Social Media 102: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for Small Businesses

In our Social Media 101 post we shared some reasons why small businesses must understand social media. Now it’s time to choose the social media platform that fits your small business’ personality. There are hundreds of platforms out there and more being added every day, but the top three that every small business should consider first are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Social Media Infographic

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Why? Because they are the top three most popular and most established platforms. People are generally comfortable with how they work, and each fills a unique niche in the social ecosystem. Your best social media efforts will be rewarded if you know your audience and choose the social media platform that serves them.

To help you decide which one(s) to use, here’s a quick run-down on each:

Facebook: Family, friends, relationships

Founded: 2004 (for college students)

Number of users (as of 7/28/15): 1.49 billion; 169 million in U.S.

% online adults that visit FB each month: 72%

Time spent per user per day: 42 minutes

Core audience: 18 – 49 year olds; more women than men; income <$30K and between $50 – 75K

Most used for: relationship building; personal sharing among close family and friends; sharing opinions; often political

How it works: Users post status updates in words, photos, videos; users share each others posts and posts of brands and organizations they follow; can post events and invite people to them

Interesting facts: The average Facebook user gets more from friends than they give and is more trusting than users of other platforms.

With over a billion users, Facebook has a long reach among people willing to build relationships and trust. Small businesses can analyze their own user demographics and purchase inexpensive targeted ads after developing good relationships.

Twitter: Instant, real-time conversations and customer support

Founded: 2004 (for college students)

Number of users (as of 8/15/15): 316 million

% online adults that visit Twitter each month: 23%

Time spent per user per day: 17 minutes

Core audience: 18 – 29 year olds; college; urban and suburban; income >$50K

Most used for: connecting to people with similar interests; driving traffic to your other online pages; conversing in real-time; finding trending topics using hashtags (#) before a word; connecting to people at events.

How it works: People and businesses “follow” each other. Users “tweet” a message using 140 characters or less. Tweets can include links, photos, and be re-tweeted and replied to.

Interesting facts: 77% of Twitter users are outside the US. The day Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012, the event produced 372,000 tweets per second.

Twitter harnesses the power of immediacy – whether it’s publicizing a tragedy happening in the world or you responding to your customers’ questions about a product or service. It connects people quickly. If someone tweets out a question to the world, they can get hundreds of responses within minutes.

LinkedIn: THE Professional Network

Founded: 2002; officially launched 2003

Number of users (as of 8/15/15): 380 million

% online adults that visit LinkedIn each month: 28%

Time spent per user per day: 10 minutes

Core audience: 30-64 years old; equal men/women; urban; college educated; income >$75K

Most used for: connecting professionals; B2B networking; finding new hires; showcasing professional work/resumes, finding work.

How it works: Users create professional profiles; post updates, join discussion groups, and post and search for jobs; can publish slides and blog on-site.

Interesting facts: LinkedIn can be used to turn your workforce into ambassadors for your business; it’s the only major social media site with its own blogging platform.

Recently I heard a Human Resources professional say that she almost never posted jobs anymore because she could “mine” the professional network of LinkedIn and find just the right person there. Having a LinkedIn business page and a personal profile of your own gives your small business credibility as well as helps you network with other professionals.

For a more complete picture of the demographics for each platform, take a look at this beautiful infographic by Sprout Social.

So, which platform is right for your business? More than a third (36%) of online adults use only one social networking site. Of these, 83% use Facebook. So, that may be where you want to begin using social media for your business, especially if you want to connect directly with consumers. If you are more interested in B2B (business to business) connections, LinkedIn is probably your first stepping stone. 83% of marketers say they prefer to use LinkedIn for distributing B2B content, and more than half of vendors say they have generated sales through LinkedIn. At the least, every business owner should have his/her own professional profile up and running on LinkedIn. Twitter can serve multiple purposes, depending on how you decide to use it.

Take some time to consider your own business values and goals, your target audience, and the characteristics of each platform before you decide which one is right for you. No matter which one you choose, remember that social media is all about relationships and sharing. Use it to build trust and confidence among your consumers and/or colleagues, and that will turn into better business for you!

Do you have a favorite social media platform that is working for your small business? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Our next social media post will explain how to post, tweet and update on each platform and where to go for resources to help you expand and improve your business use of social media.

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