I was surprised by the results of a recent Wall Street Journal survey. While 60% of small business owners said social media tools are valuable to company growth, Linkedin was highest rated and Twitter came in a distant third.
This is likely going to change, however:
Emily Maltby and Shira Ovide, Small Firms Say LinkedIn Works, Twitter Doesn’t
Many owners, including Ken Lopez of Washington, who started using social media to market his consulting business in 2011, tend to think the “value” of social media comes primarily from measurable factors, such as pageviews, click-throughs or direct sales.
“We will tweet 10-plus times a day, and we will put roughly the same number of posts on LinkedIn per day, yet we get dramatically different results,” says Mr. Lopez, whose A2L Consulting offers services to law firms.
Two days every week for the past two years, he has focused on driving traffic to his website using LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. And the work has paid off. He says A2L now gets 12,000 website visitors a month, up from 800 in 2011, and his Web-driven revenue has increased fivefold.
But A2L gets little traffic on its site from Twitter, compared with other social-media outlets. “LinkedIn is the dominant traffic driver,” says Mr. Lopez. “Twitter is a small percentage by comparison.”
Richard Alfonsi, Twitter’s vice president of global online sales, says Twitter needs to do more to educate small businesses on the benefits of using its service to reach potential customers and on the most effective ways to use the service.
“We’re just at the start of both of these efforts,” he says, adding that there are already about 4.5 million smaller businesses using Twitter, even without much small-business outreach by the company.
Twitter said nearly a year ago that it would begin to let small businesses buy ads on the service, to circulate their Twitter messages more prominently or to targeted groups of Twitter users. Previously, Twitter allowed only larger companies to buy ads on the service. But it acknowledges that it has moved slowly with the small-business ad service to make sure it’s just right. The ad service remains in a test mode with a selected group of clients.
We’ll have to revisit in a year, once Twitter rolls out solutions for small businesses.
My sense is that using Twitter to simply post information is a weak approach. Companies may have to use additional tools to listen to Twitter users by searching for keywords, end then engaging directly with prospective customers or disgruntled users. It can’t be used as a simple broadcast, or as a replacement for radio ads or coupons.
A better characterization might be that small business owners find LinkedIn a good resource because it matches the way they currently do marketing, which isn’t very social yet.