Silly conversations : Twitter versus LinkedIn


Sugar or salt? Which is better?

Well of course neither sugar or salt is essentially better than the other but they both have their place. I’d never have salt in my tea. Sugar on my chips would be awful. I like a bit of both in my porridge.

A similarly daft question is ‘Twitter or LinkedIn?’ Like sugar and salt they both have their place, but you might not think so reading the headline of the following widely syndicated report, ‘Small Firms Say LinkedIn Works, Twitter Doesn’t’

The punch of the headline is mitigated somewhat by the report’s second paragraph where it reads, ‘Just 3% of 835 business owners surveyed…said Twitter had the most potential to help their companies.’ This suggests a more nuanced response to different social media platforms which might properly read ‘Small firms say LinkedIn works better than Twitter.” Even then I would be reluctant to let the argument rest.

Sugar does what sugar does best. Salt does what salt does best. LinkedIn does what LinkedIn does best, Facebook does what Facebook does best and Twitter does what Twitter does best. The fact is that Twitter is not actually in direct competition with LinkedIn or Facebook.

One businessman quoted in the article, Todd DeMann, reports that ‘Facebook was the sixth-largest driver of online traffic to his website. Twitter ranked 117th.’ (No question that Demann takes social media seriously. He has over 117 drivers of online traffic!) and on this basis he condemns Twitter as a place where “You can’t engage in a meaningful way.”

I’d disagree. You can provoke meaningful engagement on Twitter despite the 140 character limit in the same way I’ve provoked some very meaningful engagements with a few words in a party kitchen, or Coca Cola aims to in a hideously expensive Superbowl ad.

Twitter is the modern equivalent of that elevator ride for which all serious business people have been practicing their pitch these last hundred years. In fact these days we should be asking ‘What’s your Twitter profile message?’ instead of ‘elevator pitch.’

I’d also question DeMann’s dismissal of Twitter and that of Ken Lopez later in the same article as a poor driver of traffic to the website by asking just how provenance of website visits are determined. Is it not possible that a significant part of LinkedIn and Facebook generated visits owe some debt to Twitter and the real life, analogue chatter it can provoke among its millions of users?

If Twitter is responsible directly for even 1% of visits to DeMann’s site and indirectly for a further 1% then it would be providing a useful function.

The fact is that even if it isn’t yet a significant driver of direct visits to your company website Twitter is a service to which over a half a billion people subscribe. Not all will be regular active users but nevertheless there is a massive potential audience there full of humans as susceptible to seductive messages, questions, puzzles and come-ons as any other and given the low cost of tweeting why would any businessperson choose to ignore it? (Interestingly neither DeMann or Lopez ignore it)

I hear the answer ‘time!’ Business people have limited time and very little to waste. That’s why they might choose to concentrate on LinkedIn and Facebook and not Tweet.  The solution to time constraints of course is a social media dashboard like Hootsuite where messages, invitations to engage, can be posted to all three platforms simultaneously.

As a final note we should remember that social media platforms are not simply about generating website traffic and shouldn’t be judged solely on their ability to do so. Social media like Twitter are very useful places to research markets and to monitor a company’s performance. In the article ‘Small Firms Say LinkedIn Works, Twitter Doesn’t’ one interviewee, Josh Weiss, points out that while Twitter is not a place where he sells, ‘he now uses Twitter as a surveillance tool, to keep tabs on fashion trends and competitors. He says he noticed complaints from rivals’ customers about shipping charges, so he began advertising free shipping on his site to give his firm an edge.’

All said and done I think the headline ‘Small Firms Say LinkedIn Works, Twitter Doesn’t’ speaks more to the imperatives of journalism and selling a story than the reality of Twitter’s importance and relevance to the world of business social media.

If you have any comments I would be glad to hear them. You might also like to take a look at my article on Twitter success stories in the UK.

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About jonhartl

Jon Hartley is a former manager in international online and traditional publishing. He has over 20 years experience in marketing, training, editing, copywriting and translation.Jon Hartley Internet Marketing is a collective of professionals expert in all aspects of internet including design and IT

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