A new longitudinal study at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth focusing on the online activities of the Inc. 500 has found a huge drop in the number of companies maintaining corporate blogs over the past year. The UMass researchers, under the direction of Nora Barnes, has been following this group for several years. Only 37% of those interviewed had a corporate blog last year, down from half of those interviewed in 2010.

"The use of blogging may have peaked as a primary social media tool in the US business world," she writes. "The new data shows adoption of blogging is declining for the first time since 2007 among the Inc. 500 companies." Barnes' results about blogging in the Inc. 500 contrast sharply with its usage in the Fortune 500, as can be seen with the chart below where it has leveled off over the past three years.

The Inc. 500 is the fastest growing set of private American companies compiled annually by the magazine. Barnes and her crew called 170 of the companies on the list to find out what social media and online tools they were using.

Three-fourths of the companies are using LinkedIn and Facebook and social media tools are seen as important for company goals. Ninety percent of responding executives report that social media tools are important for brand awareness and company reputation. Eighty-eight percent see these tools as important for generating web traffic while 81% find them important for lead generation.