketing strategy. And an incredible 91% of the Inc. 500 is using at least one social media tool in 2009 (up from 77% in 2008). In addition, as they ramp up their usage, the Inc. 500 companies are also seeking to protect themselves legally, with 36% having implemented a formal policy concerning blogging by their employees.
  4. Social Media that has levelled off or declined are
    • Message Boards 28%
    • Online Video 36%
    • Wikis 25%
    • Podcasting 12%
  5. Social Media that has increased
    • Social Networking 80%
    • Blogging 45%
    • Twitter 52%
  6. Online Video though slightly declining in use in corporations, their intent to to adopt appears strong with 36% planning to  to use online video, just behind Blogging
  7. For monitoring conversations online on social media about their brand, 68% of companies were doing this in 2009

So are you planning to use social media or blog?


  • Deb Zimmer

    Great post. I love the data.

  • Clodagh

    Great Stats – thank you Jeff

  • Vidhi

    Nice content. Pretty fruitful, as i am using both blog as well as Social media.

  • Kelsi Guidry

    Agree with all before, Great stats.
    Love the stat: “There has been a 237% increase in blogging by the USA’s 500 fastest growing companies”

    Awesome to see that companies aren’t just using social media to communicate, but to put out some quality content for our education.

  • Dr. Patrick MacNamara

    Great post, Jeff!

    I’ve added this to Evernote for future reference since I’ll be doing another presentation on social media and blogging for the practicing chiropractor during the first quarter of 2010. These are great stats to show that even the small business owner needs to have a presence online through blogs and social media networks. Thanks again for the time you took to put these stats together!

  • juliorvarela

    This is one excellent post and so true. The next few years will be all about producing content and connecting authentically.

  • correlationist

    Jeff – I am getting tired of thanking you for your content. But this was another great one!!

    One quick observation …..Is it just me or is Australia, and UK further ahead in the social media driven e-commerce channels. Would love to know your thoughts :)


    • jeffbullas

      Honestly…. I think the USA is still blowing every country away, in Social Media and eCommerce :)

      • correlationist

        No, I meant the adoption rates relative to population. :)

        • TheRealSJR

          I believe the latest stats show that adoption rates are highest in Canada and Australia at the moment.

          Obviously, per capita stats always show countries with lower populations as ‘top of the tree’, so remember that a 1% increase in adoption in Europe (731m people) is always going to be better from a company’s perspective that a 10% increase in Madagascar (19m people)! :)

  • mdspatsy

    Dear author,
    Your article and detailed analysis on social media networks are excellent.
    What you said is quite true.
    I am happily surfing many world well known social media networks and with many leading news channels.
    All my writings were published.
    I am taking tuitions to high school students on English,regional speaking medias,and well versed in social studies.
    Twitter had increased his users bases in attractive ways.
    Hereafter, many leading,upcoming higher learning schools will allow or interact with these social media works for greater knowledge,free expression of their ideas and it will surely boost students knowledges on many fields.
    Those who understand very well on these social media networks,then, it will be a pleasant alternative from boredom,unwanted chat with non conforming standard sects, using their times,sharing of their likes and dislikes on many subjects by very lively manners.
    Hope to get more lively writings,findings on growing networks from you.
    Best wishes.,

  • RM – InBoundmarketingpr

    Excellent article and the statistics are mind blowing. Goes to show you the power of social media and the data reveals that it’s not going anywhere anytime soon..

    I agree with Jeff, the US is way ahead of other countries especially in the inbound marketing field.

    Great post, thanks for sharing!


  • Linda Ziskind

    An interesting study, but I’m not sure I understand their criteria. Tweeting at least once in the last 30 days isn’t the hallmark of an active Twitter account. And the occurance of @replies and retweets, while necessary for meaningful interaction, aren’t guarantees that meaningful interaction is happening.

    I looked at some of the accounts mentioned. Conoco Phillips’ Twitter account is so clearly a prefunctory initiative, that I had to go to their website to make sure it was actually their account. Frankly, with that little thought or strategy invested, they’d be better off without it.

    Chevron doesn’t come off much better, and neither does AT&T, GM, or a host of others. The study’s main criteria for identifying meaningful Twitter accounts – tweeting at least once a month and having a lot of followers – indicates a lack of understanding of how social media works. Social media may be unlike any other kind of marketing model, but there are still important criteria for developing successful implementations, like developing a clear strategy, creating corporate social media guidelines, linking all social media channels, dedicating and training staff, monitoring brand mentions, etc. When executed well, social media enables a brand, through the persona of its designated Tweeting employees, to engage, make friends, and form relationships. It’s a virtual meeting place where you can seek out your brand’s constituency and say, “How’re we doing? How can we help you?” Social media enables conversation. Conversation enables relationships. Relationships enable brand loyalty. Meaningful social media happens when companies stop talking AT their customers and start talking WITH them.

  • Pete Kane

    I work with restaurants and help them understand how to use SM. These stats seem right on because the restaurants seem to be getting it as more and more as people talk about it and use it.

    It’s neat to see things like Foursquare come on the scene and make social media so much fun. I always wanted to be a mayor. Now I’m working on it. Thanks for this helpful look at the growing trend of social media

  • Mark Burgess

    Great point about adoption curves for different social media technologies. Also, not all firm’s would adopt and use at the same time. Adoption curves are directly tied to learning curves and the ease of use and understanding are also not all the same. For example, many Twitters triers have not made the leap to practical use of this very useful communications tool. In the case of Twitter, awareness of third party tools like TweetDeck tends to lead to increased use and ultimately adoption among triers.

  • NEESH Design

    Thanks for another great post Jeff. I often wonder how much time is allocated to monitoring and recording results of SM campaigns. It seems a lot of success stories relate to the amount of followers/fans and vague statements about how SM has improved relationship building. I’m presently researching good tools to monitor campaigns…so many to choose from so would be interested to hear of any recommendations.

  • Ingrid A.

    Hey Jeff,
    An excellent and very informative piece. The stats are rather impressive – once again proving the power and effect that social media has (if used properly) and the fact that it’s not just a fad! Thanks for sharing.

  • alice

    Interesting stat about video. I suspect it is leveling off because it is so tough to make really good quality, engaging short video. Once corps realize the value of good production, things like U-Stream can really take off.

  • Christelle Samson

    Great stats, I can’t wait for these numbers to apply in canadian businesses. Should be in about 2 years time.

  • Parfum Laundry

    I still believe twitter and blog very important(Promosi: Parfum Laundry dan Deterjen Murah hanya di Deterjen Indonesia)

  • Jackie Schwirian

    This is a great post. Thank you for sharing, Jeff!

  • doug hay

    It is amazing that businesses need to be “sold” on using social media. This is great data to support the case for deploying social media marketing. I believe that small-medium businesses could do very well with social media as they are much more “personal” that big companies will ever be.

  • L.A. McAllister

    Although completely subjective, I wonder how many of those companies would actually be considered doing a marginally-decent job at blogging, tweeting, FB’ing, etc. ?
    I often encounter blogs/FB that are updated randomly and infrequently, or their tweets are lame at best.

    *I’m going to refrain from citing examples but you know what I mean…

  • Jeff White

    Great article, if only businesses in Australia would start to release that the most powerful advertising tool is word of mouth and the quickest way to generate word of mouth as we all know is through social media.

  • Vik Pangam

    In the <iddle East, most companies are aware of the importance of including social media in their overall media relations and marketing plan, but lack the know-how to successfully create buzz online.

  • Don Brown

    Hi Jeff, Great article! It’s interesting to see how companies are benefiting from social networking and that it is ever growing. Companies are also creating more and more URLs with various content geared to driving content-related traffic to their main sites. A tool that will prove useful in helping consumers find ALL of a particular company’s URLs at once is the new “Business Vanity Code”. There’s more about it at the following blog:

  • Koji Media- Campbell Pritchard

    Cheers Jeff,

    These stats are great. Hopefully we can use them to convince New Zealand businesses that socail media is crucial. We are a bit behind in this area!

  • Jan Beery


    Great stats as always!
    We’re seeing a desire and need for video in healthcare. Educational reasons first on websites along with the exposure broadening through social media.

  • Paul Loyless

    Surprised to see “on line video” in the “levelled off or declined” category. Great information, thank you.