In early 2007 the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research ran a study on the adoption and usage of various types of social media by the 2006 Inc. 500 list of companies (the 500 fastest growing private US companies for that year). The numbers were interesting, but not necessarily astounding. However, this year the University went back to do a follow up study with the same questions asked to the same companies (209 of the companies responded, giving a potential statistical variation of +/- 5) about their 2007 usage, and the trending on those numbers is very interesting, especially if you're wondering whether or not it's time to 'do something' with social media for your business this year.
In 2006 25% of the companies that responded stated that social media was very important to their business / marketing strategy, by the second study that figure had risen to 44%, almost doubling in one year. In the original study 32% of respondents stated that social media was of little of no importance for their business, one year later that figure had declined to 20%.
When asked about their familiarity with social media technology, the numbers all rose, as you would expect after a year, with the biggest increase being a 78% increase in familiarity with online video technology (31% - 55%) and a 118% increase in familiarity with wikis (16% - 35%).
But the figures that really mean something are those that pertain to the actual adoption rates of these technologies by these fast growing companies, and here they are, for the most part, great. The corporate adoption of social networking sites increased from 27% to 49%, Online Video adoption rose from 24% to 45%, blogging more than doubled from 19% to 39%, wiki adoption rates increased from 17% to 27%, and podcasting almost doubled from 11% to 21%. The only technology asked about that didn't wildly increase was adoption rates for message / bulletin boards / forums, which increased from 33% to 35%, but I'd say that's because it lies more towards the mature end of the social media toolset.
So what does this mean for your business? Just because these fast growing businesses are beginning to rely more and more on social media tools, does it mean that you have to? Or conversely, could it be that the reason these companies are growing so quickly is that are adopting these social media tools, and utilizing them to help grow their business?
Whether social media is the root cause for parts of their success, the fact remains that 163 of 209 companies that responded stated that social media technologies were very or somewhat important to their company, I'd say that's a sufficient enough percentage for you to think about how you can and should deploy social media technologies in and on behalf of your organization.
Simon Heseltine is the Director of Search at Serengeti Communications a McLean, Virginia based digital marketing agency specializing in search engines, social media, word of mouth, Blogs and RSS, digital PR, and online media & advertising for a wide range of clients in both the nonprofit and commercial sectors.
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