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13 Mar. 2018 | Comments (0)

As social media becomes increasingly important to business success, the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth continues to monitor its use. Each year, the Center conducts an in-depth study on the use of social media among Inc. Magazine’s top 500 companies. The names listed represent the fastest-growing, privately owned companies in the United States. Read the complete research here.

The most recent findings build on the past 11 years of data on social media use in order to determine trends over time and across industries. This study is a valuable tool in understanding the most utilized channels of communication between companies and their customers. For the complete list of the 2017 Inc. 500 companies, including details and selected data, please visit Inc. Magazine’s website at

The findings are a result of both secondary data review and random telephone interviews of companies on the list. All data collection and interviews took place in the fall of 2017. The companies on the Inc. 500 list include a wide range of industries from Government Services, Health, and Food and Beverage. A total of 25 industries are represented on the 2017 list.

Key findings

  • Consistent with the past four years of research, 92 percent of the Inc. 500 have a LinkedIn account, 90 percent have a Facebook account and 79 percent have Twitter accounts.
  • LinkedIn and Facebook are reported as their most effective social media platforms while Twitter and YouTube are ranked among the least effective platforms for these companies.
  • Use of blogs increased for the third year in a row, currently at 55 percent.
  • Fifty percent of Inc. 500 companies have no written social media policy.
  • Thirty percent have a strategy in place in the event of an online crisis/firestorm, (down 9 percent).
  • Instagram continues to grow in adoption, with 49 percent now using the platform.
  • The top two concerns regarding the use of social media are the return on investment, time allocation and resources devoted to social media. The top benefit is building brand awareness while the benefit rated lowest is generating leads/sales.


The research was collected in two stages. The first stage investigated which social media tools are being utilized. These tools include: blogging, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. The number of followers and likes were also recorded where appropriate. This data was collected primarily via the company’s website where most companies provide a link to the platforms they use. If no link was found on their website, search engines were used in an attempt to capture all accounts. The Inc. 500 ranking, revenue and industry were recorded from the Inc. 500 website. This data was collected on all 500 companies.

The second stage of research involved interviewing a random sample of executives from the Inc. 500 list to gather information about their specific focus on issues such as their concerns regarding social media use, perceived effectiveness, and the relationship between social media use and potential sales. One hundred and twenty companies (24 percent) were interviewed in this stage.

The 2017 Inc. 500 executives responding are a diverse group, representing 25 industries. They have annual company revenues ranging from under $3 million to over $100 million with 60 percent of them falling between $3 million to $10.9 million. Fifty percent of the companies were launched between 2012 and 2017, while 39 percent were launched between 2008 and 2011. The most prominent industries were, Business Products and Services (9 percent), IT Services (9 percent), and Advertising and Marketing (8 percent).

Read the complete research here.

  • About the Author: Nora Ganim Barnes

    Nora Ganim Barnes

    Nora Ganim Barnes is a Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Nora has worked as a consultant for many nation…

    Full Bio | More from Nora Ganim Barnes


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