Posted January 31, 2013 4:57 pm by with 9 comments

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wsj-most useful social mediaThe Wall Street Journal asked small business owners which social media sites they used most often and which had the most potential to be useful in the future.

As you can see, LinkedIn came out on top, not only as the most used but look at that potential score. They beat every other side, even Facebook, with a big stick.

But, as I’ve said many times before, results are results but how you interpret them can vary. In this case, I’d like to see what kinds of businesses answered this survey. I can totally understand LinkedIn being the number one choice if the majority of the companies were B2B. LinkedIn excels in the area of industry networking.

If you’re looking to engage consumers, LinkedIn is not the place and that’s why I question these results. For consumer contact, Facebook (even though I grumble) is the place.

The WSJ reporter agrees. She quoted Todd DeMann, founder of a company that makes and delivers calorie-controlled meals as saying,

Facebook was the sixth-largest driver of online traffic to his website. Online scrapbook Pinterest, which the firm started using just four months ago, was 59th. Twitter ranked 117th. “On Twitter, you can’t engage in a meaningful way.”

Pinterest beat Twitter 59th over 117th? That hurts. He doesn’t say what the top five traffic drivers are but I imagine none of them are LinkedIn or the reporter would have mentioned that. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, Ms. Maltby.)

For Twitter, the only thing worse than their usage is their perceived potential. YouTube got 16% of the vote, even Google+ got 4%. The only thing worse than Twitter’s 3% was Pinterest and they have a very specific niche.

I like Twitter but maybe I’m wrong about it’s usefulness for business. Or maybe it’s just that the usefulness can’t be measured. Even if I don’t see a lot of clickthroughs from Twitter, I do see people sharing my articles and I’ve networked with a few interesting people thanks to my Twitter presence. I do agree with Mr. DeMann, that it’s not a place that encourages meaningful engagement but it’s good introduction to new products, ideas and people.

From a user standpoint, Twitter is my number one source for discovering new bloggers and my second source for news.

Where do you stand? Is Twitter an important part of your social media business plan?

  • Jennifer Busfield

    Yes. I love Twitter specifically for what you mentioned “good introduction to new products, ideas and people.” So, I think it’s important for that first level of introduction and from there, I usually search for a Facebook or LinkedIn (or Google+) presence.

  • Just goes to show how few actually know where their leads are coming from. This article lays out what small business owners really need to know about their business and most sadly don’t –

  • shanegibson

    Twitter is a tool. It only works if you work it. At our agency we do social media assessments and most clients get a failing grade to start. Most aren’t using lists or tools like advanced geo-search that Twitter offers. The reason why most small businesses rate Twitter low is they need way more help/training.

  • LinkedIn is one of the crucial Social media platform these days for small and intermediate business owners. Even I experience a considerable amount of traffic from LinkedIn for my website. For me, linkedIn is definitely a “YES” for promoting a business.

  • It’s all about leveraging the tools that reach your audience. As you say, Li makes sense for B2B. FB for consumers. But there are always gray areas; not every business and audience is clearcut. And there’s usage abuse. In other words, users don’t always use them in a way they were intended to be used, because there’s so much confusion about social media and how to do marketing in general.

  • Dare I say that Twitter is niche?

    For a lot of small businesses, depending upon the location, the number and demographics of users don’t justify committing to regular use. I use Twitter for social listening and respond as appropriate, but for the most part, I haven’t found it especially useful for many of the folks that I’ve worked with.

    There have been exceptions:

    + Local tech conference
    + Working with an athlete that required reaching out to students at a historically black college

    But otherwise, I have had a tough time justifying putting too much time into Twitter for small businesses with a limited number of users depending upon the business’s geographic reach.

  • d4msss

    Great information, but useless article because nothing is clearly explained.
    Just that Twitter is a lower source of trafic that pinterest for just 1 small company.

  • Dennis Thorgesen

    We use and create/help create profiles and other required set up for all these social media. People use them. How well they perform will always depend on the user. Not a single one is set and forget. You have to post to them. You also have to have contact with other users. If you do none you are wasting your time. We always recommend Linked in for business to business. For product oriented websites we recommend Pinterest. Why? conversion rates are higher. If you don’t have a page on Facebook though chances are they won’t even look for you on Pinterest.

  • Great point of view. I have read numerous articles on how LinkedIn is great for business, but can’t see it as a go-to for average consumers. I am a start-up for individuals AND businesses, so need to do a bit of everything, in a clever way. Twitter is great for daily activity and LinkedIn is great for its forums. I do see a greater shift towards Google Communities happing soon.