In my last article, I looked at seven key aspects of a good social marketing strategy for businesses. This time I’m taking a closer look at three main platforms that businesses use — LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook — and comparing them.
Everybody knows using social media effectively can be great for business, not just for building awareness of your brand and generating leads, but for deepening your relationships with existing customers. That’s as long as you approach it remembering that social media and advertising aren’t the same thing (it’s called ‘social’ for a reason).
But the other thing to remember is that all the different platforms out there have different purposes and audiences. Posting the exact same content on every social media platform at once can be ineffective. Each one has to be used differently.
So, turning first to LinkedIn…
Many of us shudder at the thought of business networking — milling about awkwardly, looking for someone to talk to. Then LinkedIn came along and swapped those horribly unnatural networking events for an easier-to-cope-with online platform.
LinkedIn is primarily a professional networking space, but has evolved to become a rich source of competitive intelligence and a driver of traffic as well. One thing that hasn’t changed is its focus on the business realm. Its users consist of white-collar professionals, graduates, salespeople, corporate recruiters and job seekers.
Interactions are more formal on LinkedIn, and the sorts of posts and updates you’ll see are nearly always business-focused. On Twitter and Facebook, you’re connecting with people on a more personal level. You’re free to talk about sports, films, the weather and your day-to-day routines because the main purpose of Twitter and Facebook is a social one. For instance, nobody on LinkedIn cares about what you ate for breakfast this morning — whereas Twitter users love hearing about food!
It means if you’re selling B2B, LinkedIn probably has the audience you’re looking for, because its users are talking and thinking about business-related things. If you’re selling B2C, Twitter and Facebook might be more appropriate stomping grounds.
You can’t beat Facebook for numbers. According to Statista, Facebook has 2.07 billion active monthly users as of the third quarter of 2017. Twitter has 330 million active monthly users and LinkedIn has 500 million members, but only about 250 million of those are active monthly users.
So not only are there many, many more people on Facebook than there are on Twitter and LinkedIn, they’re also on Facebook more often. Facebook, therefore, has the biggest reach of any social network, which is why many businesses can’t resist using it.
The reason for the difference in numbers between Facebook and LinkedIn is that people tend to go to LinkedIn looking for something specific. It could be to build business connections, find a job or business partner, or find out more about a company and its people. People use Facebook for three main reasons: to be entertained, to interact, and to be nosey. They want to talk to their family and friends, find out what they’re up to, and be entertained and/or informed by the pictures, articles and videos that they share. Some people are on there to do business, but not as regularly as they are just to hang out.
It’s still important to have a Facebook business page even if Facebook is less business-focused. People search for businesses on Facebook when trying to evaluate their credibility. Some people communicate with businesses by posting questions or comments on their Facebook walls. And Facebook is a great way of building your brand. You can use it to share basic information about your business and write about things related to your day-to-day activities. You can share photos and videos of your products, services, staff and other things that relate in some way to your business, your customers, your industry or your employees.
Just remember that Facebook is a much more casual space than the more business-minded LinkedIn. So focus on the ‘story’ of your brand and talk about the aspects of your business or your industry that are more personal. Be light-hearted and have fun. Don’t stop being a professional, of course, and don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re there to do business. Just remember that the majority of the Facebook audience isn’t — not right away anyway. Selling on Facebook should always be on the softer side. Focus on being interesting, engaging, interactive and ready to listen.
Twitter’s purpose is different again. Most people go on Twitter to find out — in real time — what’s happening in the big wide world. To connect with new people, discover new content and learn new things.
On Facebook, your friends are normally people you’ve met, worked with, or interacted with previously in some way. LinkedIn requires that either you already know the person, are in the same group, or have been introduced to them — connecting with strangers is a no no. Twitter, on the other hand, is one big free-for-all. You can follow whoever you want to, which is why people follow celebrities and politicians they like, societies and businesses they’re interested in, and people they don’t know but have things in common with.
Twitter’s a great place for interacting with people based on their interests and activities. If, for example, you sell office copiers and someone’s on Twitter complaining about a jammed copier, it’s a chance to engage. Basic rule of thumb is to look for people who are saying the sorts of things that your buyers, partners, competitors and influencers are saying. Twitter has ways of helping you find these people. Hashtags, for instance. Hashtags are great ways of creating temporary communities focused on a current event, issue or field of interest. You can also see who people are following, who’s following them, and what lists they appear on. Then you start identifying who’s relevant.
And while Facebook certainly has the highest numbers of active, regular users overall, the truth is that your target demographic might actually be spending more time on Twitter. You need to do some research to find out where your target customers are, rather than assuming they’re all on Facebook.
For example, I’m an author as well as a freelance copywriter. I went to a talk not long ago by an author and former book publicist. She told us that she uses Twitter to interact with people in the industry — fellow publicists, literary agents, publishers and other writers — and Facebook is where she goes to interact with her readers. This resonated with me. It made me think that, as an author, Twitter is a good place to build industry contacts and Facebook is a good place to build a fanbase.
There are no hard and fast rules though. There are scores of readers on Twitter as well, and tons of very established authors who don’t need to build industry contacts are using it. That’s why you need to do some research into your target demographic. Find out where they are, and go there.
Twitter does have some disadvantages, though. Just like the others do. Twitter is a much more immediate platform, which means Facebook posts have a much longer shelf life than blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tweets. It’s likely that only a small percentage of your followers will see your tweets. This is why businesses tend to tweet a lot more than they post on Facebook. It’s a good strategy if you want to catch the attention of as many people as possible.
There’s also been the issue of the 140-character limit, which many businesses find too restrictive. On Facebook and LinkedIn, you have the freedom to expand and clarify your message. However, Twitter has taken this on board and is — at the time of writing — trialling a 280-character limit to help users “more easily express themselves”.
280 characters is still not as much room to elaborate as you get on LinkedIn and Facebook, but half the point of Twitter is brevity and catching people’s attention quickly. To be honest, shorter is often better whatever the platform. You don’t want your key messages to get lost in overly wordy, imprecise posts. Just because you have the space to go on at length don’t mean you should.
So… which is best for business?
The truth is, many smart salespeople aren’t using Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. They’re using Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. Rather than arguing over which channel is better, your best strategy could be to use all three of them to enhance and supplement one another. But do your research first. If your target audience isn’t really going to notice you on one of them, then perhaps it’s better to focus on the others, because you don’t want to spread yourself too thin.
In my next article, I’ll look at optimal posting times on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
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